Essay: AMERICAN HUMOR: Hardly a Laughing Matter

"HUMOR can be dissected, as a frog can," E. B. White once warned, "but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Until recently, many American humorists obeyed that caveat by looking the other way when the subject was raised, or treating the whole thing as a joke. Robert Benchley spoke for most of his colleagues when he lampooned the scientific students of humor with his dictum: "We must understand that all sentences which begin with W are funny." Well, something unfunny has happened...

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