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Jokes For All OccasionsSelected and Edited by One of America's Foremost Public Speakers by Anonymous

Jokes For All OccasionsSelected and Edited by One of America's Foremost Public Speakers by Anonymous



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Published by: Gutenberg.org on Mar 22, 2008
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Copyright, 1921, 1922, by
Edward J. Clode
Printed in the United States of America
[Pg 7]

The ways of telling a story are as many as the tellers themselves. It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which any one may perfect himself in the art, but it is possible to offer suggestions by which to guide practise in narration toward a gratifying success.

Broadly distinguished, there are two methods of telling a story. One uses the extreme of brevity, and makes its
chief reliance on the point. The other devotes itself in great part to preliminary elaboration in the narrative,
making this as amusing as possible, so that the point itself serves to cap a climax. In the public telling of an
anecdote the tyro would be well advised to follow the first method. That is, he should put his reliance on the
point of the story, and on this alone. He should scrupulously limit himself to such statements as are absolutely
essential to clear understanding of the point. He should make a careful examination of the story with two
objects in mind: the first, to determine just what is required in the way of explanation; the second, an exact
understanding of the point itself. Then, when it comes to the relating of the story, he must simply give the
information required by the hearers in order to appreciate the point. As to the point itself, he must guard
against any carelessness. Omission of an essential detail is fatal. It may be well for him, at the outset, to
memorize the conclusion of the story. No matter how falteringly the story is told, it will succeed if the point
itself be made clear, and this is insured for even the most embarrassed speaker by memorizing it.

[Pg 8]

The art of making the whole narration entertaining and amusing is to be attained only by intelligent practise. It
is commonly believed that story-sellers are born, not made. As a matter of fact, however, the skilled
raconteurs owe their skill in great measure to the fact that they are unwearying in practise. It is, therefore,
recommended to any one having ambition in this direction that he cultivate his ability by exercising it. He
should practise short and simple stories according to his opportunities, with the object of making the narration
smooth and easy. An audience of one or two familiar friends is sufficient in the earlier efforts. Afterward, the
practise may be extended before a larger number of listeners on social occasions. When facility has been
attained in the simplest form, attempts to extend the preliminary narrative should be made. The preparation
should include an effort to invest the characters of the story; or its setting, with qualities amusing in
themselves, quite apart from any relation to the point. Precise instruction cannot be given, but concentration
along this line will of itself develop the humorous perception of the story-teller, so that, though the task may
appear too difficult in prospect, it will not prove so in actual experience. But, in every instance, care must be
exercised to keep the point of the story clearly in view, and to omit nothing essential in the preparation for it.


In the selection of stories to be retailed, it is the part of wisdom to choose the old, rather than the new. This is
because the new story, so called, travels with frightful velocity under modern social conditions, and, in any
particular case, the latest story, when told by you to a [Pg 9]friend, has just been heard by him from some
other victim of it. But the memory of most persons for stories is very short. Practically never does it last for
years. So, it is uniformly safe to present as novelties at the present day the humor of past decades. Moreover,
the exercise of some slight degree of ingenuity will serve to give those touches in the way of change by which
the story may be brought up to date. Indeed, by such adaptation, the story is made really one's own\u2014as the
professional humorists thankfully admit!

[Pg 10]

Wit and humor, and the distinction between them, defy precise definition. Luckily, they need none. To one
asking what is beauty, a wit replied: "That is the question of a blind man." Similarly, none requires a
definition of wit and humor unless he himself be lacking in all appreciation of them, and, if he be so lacking,
no amount of explanation will avail to give him understanding. Borrow, in one of his sermons, declared
concerning wit: "It is, indeed, a thing so versatile, multiform, appearing in so many shapes and garbs, so
variously apprehended of several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain
notion thereof than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting wind." Nor is it fitting
to attempt exact distinctions between wit and humor, which are essentially two aspects of one thing. It is
enough to realize that humor is the product of nature rather than of art, while wit is the expression of an
intellectual art. Humor exerts an emotional appeal, produces smiles or laughter; wit may be amusing, or it may
not, according to the circumstances, but it always provokes an intellectual appreciation. Thus, Nero made a
pun on the name of Seneca, when the philosopher was brought before him for sentence. In speaking the decree
that the old man should kill himself, the emperor used merely the two Latin words: "Se neca." We admit the
ghastly cleverness of the jest, but we do not chuckle over it.

The element of surprise is common to both wit and[Pg 11] humor, and it is often a sufficient cause for
laughter in itself, irrespective of any essentially amusing quality in the cause of the surprise. The unfamiliar,
for this reason, often has a ludicrous appeal to primitive peoples. An African tribe, on being told by the
missionary that the world is round, roared with laughter for hours; it is told of a Mikado that he burst a
blood-vessel and died in a fit of merriment induced by hearing that the American people ruled themselves. In
like fashion, the average person grins or guffaws at sight of a stranger in an outlandish costume, although, as a
matter of fact, the dress may be in every respect superior to his own. Simply, its oddity somehow tickles the
risibilities. Such surprise is occasioned by contrasting circumstances. When a pompous gentleman, marching
magnificently, suddenly steps on a banana peel, pirouettes, somersaults, and sits with extreme violence, we
laugh before asking if he broke a leg.

The fundamentals of wit and humor are the same throughout all the various tribes of earth, throughout all the
various ages of history. The causes of amusement are essentially the same everywhere and always, and only
the setting changes according to time and place. But racial characteristics establish preferences for certain
aspects of fun-making, and such preferences serve to some extent in differentiating the written humor of the
world along the lines of nationality. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the really amusing story has an almost
universal appeal. I have seen in an American country newspaper a town correspondent's humorous effort in
which he gave Si Perkins's explanation of being in jail. And that explanation ran on all fours with a
Chinese[Pg 12] story ages and ages old. The local correspondent did not plagiarize from the Chinaman:
merely, the humorous bent of the two was identical. In the ancient Oriental tale, a man who wore the thief's
collar as a punishment was questioned by an acquaintance concerning the cause of his plight.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Jokes For All Occasions, by Anonymous.

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