"Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote."
There are many perspectives on Mark Twain, and there are many perspectives on those who receive honors in his name. Has the work of Ellen DeGeneres chipped away at a social prejudice more than the work of Jonathan Winters? Yes. Do I find her as funny? No. Do any of their legacies cast half the shadow of the man whose list we serve? Maybe.
All I know is Mark Twain wrote many a line that his own daughters would not want read to them. President Taft should stick to eating.
What? He's dead?
So much the better. Don't forget to vote next Tuesday!
From: Mark Twain Forum [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of McAvoy Layne [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, November 02, 2012 1:44 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The 15th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is . . .
My wife chided me for not pronouncing her name correctly, =93It=92s
DeGeneres, not Dee-Jen-Heiress.=94 But I think I=92ve got it right now,
and am in love with her humor.
For the first time in the 15 year history of the Mark Twain Prize for
American Humor I was able to watch the 90-minute event as it aired on
PBS. In thanking PBS Ellen teased, =93I=92m so glad to be a part of your
farewell season.=94 Even Oscar the Grouch had to guffaw.
Finally, this year for the first time, the Mark Twain Prize goes to a
humorist instead of a comedian. We've had hundreds of comedians in
this great land of ours but very few humorists, Ben Franklin, Twain
(portrayed today by Hal Holbrook), Will Rogers, Garrison Keillor...and
the difference between a comedian and a humorist is ever so vast.
The comedian's job is to make us laugh, and laughter is good for us,
it=92s like massage on the inside, cuts down on the doctor bills, keeps
us from souring. But the comedian oftentimes bestows this favor upon
us at the expense of somebody else, or at the expense of decency, and
leaves feeling guilty for laughing at pejorative humor.
President Taft once said, "Mark Twain never wrote a line that a father
could not read to his daughter." Yet George Carlin, a previous winner
of the Twain Prize, was famous for his "Seven Dirty Words You Can
Never Say on Television."
The humorist's job is merely to show us the good natured side of the
truth. The humorist is not looking for a laugh, the humorist is
looking for a nod of acknowledgement or perhaps the hint of a smile.
Twain reminds us that =93Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a
sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom. Humor must
not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must
do both if it would live forever =96which is thirty years.=94
As she took the stage to accept the prize, Ellen lamented the fact
that she had to follow so many funny people, and how she had hoped to
follow Ken Burns, thus making light of a truism that Sam illuminated
so long ago. =93Set a diamond upon a pall of black if you'd have it
She went on to say, =93I have not read Twain, but then he has not seen
my HBO special.=94 To wit an admirer of both responded, =93It would be
impossible to give the faintest idea of her talk on paper. Written or
spoken by another it would lose half its points of value. We can only
congratulate those who heard her and pity those who did not.=94
Lilly Tomlin stole my heart when she called Ellen, =93Our Huckleberry
Friend.=94 Ellen, like Huck, stuck by her friend to confront society
and challenge conventional thinking, conventional notions.
Twain railed against human foibles and humbuggery, yes, but he did it
with a scalpel, not a switch-blade. Twain's discriminating
irreverence was drawn not from the warrior's quiver, but from the
artist's pallet. He would not kick a humbug in the shin, but would
place a bench strategically in his path so that he might bark his own
It=92s one thing to have a sense of humor, it is something more to have
a humorous outlook on life. Ellen DeGeneres has a health-giving
outlook on life, and is a humorist of the blood royal. To my mind she
is the very first to truly deserve the Mark Twain Prize for American
Humor. We might go another generation to find another of her rank, or
perhaps another generation for her to find us...
Email: [log in to unmask]
PO Box 4522
Incline Village, NV 89450
Diligently train your ideals upward toward a summit where you will find you=
chiefest pleasure in conduct, which while contenting you, will be sure to
confer benefits upon your neighbor and the community. -Mark Twain