Monday, November 7, 2011


On humor:

Jean Kerr, the author of Please Don't Eat the Daisies, is a benevolent humorist. She is allegedly complaining about the hard lot of a mother and the difficulty of coping with children. For instance, when her children eat the daisies, that is supposed to be a great evil on their part. But is that in fact what she is saying? No; she is really conveying the adventurousness and imagination of her children—their high spirits, which she has such a "hard" time controlling. At one point, when she describes how impossible it is to talk to one of her boys who is very literal-minded, I fell in love with that boy. She tells him to throw all of his clothes into the washing machine, and their conversation then goes something like the following. He says: "All my clothes?" She says: "Yes." "My shoes, too? .... Well, no, not your shoes." "All right, but I'll put in the belt." What comes across from their dialogue is an extremely intelligent, rational child. What Jean Kerr is actually laughing at is the kind of mother who would really consider this bad or difficult. She is negating the difficulty of the situation, and she is glorifying the good qualities of her children.

O. Henry is a benevolent humorist, as is Oscar Wilde in many of his plays, particularly The Importance of Being Earnest. Cyrano de Bergerac contains a lot of comedy, all of it aimed at destroying the pretentious or the cowardly. Cyrano laughs at villains, not at values or heroes.

Ernst Lubitsch was the only screen director famous for romantic comedies. Ninotchka, the Greta Garbo picture he directed, is a good example: it is comedy, but also high romance. What is laughed at is the sordid, undesirable aspects of life—and what comes across by means of the humor is the glamour, the romance, and the positive aspects.

In the benevolent type of humor, something good is always involved, as in Ninotchka, where the hero and heroine are quite glamorous. They are not funny—some of their adventures are; or they are acting humorously toward certain things, but not in a way that undercuts their own dignity, value, or self-esteem.

Ayn Rand, "The Art Of Fiction", p. 167-168.

No comments:

Post a Comment