Some have been
thought brave because they were afraid to run away.
18th-Century English Proverb. Collected in: Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732).
He that seeks trouble never misses.
17th-Century English Proverb. First collected in George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs
Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow
you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.
Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
The satirist is prevented by repulsion from gaining a better knowledge of the world he is
attracted to, yet he is forced by attraction to concern himself with the world that repels
What arouses the indignation of the honest satirist is not, unless the man is a prig, the
fact that people in positions of power or influence behave idiotically, or even that they
behave wickedly. It is that they conspire successfully to impose upon the public a picture
of themselves as so very sagacious, honest and well-intentioned.
By rights, satire is a lonely and introspective occupation, for nobody can describe a fool
to the life without much patient self-inspection.
Frank Moore Colby
I believe no satirist could breathe this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up
among us tomorrow, he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature,
and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomised our
follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and who has escaped the foulest and
most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a
strange name in my ears, believe me.
Satirists gain the applause of others through fear, not through love.
William Hazlitt English essayist. Characteristics: In the Manner of Rochefoucaults
Maxims, no. 77
It is difficult not to write satire.
Satire must not be a kind of superfluous ill will, but ill will from a higher point of
view. Ridiculous man, divine God. Or else, hatred against the bogged-down vileness of
average man as against the possible heights that humanity might attain.
It is said that truth comes from the mouths of fools and children: I wish every good mind
which feels an inclination for satire would reflect that the finest satirist always has
something of both in him.
G. C. Lichtenberg
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybodys face
but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world,
and that so very few are offended with it.
The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but littleor it will seem
that his satire springs rather from his own caustic nature than from the sins of the world
in which he lives.
Out of the unconscious lips of babes and sucklings are we satirized.
Laughing at someone else is an excellent way of learning how to laugh at oneself; and
questioning what seem to be the absurd beliefs of another group is a good way of
recognizing the potential absurdity of many of ones own cherished beliefs.
I could draw Bloom County with my nose and pay my cleaning lady to write it, and Id
bet I wouldnt lose 10% of my papers over the next twenty years. Such is the nature
of comic-strips. Once established, their half-life is usually more than nuclear waste.
In the final analysis, a drawing simply is no longer a drawing, no matter how
self-sufficient its execution may be. It is a symbol, and the more profoundly the
imaginary lines of projection meet higher dimensions, the better.
There is a relationship between cartooning and people like Miró and Picasso which may not
be understood by the cartoonist, but it definitely is related even in the early Disney.
Matisse makes a drawing, then he makes a copy of it. He recopies it five times, ten times,
always clarifying the line. Hes convinced that the last, the most stripped down, is
the best, the purest, the definitive one; and in fact, most of the time, it was the first.
In drawing, nothing is better than the first attempt.
A drawing is always dragged down to the level of its caption.
My drawings have been described as pre-intentionalist, meaning that they were finished
before the ideas for them had occurred to me. I shall not argue the point.
To say that authority, whether secular or religious, supplies no ground for morality is
not to deny the obvious fact that it supplies a sanction.
A. J. Ayer
Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters
for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a
steady and perpetual serenity.
Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom
I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
W. H. Auden
All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil,
without disease and violence, Id be standing on the breadline right in back of J.
Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.
Edward De Bono
The comic is the perception of the opposite; humor is the feeling of it.
A difference of tastes in jokes is a great strain on the affections.
Humor, a good sense of it, is to Americans what manhood is to Spaniards and we will go to
great lengths to prove it. Experiments with laboratory rats have shown that, if one
psychologist in the room laughs at something a rat does, all of the other psychologists in
the room will laugh equally. Nobody wants to be left holding the joke.
Any discussion of the problems of being funny in America will not make sense unless we
substitute the word wit for humor. Humor inspires sympathetic good-natured laughter and is
favored by the -healing-power- gang. Wit goes for the jugular, not the jocular, and
its the opposite of football; instead of building character, it tears it down.
The hall-mark of American humour is its pose of illiteracy.
It is well known that Beauty does not look with a good grace on the timid advances of
W. Somerset Maugham
Good taste and humour are a contradiction in terms, like a chaste whore.
Wit is a weapon. Jokes are a masculine way of inflicting superiority. But humour is the
pursuit of a gentle grin, usually in solitude.
Humor has been a fashioning instrument in America, cleaving its way through the national
life, holding tenaciously to the spread elements of that life. Its mode has often been
swift and coarse and ruthless, beyond art and beyond established civilization. It has
engaged in warfare against the established heritage, against the bonds of pioneer
existence. Its objective -the unconscious objective of a disunited people- has seemed to
be that of creating fresh bonds, a new unity, the semblance of a society and the rounded
completion of an American type.
The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist
makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people, that is, people
everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true
Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.
Humor is a kind of emotional chaos told about calmly and quietly in retrospect.There is
always a laugh in the utterly familiar.
Never say a humorous thing to a man who does not possess humour. He will always use it in
evidence against you.
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Probably it is impossible for humor to be ever a revolutionary weapon. Candide can do
little more than generate irony.
Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both
if it would live forever.
I used to think that everything was just being funny but now I dont know. I mean,
how can you tell?
Every American, to the last man, lays claim to a -sense- of humor and guards it as his
most significant spiritual trait, yet rejects humor as a contaminating element wherever
found. America is a nation of comics and comedians; nevertheless, humor has no stature and
is accepted only after the death of the perpetrator.
E. B. White
Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. So if it is correct to say that
humor was stamped out in Nazi Germany, that does not mean that people were not in good
spirits, or anything of that sort, but something much deeper and more important.
Comedy just pokes at problems, rarely confronts them squarely. Drama is like a plate of
meat and potatoes, comedy is rather the dessert, a bit like meringue.
At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.
In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the
awfulness or the absurdity of existence. . . and loathing seizes him.
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.
There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.
If you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did
Caprice, independence and rebellion, which are opposed to the social order, are essential
to the good health of an ethnic group. We shall measure the good health of this group by
the number of its delinquents. Nothing is more immobilizing than the spirit of deference.
What forests of laurel we bring, and the tears of mankind, to those who stood firm against
the opinion of their contemporaries!
Ralph Waldo Emerson
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong.
If someone does something we disapprove of, we regard him as bad if we believe we can
deter him from persisting in his conduct, but we regard him as mad if we believe we
cannot. In either case, the crucial issue is our control of the other: the more we lose
control over him, and the more he assumes control over himself, the more, in case of
conflict, we are likely to consider him mad rather than just bad.
My life has been one great big joke,
A dance thats walked
A song thats spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke
When I think about myself.
Witticism. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted and seldom noted; what the Philistine
is pleased to call a joke.
Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustnt
get serious with people. They dont expect it from you, and they dont want to
see it. Youre not entitled to be serious, youre a clown, and they only want
you to make them laugh.
I remain just one thing, and one thing only and that is a clown. It places me on a
far higher plane than any politician.
The old idea that the joke was not good enough for the company has been superseded by the
new aristocratic idea that the company was not worthy of the joke. They have introduced an
almost insane individualism into that one form of intercourse which is specially and
uproariously communal. They have made even levities into secrets. They have made laughter
lonelier than tears.
G. K. Chesterton
Prithee dont screw your wit beyond the compass of good manners.
His hilarity was like a scream from a crevasse.
A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause,
and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if
the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.
Oliver Wendell, Sr. Holmes
I gleaned jests at home from obsolete farces.
The funniest line in English is Get it? When you say that, everyone chortles.
The teller of a mirthful tale has latitude allowed him. We are content with less than
If all else fails, the character of a man can be recognized by nothing so surely as by a
jest which he takes badly.
G. C. Lichtenberg
Jokes are grievances.
A dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.
I dont know jokes; I just watch the government and report the facts.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent
fancy. . . . Where be your jibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment
that were wont to set the table on a roar?
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
My way of joking is to tell the truth. Its the funniest joke in the world.
George Bernard Shaw
Suppose the world were only one of Gods jokes, would you work any the less to make
it a good joke instead of a bad one?
George Bernard Shaw Tolstoy had criticized Shaw for his facetious tone in Arms and the
Man, saying that one should not speak jestingly of such a subject as the purpose of human
life, the causes of its perversion, and the evil that fills the life of humanity today.
Tis no extravagant arithmetic to say, that for every ten jokes, thou hast got
an hundred enemies; and till thou hast gone on, and raised a swarm of wasps about thine
ears, and art half stung to death by them, thou wilt never be convinced it is so.
All womankind, from the highest to the lowest . . . love jokes; the difficulty is to know
how they choose to have them cut; and there is no knowing that, but by trying, as we do
with our artillery in the field, by raising or letting down their breeches, till we hit
All human race would fain be wits.
And millions miss, for one that hits.