Magazine March 22, 2010, Issue

Funny as a Crutch

Sheep and their lambs in the region of Tyrol, Austria, June 9, 2018 (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

Who coined the word “humorist”? It must have been an American, for I can’t think of a better way to trivialize the labor of writers who seek to say serious things with a smile. Nobody dared call Evelyn Waugh a humorist, amusing though he was: Waugh was a comic novelist, and Brits, unlike Americans, take such books seriously. Small wonder that Kingsley Amis, another comic novelist who was at bottom deadly serious, considered Peter De Vries to be “the funniest serious writer to be found either side of the Atlantic.” Being British, Amis had no prejudice against comedy, and being

Terry TeachoutMr. Teachout is the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and the critic-at-large of Commentary. Satchmo at the Waldorf, his 2011 play about Louis Armstrong, has been produced off Broadway and throughout America.

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