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A humorist (
American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...
) or humourist (
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependenc ...
spelling) is an
intellectual An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex; several different Critical thinking#Definitions, definitions exist, which generally include ...
who uses
humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World ...

humor
, or
wit Wit is a form of intelligent humour Humour (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English) or humor (American English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the tendency of ...

wit
, in
writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of computer languages); they are means of rendering ...

writing
or
public speaking Public speaking, also called oratory or oration, has traditionally meant the act of speaking face to face to a live audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of ...

public speaking
, but is not an artist who seeks only to elicit laughs. Humorists are distinct from
comedian A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an ...

comedian
s, who are
show business Show business, sometimes shortened to show biz or showbiz (since 1945), is a vernacular term for all aspects of the entertainment industry.''Oxford English Dictionary'' 2nd Ed. (1989) From the business side (including managers, agents, producers ...
entertainers whose business is to make an audience laugh. It is possible to play both roles in the course of a career.


The iconic humorist

Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an au ...

Mark Twain
(pen name of Samuel Langhorn Clemens, 1835–1910) was widely considered the "greatest humorist" the U.S. ever produced, as noted in his ''New York Times'' obituary. It's a distinction that garnered wide agreement, as
William Faulkner William Cuthbert Faulkner (; September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American literature, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. ...

William Faulkner
called him "the father of
American literature American literature is literature predominantly written or produced in English language, English in the United States, United States of America and its Colonial history of the United States, preceding colonies. Before the American Revolution ...
". The United States national cultural center, the
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (formally known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, and commonly referred to as the Kennedy Center) is the United States National Cultural Center, located on the Pot ...
, has chosen to award a
Mark Twain Prize for American Humor The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is an American award presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts annually since 1998. Named after the 19th-century humorist Mark Twain, it is presented to individuals who have "had a ...
annually since 1998 to individuals who have "had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain". Despite the name, conferral of the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize does not make the awardee a humorist. , the center has chosen to confer the prize on twenty-one comedians and one playwright; only two recipients, the comedian
Steve Martin Stephen Glenn Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, and musician. Over his distinguished career he has earned five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award The Primetime Emmy Award is an A ...

Steve Martin
and the playwright
Neil Simon Marvin Neil Simon (July 4, 1927 – August 26, 2018) was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly film adaptations of his plays. He has received mor ...
, are commonly recognized as humorists in the sense of Twain.


Distinction from a comedian

Humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World ...

Humor
is the quality which makes experiences provoke laughter or amusement, while
comedy Comedy (from the el, wikt:κωμῳδία, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, televi ...
is a performing art. The nineteenth century German philosopher
Arthur Schopenhauer Arthur Schopenhauer (; ; 22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a Germans, German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work ''The World as Will and Representation'' (expanded in 1844), which characterizes the Phenomenon, phenomena ...
lamented the misuse of ''humor'' (a German
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
from English) to mean any type of comedy. A humorist is adept at seeing the humor in a situation or aspect of life and relating it, usually through a story; the
comedian A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an ...

comedian
generally concentrates on jokes designed to invoke instantaneous laughter. The humorist is primarily a writer of books, newspaper or magazine articles or
columns A column or pillar in architecture File:Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted).jpg, upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) ...
,
stage Stage or stages may refer to: Acting * Stage (theatre), a space for the performance of theatrical productions * Theatre, a branch of the performing arts, often referred to as "the stage" * ''The Stage'', a weekly British theatre newspaper * Stag ...
or
screen Screen or Screens may refer to: Arts * Screen printing (also called ''silkscreening''), a method of printing * Big screen, a nickname associated with the motion picture industry * Split screen (filmmaking), a film composition paradigm in which mult ...
plays, and may occasionally appear before an audience to deliver a lecture or read a piece of their work. The comedian always performs their work for an audience, either in live performance, audio recording, radio, television, or film.
Phil Austin Philip Baine Austin (April 6, 1941 – June 18, 2015) was an American comedian and writer, best known as a member of the Firesign Theatre The Firesign Theatre (also known as the Firesigns) was an American surreal humour, surreal comedy troupe w ...
, of the comedy group
the Firesign Theatre The Firesign Theatre (also known as the Firesigns) was an American surreal humour, surreal comedy troupe who first appeared on November 17, 1966, in a live performance on the Los Angeles radio program ''Radio Free Oz'' on station KPFK FM broadc ...
, expressed his thoughts about the difference in 1993 liner notes to the '' Fighting Clowns'' album:


Notable humorists


American

* Renowned polymath Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), as a newspaper editor and printer, became one of America's first humorists, most famously for ''Poor Richard's Almanack'' published under the pen name "Richard Saunders". *
Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an au ...

Mark Twain
(pen name of Samuel Langhorn Clemens, 1835–1910) was widely considered the "greatest humorist" the U.S. ever produced, as noted in his ''New York Times'' obituary. It's a distinction that garnered wide agreement, as
William Faulkner William Cuthbert Faulkner (; September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American literature, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. ...

William Faulkner
called him "the father of
American literature American literature is literature predominantly written or produced in English language, English in the United States, United States of America and its Colonial history of the United States, preceding colonies. Before the American Revolution ...
". * Ring Lardner (1885–1933) was a sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical writings about sports, marriage, and the theatre. * Robert Benchley (1889–1945), best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor, began writing humorously for ''The Harvard Lampoon'' while attending Harvard University, and for many years wrote essays and articles for ''Vanity Fair (US magazine 1913-36), Vanity Fair'' and ''The New Yorker''. * H. L. Menken (1880–1956) was a journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. He is known for dubbing the Scopes trial "the Monkey Trial". * James Thurber (1894–1961) was a cartoonist, author, journalist, playwright, and celebrated
wit Wit is a form of intelligent humour Humour (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English) or humor (American English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the tendency of ...

wit
, best known for his gag cartoon, cartoons and short stories published mainly in ''The New Yorker''. * George S. Kaufmann (1889–1961) was a playwright, theatre director and theatre producer, producer, and drama critic. He wrote two Broadway theatre, Broadway musical comedy, musicals for the Marx Brothers: ''The Cocoanuts (musical), The Cocoanuts'' and ''Animal Crackers (musical), Animal Crackers''. * Bennett Cerf (1898–1971) was one of the founders of the publishing firm Random House, known for his own compilations of jokes and puns, for regular personal appearances lecturing across the United States, and for his television appearances on the panel game show ''What's My Line?'' * Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) was a radio and literature humorist best known for writing the book ''In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash'' which was later adapted to the 1983 movie ''A Christmas Story''. * Art Buchwald (1925–2007) wrote a political satire op-ed column for ''The Washington Post'', which was nationally syndicated in many newspapers. * Garrison Keilor (born 1942) is an author, storyteller, voice actor, and radio personality, best known as the creator and host of the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) show ''A Prairie Home Companion'' from 1974 to 2016. He created the fictional Minnesota town Lake Wobegon, the setting of many of his books. He created and voiced the hardboiled detective parody character Guy Noir on his radio show.


Britain and Ireland

* James Gillray (1756–1815) father of British political cartoon known for his wit. * Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) was an Irish poet and playwright known for his biting wit. * Jerome K. Jerome (1859–1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the comic travelogue ''Three Men in a Boat''. * P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975) was one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. * Noël Coward (1899–1973) was a playwright, composer, director, actor and singer. * Alan Coren (1938–2007) could be considered the English equivalent of Bennett Cerf: a writer and satirist who was well known as a regular panelist on the BBC radio quiz ''The News Quiz'' and a team captain on BBC television's ''Call My Bluff''. Coren was also a journalist, and for almost a decade was the editor of ''Punch (magazine), Punch'' magazine. * Tom Sharpe (1928–2013) was a satirical novelist, best known for his ''Wilt (novel), Wilt'' series, as well as ''Porterhouse Blue'' and ''Blott on the Landscape''. * Terry Pratchett (1948–2015) was an author known for comic fantasy, most notably a series of 41 existentialism, existentialist and political satire novels set in the ''Discworld'' universe. He was strongly influenced by Wodehouse, Sharpe, Jerome, Coren, and Twain.


Women

* Dorothy Parker (1893–1967), a writer for ''Vanity Fair'', ''Vogue (magazine), Vogue'' and other magazines, playwright, and a close friend of Benchley, was known for her biting, satirical wit. * Erma Bombeck (1927–1996) was a newspaper columnist and writer of 15 books who specialized in humorously describing Midwestern United States, midwestern suburbia, suburban home life. * Fran Lebowitz (born 1950) writes sardonic social commentary from a New York City point of view.


Other countries

* Kajetan Abgarowicz (1856–1909) was an Armenian-Polish journalist, novelist and short story writer. * Sholom Aleichem (1859–1916) was the pen name of the leading Yiddish author and playwright Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, on whose stories the musical ''Fiddler on the Roof'' was based.


Comedians who become humorists

Sometimes a comedian will adopt a writing career and gain notability as a humorist. Some examples are: Will Rogers (1879–1935) was a vaudeville comedian who started doing humorous political and social commentary, and became a famous newspaper columnist and radio personality during the Great Depression. He is an exception to the education rule, as he only completed a tenth grade#United States, tenth grade education. Cal Stewart (1856–1919) was a vaudeville comedian who created the character Uncle Josh Weathersby and toured circuses and medicine shows. He befriended Twain and Rogers, and in 1898 became the first comedian to make sound recordings, on Edison Records. Garry Moore (1915–1993), known as a television comedian who hosted several variety show, variety and game shows, after his 1977 retirement became a regular humor columnist for the newspaper ''The Island Packet'' of Northeast Harbor, Maine, with a column titled "Mumble, Mumble". He later released a book of his columns under the same name in the early 1980s. Victor Borge (1909–2000) was a Danish-American comedian known for bringing humor to classical music. He wrote three books, ''My Favorite Intermissions'' and ''My Favorite Comedies in Music'' (both with Robert Sherman (music critic), Robert Sherman), and the autobiography ''Smilet er den korteste afstand'' ("The Smile is the Shortest Distance") with Niels-Jørgen Kaiser. Peter Ustinov (1921–2004) was an English comic actor who wrote several humorous plays and film scripts. Woody Allen (born 1935), known as a comedian and filmmaker, early in his career worked as a staff writer for humorist Herb Shriner. He also wrote short stories and cartoon captions for magazines such as ''The New Yorker''.
Steve Martin Stephen Glenn Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, and musician. Over his distinguished career he has earned five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award The Primetime Emmy Award is an A ...

Steve Martin
(born 1945), comedian and actor, wrote ''Cruel Shoes'', a book of humorous essays and short stories, in 1977 (published 1979). He wrote his first humorous play ''Picasso at the Lapin Agile'' in 1993, and wrote various pieces in ''The New Yorker'' magazine in the 1990s. He later wrote more humorous plays and two novellas. Hugh Laurie (born 1959) is an English comic actor who worked for many years in partnership with Stephen Fry. He is a fan of the English humorist P. G. Wodehouse, and has written a Wodehouse-style novel.


References


External links

* {{Authority control Humorists, Humour Philosophy of culture