Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Makes You Laugh?

This is a post from about year ago, from an old blog I no longer use. My cousin Pete's latest post (you can find it here) inspired me to re-use it here:

It's not altogether easy to assess exactly what it is that makes us laugh.

In my research for a magazine article, I remembered something that, many decades ago, really made me laugh. Maybe you will get a chuckle out of it too:

But I want to share with you something that my British sense of humour really enjoys.

I am reading Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. Jerome wrote it in 1889. I've probably read it three times in my life -- that's a lot, considering I rarely read a fiction book more than once.

Here's the introduction:

...a merry, but scandalously lazy band of well-to-do young men -- and a plucky and rather world-weary fox terrier named Montmorency -- (decide to take) an idyllic cruise along the River Thames.

Feeling seedy, muses one of them dreamily, "What we want is rest." What they find instead is one hapless catastrophe after another.

Soggy weather, humiliating dunkings, the irritating behavior of small boats, and the 'contrariness of teakettles' are just a few of the barbarisms our genteel heroes are forced to endure. But to which a delighted reader can only sing, Hooray!


But it's a passage from the book about Montmorency the dog I'd like you to read:

To look at Montmorency you would imagine he was an angel sent upon the earth - for some reason withheld from mankind - in the shape of a small fox terrier.

There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and-nobler expression about Montmorency that has been know to bring tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen.

(At first) I used to sit down and look at him, as he sat on the rug and looked up at me, and think: "Oh, that dog will never live. He will be snatched up to the bright skies in a chariot, that's what will happen to him."

But, when I had paid for about a dozen chickens he had killed; and dragged him, growling and kicking by the scruff of his neck, out of a hundred and fourteen street fights; had had a dead cat brought round for my inspection by an irate female who called me a murderer; and had been summoned by the man next door but one for having a ferocious dog at large that had kept him pinned up in his own toolshed, afraid to venture his nose outside the door for over two hours on a cold night; and had learned that the gardener, unknown to myself, had won thirty shillings by backing him to kill rats against time, then I began to think that maybe they'd let him remain on earth for a bit longer after all.

If you've never read Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), I can only encourage you to get a copy. If you don't have much to laugh about, this book will change everything!


  1. I love this book, Kathy, and now my older boys are enjoying it, too. Thank you for the laugh. x

  2. I love the Who's on Next sketch and it has been done to death by lesser imitators, but the presedent Bush one recaptures the spitit of thing when he is confused by Hu is the premier of China.,_Hu_and_the_President_Bush
    I remember Montmorency and the kettle, very funny.

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  4. You are welcome, English. Snafu and I are discussing British children's classics - did you have any favourites, when you were a child? Do your boys enjoy the classics?

    Snafu, I have never seen the Bush/Rice skit before. Thanks for posting the link -- it is priceless!

  5. Did I say spitit, I really meant spirit.

    If MorningAJ looks at this, the verification word will fit her strange words collection - it is 'scousci' - obviously an Italian Liverpudlian.

  6. Don't worry, snafu - I knew what you meant.

    I love how those verification words sometimes fit right in to what one is commenting about - spooky!

  7. Do you know, Kathy, I have no idea what made me write 'English' instead of 'Elizabeth' and only just noticed when I saw your comment back! I must be finally going doolally!! x