// you’re reading...


Written Humour, 1936 p3

Some more samples from Written Humour by A.A. Thomson, published 1936 by A. and C. Black Ltd, London.

Mr Thomson says that for writing humorous articles, the best material is the ordinary lives of the people around you, of things that are “irritating, amusing, interesting, boring, delightful, exasperating”.

He writes: An English visitor to New York once remarked that what struck him most forcibly was the fact that the morning papers were published the night before. This, we might say, shows exactly the right spirit [for a humorist].

In looking for subjects for humorous articles, the author recommends a commonplace subject, with a fresh and ingenious treatment. He recommends listing everything that happens in each month of the year: e.g., in England in January there are: diaries and resolutions; the party season; income tax demands; dog, motor and wireless notices; and skating and winter sports.    

He says a writer can mix up and combine these details. He writes: What if dogs kept diaries and made new year’s resolutions? What if income tax collectors got together and made whoopee at parties…

He recommends reading W.W. Jacobs’s short stories which he says are often perfect little comedies. He also liked Stephen Leacock’s books Nonsense Novels and Frenzied Fiction. And Ashley Sterne’s Twisted Tales and Knotted Yarns. He also liked W. A. Darlington; Hylton Cleaver; Jerome K. Jerome and K.R.G. Browne. And his favorites were Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories and Dickens.

He liked the incongruity of one of Dicken’s characters. He writes: The high-falutin’ phraseology of Wilkins Micawber resounds, not through marble halls, but through the dingy corridors of the Marshalsea Prison, where he, always up to his eyes in debut, enunciates the perfect economic theory.

He talks about satire, farce and other styles of humor, too. He writes that with satire, the humor fails when it goes after people “with a hatchet”. 

He says: Humour, in my humble opinion at least, must contain, at bottom, the essential ingredients of kindliness and good temper.

Merry Christmas.