The Funny Man 

As a general rule, a gentleman does not laugh at people, he laughs with people. The one glaring exception to this rule is that he freely laughs at himself, the only one who he makes fun of. A man can, and should, take his work seriously, but that doesn’t mean he has to take himself too seriously. As a gentleman’s passion is to be kind to the weak, of course it would not even cross his mind to mock those in a position of weakness, such as the handicapped and others with physical or mental disabilities. As our good fortune is, to a large degree, the result of the caprices of the Gods, one should have more pity than contempt for those who seem to be on the wrong side of the universe’s cosmic joke.

On the other hand, it is perfectly fair play to make merry with the arrogant and the pompous, and all those in a position of power. The old maxim about comforting the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable is relevant here. But even here there are rules; one attacks only those things over which they have control. The ostentatious possessions and parties, the hypocrisy, the crude materialism, the raw grasping for power, etc. are all fair game. But physical characteristics and the failings of family members generally are not. JP Morgan had his failings, but his bulbous nose was the result of a disease, not character flaws. President Jimmy Carter was a sanctimonious failure, but the fact that his brother was a buffoon was hardly the president’s doing.

A gentleman never laughs at tasteless jokes, excepting of course, the really, really funny ones.

As for comic strips, under no circumstances does the gentleman read anything other than Doonesbury, Opus, Calvin and Hobbes, and the Far Side.

A gentleman’s humor is most often along the lines of the Old English model, emphasizing satire and irony; an intelligent sort of humor that we use to help defy the cruel vagaries of a difficult and unpredictable universe.

One thing we admire about comedian Jerry Seinfield is that he doesn’t use profanity to be funny; you can be funny without being crude.


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