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Laughter (first collected in And Even Now)

1920

by Max Beerbohm (1872 - 1956)

After a charmingly self-deprecating start, Beerbohm’s very British difficulties coping with theory and philosophy lead him to achieve what Bergson could not: an essay on laughter that actually makes you laugh.

Only love, Beerbohm decides, gives greater pleasure. But the essay is generally free of grandiose conclusions; it is more a dissection of Beerbohm’s personal habits, akin to a good observational stand-up routine. The second half slips in serious critical insights on comedy under the cover of fanciful biographical stories (involving Byron and Johnson) and ends paying tribute to a friend’s comic flare, captured with the eye of a caricaturist.

Related recommendation: Adam Phillips’ ‘On Tickling’ (1993)

Origin: Britain

Themes: Familiar Examined Afresh, Manners and Conversation

Genres: Biographical, Humorous, Familiar or Personal

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