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quotations about humor

The most profound indication of social malignancy ... no sense of humor. None of the monoliths could take a joke.

EDWARD ALBEE, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

MARK TWAIN, Following the Equator

The most perfect humour and irony is generally quite unconscious.

SAMUEL BUTLER, Life and Habit

Humor, a good sense of it, is to Americans what manhood is to Spaniards and we will go to great lengths to prove it.

GARRISON KEILLOR, We Are Still Married

There are few advantages, I'll tell you, that profit a man more than humor. Humor will draw a crowd. Humor will calm a mob or reassure a nursery school.

GENE WOLFE, The Shadow of the Torturer

Humour in its highest reach mingles with pathos: it voices sorrow for our human lot and reconciliation with it.

STEPHEN LEACOCK, Humour and Humanity

Humor won't save you; it doesn't really do anything at all. You can look at life ironically for years, maybe decades; there are people who seem to go through most of their lives seeing the funny side, but in the end, life always breaks your heart. Doesn't matter how brave you are, how reserved, or how much you've developed a sense of humor, you still end up with your heart broken. That's when you stop laughing. In the end there's just the cold, the silence and the loneliness. In the end, there's only death.

MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ, The Elementary Particles

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it.

MARK TWAIN, "How to Tell a Story"

By his provocations to good-natured merriment, a humorist of the first water contributes as much to the sum of happiness as the gravest philosopher.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

Humour is essentially a comforter, reconciling us to things as they are in contrast to things as they might be.

STEPHEN LEACOCK, The Garden of Folly

Humor is really one of the hardest things to define, very hard. And it's very ambiguous. You have it or you don't. You can't attain it. There are terrible forms of professional humor, the humorists' humor. That can be awful. It depresses me because it is artificial. You can't always be humorous, but a professional humorist must. That is a sad phenomenon.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983

Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right.

ARISTOPHANES, The Acharnians

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place.

MARK TWAIN, "What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us?"

When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Back to Methuselah

Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, "On Not Knowing Greek," The Common Reader

I think if you have a comic perspective, almost anything that happens you tend to put through a comic filter. It's a way of coping in the short term, but has no long term effect and requires constant, endless renewal. Hence people talk of comics who are "always on." It's like constantly drugging your sensibility so you can get by with less pain.

WOODY ALLEN, The Paris Review, fall 1995

Humor is a social lubricant that helps us get over some of the bad spots.

STEVE ALLEN, How to Be Funny: Discovering the Comic in You

Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.


Humour is the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life.

STEPHEN LEACOCK, Humour and Humanity

This I conceive to be the chemical function of humor: to change the character of our thought.

LIN YUTANG, The Importance of Living

A pun is the lowest form of humor, unless you thought of it yourself.

DOUG LARSON, attributed, Great Funny Quotes

When Humor goes, there goes civilization.

ERMA BOMBECK, attributed, On Being Blonde: Wit and Wisdom from the World's Most Infamous Blondes

Humour is but the faint terrestrial echo of the hideous laughter of the blind mad gods that squat leeringly and sardonically in caverns beyond the Milky Way. It is a hollow thing, sweet on the outside, but filled with the pathos of fruitless aspiration.

H. P. LOVECRAFT, "The Defence Remains Open!"

All great humorists are sad.... I cannot help seeing beyond the tinsel of humour, and recognising the pitiful basis of jest--the world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.

H. P. LOVECRAFT, "The Defence Remains Open!"

Until two weeks ago I might have taken my pen in hand to write about humour with the confident air of an acknowledged professional. But that time is past. Such claim as I had has been taken from me. In fact I stand unmasked. An English reviewer writing in a literary journal, the very name of which is enough to put contradiction to sleep, has said of my writing, "What is there, after all, in Professor Leacock's humour but a rather ingenious mixture of hyperbole and myosis?" The man was right. How he stumbled upon this trade secret I do not know. But I am willing to admit, since the truth is out, that it has long been my custom in preparing an article of a humorous nature to go down to the cellar and mix up half a gallon of myosis with a pint of hyperbole. If I want to give the article a decidedly literary character, I find it well to put in about half a pint of paresis. The whole thing is amazingly simple.

STEPHEN LEACOCK, Feast of Stephen


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