“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone…”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I wouldn’t mind betting, way, way back, before the fifteen hundreds, somewhere or other, a farm labourer’s worn trousers fell down and his wife laughed uproariously. Such are the simple things which tickle our funny bones. Our most famous bard, Shakespeare, was no fool and soon cottoned on how to get ’bums on seats’ – apart from tragedy, that is! Apparently, satire was regarded as a higher genre than other brands of comedy, and was thought to be morally improving. There is some evidence, though, that rules and conventions in comedy were loose in Shakes’ days. One of his most popular comic characters Sir John Falstaff, was celebrated for his verbal dexterity. As he said: “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause of wit in other men.” (The Merry Wives of Windsor was called “An excellent, conceited comedie of Sir John Falstaff.”). A few more examples of Shakes’ wit: “I do desire we may be better strangers.” (As You Like it, Act 3 scene 2) and “Mine eyes smell onions.” (All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 5, scene 3.) A few, more bawdy quotes, are best left unquoted…
Fast forwarding to the Silent Movies…who couldn’t take to the diminutive, pathetic figure of Charlie Chaplin known as ‘The Little Tramp’ as he tugged at heart-strings from the silver screen? Charles Chaplin was Jewish and his real name was thought to be Israel Thornstein, but it was never corroborated. Born in London in 1889, he moved to the USA aged 21. He was suspected to be a Communist and was investigated by the FBI, but there was no reason to believe he was a spy. Nevertheless, Hoover blocked his return to the US after a trip abroad. He made such gems as The Little Tramp, The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he returned to the US and received an Honorary Oscar for his outstanding work. He also received a Knighthood in the UK two years before his death at 88. He may have been small in stature, but he left a lot of smiles on a lot of faces over the years as he slipped on banana skins, had vivid, messy food fights with film adversaries and got up to all sorts of amusing mischief.
Buster Keaton was a contemporary of Chaplin’s and his dead-pan acting delivery appealed to many. He was also clever and daring, as he carried out most of his own audacious screen tricks. Then there were Laurel and Hardy, who entertained millions with their humorous nonsense; and the fast-talking wise guy, Phil Silvers.
Leaping forward, what a wealth of fabulous talent we have seen since those early days, on stage, film and TV…It does, of course depend on what lifts your lip corners. Taste is so variable. One of my favourite acting comedians was Gene Wilder. Born in 1933, he is well known for being in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and with the great Richard Prior in Stir Crazy. Wilder’s debut was via TV. He directed and wrote some of his own films, including The Woman in Red. He was married four times; and often worked with another Bright Guy, Mel Brooks.
Shifting away from individuals for a while, we have also been gifted with some highly entertaining TV comedy series. One of my favourite US shows, was Mash – and in particular Alan Alda (who was Christened Alphonso Joseph D’Bruzzo…). Alda won the Emmy Award six times and the Golden Globe Award as Hawkeye Pierce in his TV role.
More recently he has been in The West Wing (with which I am not familiar). Another favourite was Frasier – I was fond of all five of the main actors and the writing was excellent. With Kelsey Grammer as Frasier, David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane, Peri Gilpin as Roz, Jane Leever as Daphne and the late John Mahoney as Martin, they gelled beautifully. Taxi was also great fun and ‘home-grown’ Brits, the loveable couple, Morecambe and Wise. It would also be criminal to leave out Only Fools and Horses with its great, quirky Cockney humour. And, back to individual talent, what about the attractive Dave Allen and his original humour and the often hilarious Dick Emery and Les Dawson. Also, how can I leave out cuddly, funny Dudley Moore!
Feminists will be champing at the bit at the late inclusion, but there have also been some wonderful female entertainers over the years. Who could not like ‘dippy’ Lucille Ball or her ‘side-kick’ Vivian Vance, crazy Phyllis Diller, or the outrageous Joan Rivers… And the late, lamented Victoria Wood was a force to be reckoned with.
The Goon show was a crazy part of our family for years, as was Monty Python: “It is a deceased parrot!” I am lucky to have a husband and three sons who are all devoted fans of humour. It all helps the medicine go down!!
Many more talented people, British and American have made me laugh like a drain over the years, and last but not clichéd least, is the brilliant Woody Allen. I have guffawed and spluttered over his writing, his films and mad jokes for years. Bring it all on!
A final word from Groucho Marx:
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!”
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2021
Some of my earliest memories are watching classic comedies on television with Mum and Dad and many comic scenes are etched forever in our minds – you are in the concert hall to hear Grieg’s piano concerto played by an artist of great renown, but start laughing as you think of all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order!
Thank you for reading my post on humour. Morecombe and Wise and, in particular, THAT SCENE were hilarious. Cheers.
There are many things for me at least, like you said about Morecambe & Wise, where scenes in life trigger memories of comedy sketches. Often for me the Fawlty Towers scene with “The Germans” seems to crop up, or The Two Ronnies “Four Candles”. Pure brilliance, still providing laughter through the years.
Where would we be without humour. You have certainly pointed out some of the best. When I met hubby, he introduced me to Monty Python and we quote them in our house. Here´s a quote from another favourite comedian of mine, Steven Wright, “You can´t have it all. Where would you put it?”
Although I loved Monty Python from the very beginning, some of the funniest quotes that still come up often involve the speed of a swallow, what have the Romans done for us, or “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”. Pure genius.
Hi Darlene, Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, we are also fans of Steve Wright. I like his “I bought some batteries. There was nothing with them…” Tee hee. xx
Humour is the spice that makes the medicine go down. Without it we would be dull, dull folk.
Thanks for reading, Pamela. Always good to laugh, eh! x
As soon as I saw the title of your post come across my email, I heard the song, “Make ’em Laugh,” I heard the song–but I couldn’t remember who did it. I had to look it up: Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain.” My brother introduced me to Monty Python back in the ’70s. The dead parrot skit is one of my favorite comedy bits of all time. My brother was the funniest person I ever knew. His humor wasn’t so much in the situation as in the telling.
Glad you enjoyed it, Liz. My husband and sons keep me smiling, for which I am truly grateful. Nothing like a smile or a laugh now and then. x
I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Joy! Laughter is the best medicine, and what we all dearly need. Your comedy timeline is just perfect. Thank you for the walk down memory lane. I’m still smiling.
Hola Jennie, Thank you! Nothing quite like a good laugh, eh,,,So much to be thankful for. Hurray for all those talented writers and actors. xx
Yes, a big hooray! Best to you, Joy.
Hi Joy, this is such a lovely post. I have enjoyed a few Charlie Chaplin movies. Shakespeare did have some bawdy jokes and so did Chaucer, the English have always been known for this sort of humour in my experience. It’s a bit like fish and chips, isn’t it? I would add Fawlty Towers to your list of hilarious sitcoms, Basil always make me laugh and laugh. Even the recent Shaun the Sheep is fantastic. Oh, and Wallace and Gromit, what a great pair. Thanks for these memories, Joy.
Hola Robbie, Pleased you enjoyed the post. I also liked Fawlty Towers. When we moved into our hotel, we privately called it Faulty Towels…Hugs x…
Fun post, Joy. Frasier is still one of my favorite series!
HI Becky, Glad you enjoyed the post. Frasier and Mash were always favourites. The writing was so worthy; the acting too! x !,
A fun post Joy.. I smiled at the memories all the way through… plus remembered so many more like Only Fools and Horses, Steptoe and Son. The Goonies are one of my favourites.. Mr Bean stuffing the Christmas Turkey😂😂….so many.. Thank you for this post, Joy we all need to smile more… 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
Thanks Carol. Being ancient, there are so many memories of wireless shows before TV came along, and we have certainly been spoilt over the years. Nothing like a good laugh! Tale care. xx
Thats exactly what I was thinking there was so many.. I was trying to think of the one who did the arm and a leg by a shop window I can’t remember his name my dad loved him.. Xx
I think my earliest memory of shared comic enjoyment is the radio and the likes of Roind The Horne and Handcock’s Half Hour. There must have been some before that but as a shared experience these were up there. Lovely memories Joy
Thank you for reading Tangental. I enjoyed all the wireless shows too! Itma, Hancock and Round the Horne. The memories warm the heart…x
What a trip down memory lane, Joy. My family used to sit around a listen to Bill Cosby (before his fall from grace) records – probably my first memories of comedy. And of course, The Three Stooges television show. A fun post. Thanks for the laughs!
You are more than welcome, Diana. I recall Bill Cosby and was fond of his show on TV. I felt so sad how he let himself down. Oh, the temptations of the flesh….Have a good week. Cheers! Joy x
This was a lovely nostalgic look back at some the great comedians and comedy back in the day my friend.Ahhh, the good old days. ❤ xx
Hi Debs, So many laughs over the years. Brilliant. Bring it on!! Keep smiling. Hugs xx
So much better than murderous cop shows (though I like them, too :)) Growing up, there was a cartoon my brother and I raced home from school to see every day- The Flintstones.
I also loved The Carol Burnett Show, she’s hilarious!
Here’s one of her best skits: https://youtu.be/9IUSM4EKcRI
A wonderful round up of comedy through the ages and I remember watching the black & white reruns of Chaplin’s, Keaton’s and in particular the Keystone Cops.. loved Mash and Joan Rivers.. brilliant post and will share in the blogger daily ♥
Hi Sally, Glad you enjoyed a reminder of the lauighs over the years. And there were so many! Lucky us…and thank you for sharing. Take care. Hugs xx
Reblogged this on OPENED HERE >> https:/BOOKS.ESLARN-NET.DE.
Thank you for sharing this remembrance on wonderful artists. xx Michael
Thanks Michael.. All those gifted people have given us so much pleasure over the years. There’s so much joy in being able to smile and laugh. x
Loved the final two lines!
Thanks Alex. That really touched my funny bone too. x
Gene WIlder was a real genius wasn’t he. Loved him in Willy Wonka as well as Young Frankensein (Fronk-en-styne) and much more. He could always make me laugh.
Thanks for reading, Tony. I always wanted to cuddle Gene Wilder. So entertaining, funny and loveable. Where would we be without laughter, eh!. Cheers.
There was a restaurant with a grand organ in Portland, Oregon in the late 1970s. It showed Charles Chaplin’s silent films on the screen. An organist would play to improvise the film and always ended with great punchlines. Thank you for the info about him receiving an Honorary Oscar eventually and the Knighthood. I watched some episodes of Mash and loved them.
Gracias for reading, Miriam. Husband and I are watching repeats of Mash in the evenings lately. The script was so well written; the acting first rate and the characterization tops! x
We should do that also – watching repeats of Mash. Somehow I like the classic shows and movies, Joy.
Wasn’t that a pizza parlor? I think there was one in Seattle that had an organ. I knew most of the organists of the day because of skating. That was all done to live organ music. One of them was just barely older than I was, and I met him again backstage when he played in San Diego.
I looked it up. The Organ Grinder opened August 26, 1973, at 5015 Southeast 82nd Avenue between Foster and Holgate. It’s a pizzeria in operation from 1973 to 1996. At one point it housed the largest theater pipe organ of its type in the world.
I wonder if any one of them is still open.
I was there!!! After COVID, I doubt it but now I’m curious. I heard a pipe organ when I went to Longwood Gardens last time. I spent quite a while interviewing the organist. I think it is the largest in a private home. The pipes too up the equivalent of several rooms. I’ll find my pictures.
Our church organist built a pipe organ in his home. He must have passed away and I don’t know what happened to the home.
Now that would be interesting. It would be a great spectacle – worth a tour, don’t you think? Whoever bought the house had a gem.
I must find out what happened to that home.
Our church has a good size organ, but the previous pastor got rid of the choir (I was in the choir since 1990s). Many people felt hurt and left the church. He had the choir stage removed and used decorations to cover the organ. Eventually he left the church. The current pastor also doesn’t like traditional choir, just has worship team.
I haven’t seen a traditional choir for years. I grew up singing in choirs. My mom played the organ and led the Children’s choir.
You changed your profile!! I like to see your face though.
No wonder you’re fond of organ, because your mom played the organ. My daughter sang in the Children’s choir. My granddaughter Autumn sings all day long while playing, doing art projects. Their church is not big enough to have a Children’s choir. I hope the Community Center has a singing group for the kids. If I lived there, I don’t mind leading a Children’s singing group.
I thought ten years was a long time to use the same picture. I need to find a better one, but until I do, I’ll probably just rotate them. When I was about 2 I played in a rhythm band at a community center. My grandmother dropped me off on stage to get ready to play in a concert. I’m sure 2-year-olds were excellent, LOL. I screamed until she came back and picked me up, so I’m told. I guess I did better in choir.
Haha, you’re funny. I’m a singer. I sang solo a lot when I was younger. Did you listen to my singing on the Christmas post “O Holy Night?”
I missed it. Send me a link. 🙂
I’ll do that when I get home. I’m at the gym right now. Or you can go to https:
Thanks for sending it. I think you are my new role model – you’re off to the gym, and you’re an accomplished singer. Wahoo!
There you go, I hope you’d like it. 🙂
We enjoyed Frasier and I love Miranda, a great British comic imo. And I Love Lucy was my best when I visited America 🙂
Thanks for reading,Tandy. My dear Mum and I used to love watching I Love Lucy, and there was a side of Mum (a ittle zany) which always reminded me of Lucille Ball..x
What a fun post, Joy. I remember as a kid listening to Bill Cosby (erf) records with the family, and later George Carlin. And like Darlene, my husband and I quote Monty Python around the house. LOL. Thanks for the memories and the laughs!
Thank you, Diana. ‘À laugh a day,’ etc., A million thanks, say i, to the multitude of entertainers who have kept our spirits up in times of stress, and just for the hell of it. Continued good fortune with your wonderful books. I gave your latest Liars and Thieves a plug in my weekly newsletter to our local paper, the Costa Blanca Newspaper. Onwards and upwards. xx.
Lucille Ball was an amazing woman – I have listened to interesting podcasts about her life. I do desire we may be better strangers sounds like something Churchill would have said! Have a super dat Joy 🙂
Hi Joy, what a walk down memory lane you’ve narrated for us. I love a good laugh. Lucille Ball was always a favorite and my husband’s mother went to school with her in Jamestown, New York. Vince went to school with the youngest son on My Three Sons a generation later. I watched and admired from afar. There wasn’t one of those you mentioned that I didn’t adore. I also enjoyed the Pink Panther series with Peter Sellers and Frasier was one of my very favorites especially when Daphne got pregnant – so funny! My husband introduced me to Seinfeld. We saw him do a show in Las Vegas a few years ago, and he was so funny I nearly wet my pants and fell off my seat I was laughing so hard. His material has changed, but his timing and ability to poke fun at everyday situations has not. Thanks for sharing this great article, Joy.
Hi Marsha, It’s great receiving such comments and sharing such a sense of humour! Thank you.
I have been checking your posts. What a multi-talented, fascinating lady you are…. I’ve dabbled in water colours (rather messy) but great fun, although.I’m not as talented as our eldest son Jason. He is a natural artist and excellent photographer and writer (though he doesn’t think so…) I’m a Brit retired in Spain, and other half and I have been to the States a few times. (New York was smeting else in 1957!) ‘MASH’ was a great film and TV series way back about three army doctors.Alan Alda & co often had us in sttiches. It’s being repeated on our TV screens each evening. Do check it out if you can.Cheers! And a very Happy NewYear.
What a splendid trip down humor-lane, thank you! 🙂 One of the earliest funny quotes I know is Socrates’ “My advice to you is get married: If you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher”…
And since you emphasized funny shows with ladies, have you seen the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?
LOL, you’ve got a great review of comedic talent through the modern ages. I think we can include Shakespeare in the modern era because most people have read or seen at least one of his plays. Well done!
Thank you for reading, Marsha. I studied Shakespeare in college but couldn’t fully appreciate it. Bu, when I did my A level Literature degree aged 66, I studied Hamlet and more, and absolutely loved,
Sorry …’loved it!’ x