Friday, December 09, 2011

Stephen Leacock on good humour

"To me it has always seemed that the very essence of good humour is that it must be without harm and without malice. I admit that there is in all of us a certain vein of the old original demoniacal humour or joy in the misfortune of another which sticks to us like our original sin. It ought not to be funny to see a man, especially a fat and pompous man, slip suddenly on a banana skin. But it is. When a skater on a pond who is describing graceful circles, and showing off before the crowd, breaks through the ice and gets a ducking, everybody shouts with joy. To the original savage, the cream of the joke in such cases was found if the man who slipped broke his neck, or the man who went through the ice never came up again. I can imagine a group of prehistoric men standing round the ice-hole where he had disappeared and laughing till their sides split. If there had been such a thing as a prehistoric newspaper, the affair would have headed up: Amusing Incident. Unknown Gentleman Breaks Through Ice and is Drowned."


  1. Very seldom is their humor without cruelty. It bothers me a lot.

  2. Charles, it isn't, now that you mention it. I quite overlooked it.