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December 24, 2016

Reproducing the Humorous Spirit

"But few people ... realise the difficulty of reproducing a humorous or comic effect in its original spirit.

"I saw Harry Lauder last night," said Griggs, a Stock-Exchange friend of mine, as we walked up town together the other day. "He came onto the stage in kilts" (here Griggs started to chuckle) "and he had a slate under his arm" (here Griggs began to laugh quite heartily), "and he said, 'I always like to carry a slate with me' (of course he said it in Scotch, but I can't do the Scotch the way he does it) 'just in case there might be any figures I'd be wanting to put down' " (by this time Griggs was almost suffocated with laughter) - "and he took a little bit of chalk out of his pocket, and he said" (Griggs was now almost hysterical), " 'I like to carry a wee bit of chalk along because I find the slate is' " (Griggs was now faint with laughter), " 'the slate is-is-not much good without the chalk.' "

Griggs had to stop, with his hand to his side and lean against a lamp post. "I can't, of course, do the Scotch the way Harry Lauder does it," he repeated.

Exactly. He couldn't do the Scotch and he couldn't do the rich mellow voice of Mr. lauder and the face beaming with merriment, and the spectacles glittering with amusement, and he couldn't do the slate, nor the "wee bit chalk" - in fact he couldn't do any of it. He ought merely to have said, "Harry Lauder," and leaned up against a post and laughed till he had gone over it." 

Stephen Leacock, "Humour As I See It" in Laugh with Leacock, 1946 New York