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Twain Illustrated: Twain Presumes Too Much

by Jerome Tiller

Twain illustrated contains one reborn story—Emerson, Holmes, and Longfellow—largely requiring rebirth because even the great Mark Twain could presume too much. The story is my adaptation of a speech he delivered in 1877 at a Boston banquet honoring esteemed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Twain presumed his audience was in a playful spirit that night as he prepared to deliver a speech that poked fun at literary giants Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Either the audience was not feeling playful, or maybe everyone was reluctant to laugh because all three poets were seated right there at the head table with Whittier. For neither the poets nor anyone else in the audience laughed, not even once, during the entire story. Master humorist Mark Twain had come to totally expect laughter, and lots of it, when he told a funny story. He claims he never fully recovered from the humiliation he felt that night at the banquet.

Twain’s Carnival of Exaggerations

by Jerome Tiller
In Twain Illustrated, I adapt three stories by Mark Twain by adding forty-three, contemporary-classic illustrations by Marc Johnson-Pencook. Included in this collection is the wildly hilarious The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut. Mark Twain’s wit usually made people snicker or chuckle, but Twain's carnival of exaggerations more often made them laugh. Twain used and blended many comic forms, including witty jokes, puns, ludicrous impressions, irony, sarcasm, satire, and understatement. But very often he relied upon exaggeration to great comic effect. Like many humorists before him, Twain knew that too much of anything, received playfully, will make people laugh. So Twain filled this story with a carnival of exaggeration to hilarious effect. It's a must-read, must-see story in Twain Illustrated, as Marc Johnson-Pencook is able to keep pace with Twain's exaggerations every scene of the way.
 

Edgar Allan Poe was not sarcastic

by Jerome Tiller
Edgar Allan Poe was not sarcastic. In my last blog, posted April 10, I said Edgar Allan Poe was sarcastic. And I claimed Poe’s sarcasm was funny. I stand corrected. Going by the two dictionaries I use for reference, sarcasm is not funny. Sarcasm intends to hurt with mocking ridicule. Both dictionaries agree on that.

So that makes me dead wrong for saying Poe use sarcastic humor in the example I chose to demonstrate his humor. Either Poe wasn’t being sarcastic, or the excerpt I used wasn’t humorous. Intent to hurt cannot be funny, even when someone’s ego deserves to be chopped down to size. I don’t think I can have it both ways. The dictionaries have corrected me. A little deeper Still,...

Edgar Allan Poe was not ...

by Jerome Tiller
Edgar Allan Poe was not a humorist. Edgar Allan Poe was not a comic genius. Poe did not want his readers to die laughing—or leastwise probably not; he was, after all, a poor, starving artist and would need them to continue purchasing the magazines that published his stories. But Edgar Allan Poe was funny. He had a sense of humor and knew how to use it. Poe, being Poe, slyly inserted his humor into the framework of detective stories and macabre tales.

Poe’s humor was almost entirely sarcastic. Sarcasm falls within the form of humor called wit, which is defined as mental trickery. I addressed the subject of wit in a previous blog about Mark Twain’s humor.

But why try to thoroughly describe Poe’s...

Mark Twain Made Mischievous Fun

by Jerome Tiller
Mark Twain made mischievous fun as a boy, and he never stopped making such fun. The practical jokes he played in his youth laid a foundation for some of the humor that would make him famous. According to some, all witty geniuses, Mark Twain included, developed their sense of humor after first playing pranks as children. I’m not sure about the truth of this. I would hope it were not so. Still, if it were to be true, anticipating this end result would probably provide some comfort to whomever has to raise a child prankster.

In essence, pranks embody tricks that produce surprise. But physical pranks also play out to the detriment of a victim. A victim hardly ever immediately sees...