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A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes. ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Comedy has a popular meaning (stand-up, along with any discourse generally intended to amuse), which differs from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in Ancient Greece. The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance pitting two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, and there are many recognized genres.


  • What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.
    • Martin Amis, "Political Correctness: Robert Bly and Philip Larkin" (1997)
  • By calling him humourless I mean to impugn his seriousness, categorically: such a man must rig up his probity ex nihilo.
    • Martin Amis, Experience (2000), Part I: "Failures of Tolerance"
  • Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.
    • Karl Barth, as quoted in The Harper Book Of Quotations (1993) edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, p. 223
  • Humor tells you where the trouble is.
    • Louise Bernikow, Alone in America: the search for companionship (1986) edited by Harper & Row, p. 113.
  • Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.
    • Carol Burnett, as quoted in Starting from Scratch (1989) by Rita Mae Brown
  • Humor is properly the exponent of low things; that which first renders them poetical to the mind. The man of Humor sees common life, even mean life, under the new light of sportfulness and love; whatever has existence has a charm for him. Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. He who wants it, be his other gifts what they may, has only half a mind; an eye for what is above him, not for what is about him or below him.
    • Thomas Carlyle, in 'Schiller" (1831), in Fraser's Magazine; later in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839)
  • There are two thoughts that will ensure success in all you do; (1) Don't tell everything you know, and (2) until Ace Ventura, no actor had considered talking through his ass.
    • Jim Carrey, as quoted in Major in Success (2003) by Patrick Combs and Jack Canfield (2003), p. 60.
  • The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays the part.
  • It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down ... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
  • A joke's a very serious thing.
  • If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true.
    • John Cleese, as quoted in What Winners Do to Win! : The 7 Minutes a Day That Can Change Your Life (2003) by Nicki Joy, p. 113
  • Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humour?
    • Frank Moore Colby, (1926) The Colby Essays, Vol. 1., "Satire and Teeth". Reported in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, Columbia University Press. (1993) ISBN 0231071949. p. 431
  • I detest jokes – when somebody tells me one I feel my IQ dropping; the brain cells start to disappear. But something is funny when the person delivering the line doesn’t know it’s funny or doesn’t treat it as a joke. Maybe it comes from a place of truth, or it’s a sort of rage against society.
  • The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature.
  • The law of levity is allowed to supersede the law of gravity.
  • That's part of our policy, is not to be taken seriously, because I think our opposition, whoever they may be, in all their manifest forms, don't know how to handle humor. You know, and we are humorous, we are, what are they, Laurel and Hardy. That's John and Yoko, and we stand a better chance under that guise, because all the serious people, like Martin Luther King, and Kennedy, and Gandhi, got shot.
    • John Lennon, as quoted in a BBC interview with David Wigg (8 May 1969)
  • Creator — A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
  • Humor is the contemplation of the finite from the point of view of the infinite.
  • Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.
    • Christopher Morley, as quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick‎ (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 189
  • As soon as you realize everything's a joke, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.
  • Now everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody Else, but when it happens to you, why it seems to lose some of its Humor, and if it keeps on happening, why the entire laughter kinder Fades out of it.
    • Will Rogers, in "Warning to Jokers: Lay off the Prince", in The Illiterate Digest (1924), p. 131
  • Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that Humour excites in those who lack it.
  • Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
    • Peter Ustinov, as quoted in Morrow's International Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations (1982) by Jonathon Green
  • The man with the real sense of humor is the man who can put himself in the spectator's place and laugh at his own misfortunes. That is what I am called upon to do every day.
    • Bert Williams, minstrel show comedian, in "The Comic Side of Trouble" in The American Magazine (January 1918), p. 33
  • A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "A View from the Asylum" in Philosophical Investigations from the Sanctity of the Press (2004), by Henry Dribble, p. 87

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 381.
  • Unconscious humor.
    • Samuel Butler, Life and Habit (Pub. 1877). Butler claims to have been the first user of the phrase as a synonym for dullness.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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