This is a very interesting thread to me. I looked up WIT in the
dictionary and found loads of definitions, but a couple of them seem
germane. "the ability to relate seemingly disparate things so as to
illuminate or amuse," or "a talent for banter or persiflage" or
"a facetious or satirical retort or comment". Comedians do these
things all the time.
Synonyms are listed as: humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee.
"WIT suggests the power to evoke laughter by remarks showing verbal
felicity or ingenuity and swift perception esp. of the incongruous;
HUMOR implies the ability to perceive the ludicrous, the comical,
and the absurd in human life and to express these usu. without
IRONY applies to a manner of expression in which the intended meaning
is the opposite of what is seemingly expressed;
SATIRE applies to writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines,
or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony,
parody, or caricature;
REPARTEE implies the power of answering quickly, pointedly, wittily,
and often humorously."
I thought it might be useful to see the variations in the definitions
of the different types of humor.
When I mention stand up comedians in this thread I am trying to
think about who are the humorists of today. I Twain's day, I'm
sure many people dismissed him as a lightweight funny man, too.
You are rarely fully appreciated in your own time. So who are
today's humorists? Someone said Garrison Keillor. I think he is
a great choice. I have many of his tapes and like the way he
uses music so often. I particularly like his album called Songs
of the Cat, recorded with Frederica von Stade (sp?) the opera
singer. Twain was a bit of a musician too.
Would you consider Calvin Trillin in this group?
Mary Lou in Utica
Marcus W. Koechig wrote:
> At 12:19 PM 7/7/98 -0700, Mr. Vern Crisler wrote:
> >Interesting points made by most of those who've commented on this thread. I
> >should have defined "thinker" as (say) someone in the class of Aristotle,
> >Aquinas, Locke, Kant, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, et al. I can't really
> >think of any funny men who could be classed in this category, though
> >Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain probably come the closest.
> >I also don't think current day "stand up" comics even approach the category
> >of being thinkers, so please folks, don't offer up Whoopi Goldberg or Robin
> >Williams as thinkers. I could rest my case on such example. (I sometimes
> >have a hard time understanding how any of these individuals can be classed
> >in the category of humorist. :-)
> Some of the stories about Wittgenstein the Repressed are pretty funny, but
> that does not make him a funny man I suppose. But cold, formal logic can
> have no humor. My sister explained to me how difficult it is to get the
> folks over in Germany to understand a pun as everything is taken literally.
> Seems the same to me in regard to heavyweight thinkers. Their logic has no
> room for any sort of variance and humor, if nothing else, is a variant form
> of expression. Wittgenstein would have been horrified to find that someone
> thought it the least bit humorous when he insisted on washing the dishes
> for his hosts in Ithaca, New York. He had to do it in the bathtub.
> I wonder if there is any thought among us in regard to the differences
> among wit, comedy, and humor. I can think of no stand-up comedian who falls
> into the category of wit. When one's target is the vast TV audience, wit
> may be a little too risky. (By the way, I think it was Aristotle who
> claimed that with is educated insolence.)
> And what is it that makes us laugh? Some see anger as the primary force
> behind humor. I write a monthly column which, kind people have told me,
> makes others laugh. These same people tell me that they see me as one angry
> >In any case, I tend to agree that humor--like fiction--is an attempt to
> >escape, to escape the rationalistic fog of too much thinking for a breath of
> >the clean fresh down-to-earth air of living. That's why I often repair to
> >Mark Twain when I've gotten too far down into the blue water of
> >philosophical speculation.
> I'll leave you with this from Christopher Fry:
> "Comedy is an escape, not from the truth but from despair; a narrow escape
> into faith."
> ". . . and so there ain't nothing more to write about and I am rotten glad
> of it . . ." - H.F.
> Marcus W. Koechig
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