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Paul Johnson
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Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward

Paul Johnson.
Publisher Harper Perennial  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8 x 5.25 x 0.65 inches
ISBN 9780061825927
Pages/Publication Date 246/2010
Daedalus Item Code 40718
This item is not available.
The author of Creators and Heroes, as well as Modern Times and History of Christianity, here turns to the finest wits of the Western world. Paul Johnson surveys a diverse cast of legendary humorists from Benjamin Franklin to the Marx Brothers, from Charles Dickens to Charlie Chaplin, and from Samuel Johnson to James Thurber. His brief sketches showcase the dark humor, broad satire, bawdy wit, and biting sarcasm of the sharpest minds of the past few centuries as they reflect on the human condition's follies, pretensions, and foibles.

"Historian Johnson takes a serious and thoughtful look at humor, noting that laughter, when you analyze it, is no joke. He launches into an analysis of the pioneers of stand-up comedy, running gags, and one-liners from expected and unexpected sources: Shakespeare to Hogarth, Benjamin Franklin to Laurel and Hardy. He sees the genesis of comedy in either the creation of chaos (W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Evelyn Waugh, and James Thurber) or observations of human weirdness (Toulouse-Lautrec, George Bernard Shaw, and Damon Runyon). Chapters offer engaging sketches of the humorists and the life circumstances (some pretty dreadful) and personality quirks that drove their comic or tragicomic outlooks and works. G.K. Chesterton found great humor in the strivings of the Christian faith—and reason—to corral the human spirit, Charlie Chaplin meticulously plotted out his chaotic comic routines, and Charles Dickens reveled in verbal running gags. Other subjects of the droll, revealing profiles are Dr. Johnson, Thomas Rowlandson, Noël Coward, and Nancy Mitford. Johnson masterfully weaves a narrative line among the figures, many of whom don’t spring to mind as comic, with a deep appreciation for their wit in writing, filmmaking, painting, and living."—Booklist (Starred Review)

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