James Thurber on the difference between English & American humor

Well someone once wrote a definition of the difference between English and American humor. I wish I could remember his name. I thought his definition very good. He said that the English treat the commonplace as if it were remarkable and the Americans treat the remarkable as if it were commonplace. I believe that’s true of humorous writing. Years ago we did a parody of Punch in which Benchley did a short piece depicting a wife bursting into a room and shouting, “The primroses are in bloom!”–treating the commonplace as remarkable, you see. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” I tried to treat the remarkable as commonplace.

6 thoughts on “James Thurber on the difference between English & American humor

  1. I know the difference ,and I’m from Spain or the country of the wild bulls as i like to call it. So here is my take, The Brit’s have a ironic humour that they will tell you a joke without moving an eyelight, Americans…..lived there half of my life, but it is a humour(not everybody just generasilizing) that is rude, not for me though, but just comparing it to the Brit’s. I maybe wrong though, or I just made this thing up out of the blue…….so that was a Spanish humor (at least mine)

  2. We’ve always noticed that big gap between the humor of the two cultures – here in New Zealand we (well people of my age anyway) tend to lean to the English.

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