Having been immersed in humorous prose of all kinds and funny one line jokes for so many years, I am now fairly certain that I can recognize humor when I see it without it having to leap up and bite me on the thigh, but I would not claim to know much more about it than that, except for the following brief points.
First of all, I would like to give a working definition of English humor: an odd, embarrassing or funny incident experienced or observed, and described later in a plain manner, which might or might not call for laughter. The English sense of humor is an agreeable mixture of a sense of fun and a sense of proportion, which is not at all the same thing as a taste for buffoonery. Perhaps a small axiom could be proposed: beware of people who only laugh at funny one line jokes.
A joke has a measurable potential of laughter; there are snigger-sized jokes, guffaw-sized jokes, and hearty laughter-sized jokes. Humor has no such limitations for example, might only give the reader quiet pleasure and on the other hand if it catches the reader off guard and in the right mood, its effect can be violent and prolonged, inducing, in my case, uncontrollable surges of laughter, hiccups, and a curious snoring noise in trying to regain breath.
Humor does not put a value on itself by announcing that it is going to make you laugh. To tell someone to stop being funny or hilarious is to dictate to them what their sense of humor should be, and a sense of humor is a most personal possession that should not to be tampered with. Any attempt to alter personal comedy results whether they are only funny one line jokes.. is wanting the owner to end the piece asap and is recommended less than hilarious and rather disappointing.
It took some twelve years to assemble a representative selection of five hundred years of humorous prose. What emerged from the vast amount of material collected was that pure English humor, besides being itself, also functioned over the centuries like good stock in cookery, enriching other kinds of comedy and giving them added flavor. Wit with humor proved to be more appreciated than wit being clever all by itself, satire expressed through humor, was found to be more widely effective, jokes built on humorous observation had a deeper appeal.
Comedy does not work in a vacuum either, its audience has to be in the right mood of expectancy and confidence, a mood which a comedian must create with his opening remarks. In literature, a humorous writer has to set the receptive mood he wants his reader to be in with his opening paragraphs so the quoted humorous pieces and funny one line jokes, are set within a commentary which introduces them by describing how the extracts came to be written, or why, with perhaps facts or anecdotes or gossip about the author, or what was going on at the time, the aim being to bring the reader up to the beginning of each piece in a good frame of mind to appreciate it.
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