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  • Comedy was all I ever wanted.

  • No wonder all the great comedians had such destructive private lives. ... After you get the audience into that kind of frenzy, and you are being worshiped like the false idol you are, how do you leave the stage and transition back into real life? ... What is there left to do but set yourself on fire?

  • Comedy seems much more real at times than tragedy.

  • Tragedy massages the human ego even as comedy deflates it. ... Tragedy pits us against large foes and the trip wire is our own character. ... In comedy we fall afoul of one another. Comedy depends on social life, on our behavior in groups. In tragedy you can observe one human against the gods. In comedy it's one human versus other humans and often one man (or woman if I'm writing it) against her own worst impulses.

  • A comedian is not funny unless he is taking his demons out for a walk.

  • A jokester needs to see two things at once, appearance and reality.

  • Applause is nothing compared with laughter. Anyone can clap hands, and the mind be miles away. A laugh comes right from the center. No wonder comedians love their audiences.

  • If tragedy is an experience of hyperinvolvement, comedy is an experience of underinvolvement, of detachment.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Notes on 'Camp'" (1964), Against Interpretation ()
  • The comic element is the incorrigible element in every human being; the capacity to learn, from experience or instruction, is what is forbidden to all comic creations and to what is comic in you and me.

  • ... the true art of the gods is the comic. The comic is a condescension of the divine to the world of man; it is the sublime vision, which cannot be studied, but must ever be celestially granted. In the comic the gods see their own being reflected as in a mirror, and while the tragic poet is bound by strict laws, they will allow the comic artist a freedom as unlimited as their own.

  • Human comedy is more profound than tragedy. In tragedy we die and it is very sad. In comedy we avoid death, and it is even sadder.

  • Even when I'm being funny, I'm deadly serious.

  • There is not one female comic who was beautiful as a little girl.

    • Joan Rivers,
    • in Lydia Lane, "An Ugly Duckling Complex," Los Angeles Times ()
  • Your anger can be 49 percent and your comedy 51 percent, and you're okay. If the anger is 51 percent, the comedy is gone.

    • Joan Rivers,
    • with Richard Merryman, Enter Talking ()
  • It is a very serious thing to be a funny woman.

  • ... being funny is a way of being liked and a way of dealing with sadness.

  • ... comedians are people who say funny things, and comics are people who say things funny.

  • Comedy is very controlling — you are making people laugh. It is there in the phrase 'making people laugh.' You feel completely in control when you hear a wave of laughter coming back at you that you have caused.

  • Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn't get serious with people. They don't expect it from you, and they don't want to see it. You're not entitled to be serious, you're a clown, and they only want you to make them laugh.

    • Fanny Brice,
    • in Norman Katkov, The Fabulous Fanny ()
  • On the preservation of the comic spirit depends in some measure the ultimate triumph of civilization.

  • Nothing either sacred or secular is exempt from humor. Humor is the most divine gift we have. Most people undervalue it. A life without laughter is like a long journey without a resting place. I'm in awe of humor. Humor is our guardian. ... Wit is the quick, funny answer. Comedy is the funny hat, a clown nose, an outfit. Humor is about the human condition. ... Humor is the other side of grief.

  • ... comedy ... is much harder to do than drama. It's not true that laugh and the world laughs with you. It's very hard to make a group of people laugh at the same thing; much easier to make them cry at the same thing. ... That's why great comic acting is probably the greatest acting there is.

  • Comedy is like catching lightning in a bottle.

  • The recession has traditionally proved good for comedy because people don't buy large-ticket items. They might not get a refrigerator, but they might go, 'I need a laugh — a cheap laugh.'

  • In this political climate, people are so shut down to other ideas — I call it a hardening of the categories — that if you can get them to open up and laugh, there is a possibility of improvement, and a possibility of change. I think humor sneaks up on people, and before you know it, you're laughing at something you might not agree with.

  • I've always felt that a really good joke, a really good one-liner, is a really good line of poetry. It's imagistic, it's compact, there is a rhythm to it.

  • There's as thin a line between comedy and tragedy as between love and hate. They're for ever spilling over into each other.

  • ... every actor knows that tragedy, being linear and inevitable, is taxing — but comedy, which depends on the element of surprise, is the hardest act of all.

  • The masters of the comic spirit are often our prophets.

  • Great comedy calls large matters into question.

  • ... jokes are ideally pleasurable. They are an act of assassination without a corpse, a moment of total annihilation that paradoxically makes anything possible.

  • Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.

  • Whole phases of comedy have become empty; the comic rejoinder has become every man's tool.

  • ... sometimes in comedy you can make the audience feel poignancy stronger than you can with tears or anguish.

    • Shelley Winters,
    • in Lewis Funke and John E. Booth, Actors Talk About Acting ()
  • The comedy of each age holds up a mirror to the people of that age, a mirror that is unique.

  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.

  • Comedians on the stage are invariably suicidal when they get home.

  • As comedy presents the vital rhythm of self-preservation, tragedy exhibits that of self-consummation.