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Barry Crimmins <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 5 Jul 1998 19:06:26 -0400
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Vern Crisler wrote:
>At 05:29 PM 7/4/98 -0400, Barry Crimmins wrote:
>Barry said:
>>I hope that intellect is not the sole domain of the dry, inaccessible and
>>boring. Any dope can petrify others into a coma with his/her expertise and
>>views. It  takes a certain genius to effectively smuggle content to a
>>general audience. People let their guard down when they are laughing. A
>>smart and subversive humorist will make sure that before that guard is
>>brought back up, it protects at least a somewhat more sophisticated point
>>of view.

Vern replied:
>Good points, except that I don't consider being "subversive" as what makes
>someone funny.  (It usually makes them boring.)  Humor is a form of
>entertainment, not necessarily a conduit for revolutionary propaganda.  On
>the other hand, Twain did claim that his humor lasted because he
>"preached"--though, in my judgemnt, when Twain really does preach, he's as
>dry as an Arizona desert.

I referred to a "smart and subversive humorist." I never said being
subversive was a requirement for having a sense of humor. I will say that
it sure doesn't hurt.

I *was* taking some license in my use of the word "subversive". What I
meant was that humor can help conceal a drier message. It can make
something complicated easier to understand. Therefore humor can help a
"deep thinker" convey his/her thoughts to average thinkers a/k/a "the great
dull bulk".

  Subversives are usually boring?  Was Tom Paine boring? How about Emma
Goldman? Joe Hill? Abbie Hoffman?

I loved it when Twain preached and I learned much about imperialism,
monarchy, militarism, vanity, greed and other human inanities when he did
so. But there was often at least a touch of humor in some of his most dire
writing. If you don't see the humor in  _The War Prayer_ , then we are too
far apart to hope to realize any mutual benefit from this exchange. A bunch
of lemmings sit praying for war and a Messenger From Above comes down to
say "just want to make sure this is what you are ordering." Now the point
WAS obvious but I have never seen it made better.  People need to know that
there are horrible consequences for fellow humans whenever there is war.
They need to know that the groundswell of pro-war sentiment is inevitably
the product of anything but "deep thought." _The War Prayer_  provides
those timeless truths in a very accessible manner.  That's pretty important
and thoughtful writing, if you ask me.
>>Humorists are as diverse a group as, say,  any college faculty. There are
>>lightweight, obvious jokesters, there are learned lampooners of all that
>>deserves to be targeted. There are all sorts in between. They come in every
>>gender, age, race, nationality, religion.  No hard and fast rule  should be
>>applied to such a varied group of people.

Vern challenged:
>Can you give some examples of current day humorists who are also profound
>thinkers.  My mind is drawing a blank. :-)

I am encouraged you have finally taken a mental inventory, Vern.

Kevin Rooney is a successful Hollywood producer, writer and comedian
(numerous appearances on the Tonight Show, HBO specials etc., -- was Dennis
Miller's head writer for years, now he's primarily a TV producer paid huge
sums to repair broken comedies). He is one of the most profoundly brilliant
people I have ever met. He's learned, literate and accomplished.  So
there's one and that's as far as I will indulge you-- not because there
aren't many more but because your assertion is absurd and hopelessly
prejudiced against practitioners of a method of communication. Humorists
who are capable of making points so well as to elicit the affirmation of
laughter are not deserving of placement in some sort of intellectual
underclass. There are many lightweight practicioners of comedy but all
humorists are not the "fourth stooge."

While we are posing challenges about the modern age, please name for me any
extant group which honors the memory of that great "humoracist" Van Wyck
Brooks. It seems that a Brooks group would be ideal for you, Vern.

I wrote:
>> I was very impressed with Twain's views on many issues, but then, I'd like
>>to think I have a sense of humor. I allow that it may just be that I  do
>>not possess the intellectual depth required to make such an assessment.
>>That said, if a sense of humor belies a shallow mind, why do they call it

Vern rejoindered:
>Do you agree with Twain's views on Shakespeare?  Or do you think the main
>value of his essay on Shakespeare was his tale about his arguments with the
>steamboat pilot?

 I find his views on Shakespeare interesting but I do not consider them to
be particularly relevant to my overall opinion of Twain.  Even if he was
completely wrong about Shakespeare, where does it say that ALL of his views
need to be correct for him to be respected for his intellect? He put
together a huge body of work and much of it reflects very deep thought. It
would seem that even shallow people could grasp the idea that someone
needn't be infallible to be a damned capable thinker.

Barry Crimmins