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.
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- Without laughter life on our planet would be intolerable. So important is laughter to us that humanity highly rewards members of one of the most unusual professions on earth, those who make a living by inducing laughter in others. This is very strange if you stop to think of it: that otherwise sane and responsible citizens should devote their professional energies to causing others to make sharp, explosive barking-like exhalations.
- Steve Allen, Funny People (1981)
- I think that the tendency for most people is to fall back on a comic interpretation of things — because things are so sad, so terrible. If you didn't laugh you'd kill yourself. But the truth of the matter is that existence in general is very very tragic, very very sad, very brutal and very unhappy.
- 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, in Alone in America: The Search for Companionship (1986), p. 113
- Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
- Mel Brooks, The 2,000 Year Old Man (1961)
- It is the duty of the humor of any given nation in time of high crisis to attack the catastrophe that faces it in such a manner as to cause the people to laugh at it in such a way that they cannot die before they are killed.
- Lord Buckley, "H-Bomb" (1960), a comic monologue), as quoted in "It's Comedy! From Skit To Song To Satire" in The New York Times (27 October 1989)
- 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)
- Imagine if you could actually be that happy? That would be powerful, man. People would be tunneling under the street to avoid you. They'd go "Oh, man — is that happy guy still out there?
- Jim Carrey, in Jim Carrey's Unnatural Act (1991)
- 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.
- G. K. Chesterton, "Spiritualism", in All Things Considered (1908)
- Don't you know Sunday? Don't you know that his jokes are always so big and simple that one has never thought of them?
- A joke's a very serious thing.
- Charles Churchill, The Ghost (1763), book iv, line 1386
- 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
- Erasmus dramatizes a well-established political position: that of the fool who claims license to criticize all and sundry without reprisal, since his madness defines him as not fully a person and therefore not a political being with political desires and ambitions. The Praise of Folly, therefore sketches the possibility of a position for the critic of the scene of political rivalry, a position not simply impartial between the rivals but also, by self-definition, off the stage of rivalry altogether.
- J. M. Coetzee, “Erasmus’s Praise of Folly: Rivalry and Madness,” Neophilologus 76 (1992), p. 1
- Not living in fear is a great gift, because certainly these days we do it so much. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can't laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything. If you're laughing, I defy you to be afraid.
- I don't perceive my role as a newsman at all. I'm a comedian from stem to stern. You can cut me open and count the rings of jokes. If people learn something about the news by watching the show, that is incidental to my goal.
- Stephen Colbert, when asked what he perceives his role to be, given that many young people claim to get their news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, on newsman."Harvard University: A Conversation with Stephen Colbert" (1 December 2006).
- Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humour?
- Humor, to me, is a crucial part of life in general. It’s such an incredibly subtle and passionate way of relating to people. Your sense of humor communicates what you are, your approach to life. You’re very vulnerable when you make a joke. Not when you’re telling a joke so much, but when you’re joking around. To me, it’s just an instinctive, natural part of character development—showing what a character is. Also, you do it (I do it), when you’re under pressure, it’s a way of dealing with impossible situations. Untenable situations can only be dealt with through humor, if not despair and resignation. So, I prefer the humor. That’s how I like to use it in a horror film. But it’s not any different in how I would use it in any other film.
- David Cronenberg 
- I think you are absolutely right about everything, except I think humor springs from rage, hay fever, overdue rent and miscellaneous hell.
- 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.
- John Christopher “Johnny” Depp. From an interview in Live magazine, “Here’s Johnny”, The Mail on Sunday, October 30 2011, interviewed by Martyn Palmer
- Thou canst not joke an Enemy into a Friend; but thou may'st a Friend into an Enemy.
- There are no exact guidelines. There are probably no guidelines at all. The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world.
- "You should not take old people who are already dead seriously. It does them injustice. We immortals do not like things to be taken seriously. We like joking. Seriousness, young man, is an accident of time. It consists, I don't mind telling you in confidence, in putting too high a value on time. I, too, once put too high a value on time. For that reason I wished to be a hundred years old. In eternity, however, there is no time, you see. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke."
- Quamquam ridentem dicere verum quid vetat? ut pueris olim dant crustula blandi doctores, elementa velint ut discere prima.
- What is to prevent one from telling truth as he laughs, even as teachers sometimes give cookies to children to coax them into learning their A B C?
- Horace, Satires, Book I, Satire 1, H. Fairclough, trans. (1926), p. 7
- I never dare to write
As funny as I can.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Height of the Ridiculous (1852)
- I can't even really tell a joke. I find being funny very hard work. I am always asked about it and I feel guilty saying that, but it's the truth. I love my work but it ain't easy.
- 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.
- R. A. Lafferty, in Space Chantey (1968)
- 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.
- H. L. Mencken, in A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch. 30 (1949)
- Humor is the contemplation of the finite from the point of view of the infinite.
- Christian Morgenstern, as quoted in The Hidden Souls of Words (2004) by Mary Cox Garner, p. 142
- 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.
- I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
- Richard Pryor, reported in [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4517750.stm "In quotes: Richard Pryor" at BBC News (11 December 2005)
- 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.
- George Saintsbury, in A Last Vintage, p. 172
- Moria and stultitia are both rendered nowadays as 'folly', but both have far stronger senses than folly has now. They imply derangement of mind, madness, mania. Such are the defects attributed to Christians by the worldly-wise. And vice-versa. ... Although the mutual laughter may seem six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, it is not. The Christian is profoundly mad merely by the standards of the world. To the world the wicked seem wise, but are mad in the sight of God. The Christian is touched by the Infinite and will not only have the last laugh at the end of time: even now he laughs more insanely than the worldlings.
- Michael Andrew Screech, Laughter at the Foot of the Cross (1998), p. 73
- 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
- Maslow's psychology, firmly based upon Freud and Watson, simply points out that the optimistic side of the picture has been overlooked; the deterministic laws of our 'lower nature' hold sway in their won field; but there are other laws. Man's freedom is a reality -- a reality that makes a difference to his physical, as well as his mental health. When Frankl's prisoners ceased to believe in the possibility of freedom, they grew sick and died. On the other hand, when they saw that Dachau had no chimney, standing out all night in the rain seemed no great hardship; they laughed and joked. The conclusion needs to be stated in letters ten feet high. In order to realise his possibilities, man must believe in an open future; he must have a vision of something worth doing. And this will not be possible until all the determinism and pessimism that we have inherited from the 19th century -- and which has infected every department of our culture, from poetry to atomic physics -- has been dismissed as fallacious and illogical. Twentieth century science, philosophy, politics, literature -- even music -- has been constructed upon a weltanschauung that leaves half of human nature out of account.
- Colin Wilson in New Pathways In Psychology, p 219-220 (1972)
- 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
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 381.
- Unconscious humour.
- Samuel Butler, Life and Habit (Pub. 1877). Butler claims to have been the first user of the phrase as a synonym for dullness.
- Now I perceive the devil understands Welsh;
And 'tis no marvel he is so humorous.
- There's the humour of it.
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