The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is strictly a work of art--high and delicate art --and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst.
This short book holds nothing extraordinary, more so the essay on how to tell a story. This would have been much better illustrated with the full text of such a story. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretense that he does not know it is a nub. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. The diminishing quality truly does show. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.
This is art--and fine and beautiful, and only a master can compass it; but a machine could tell the other story. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told, for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert story-tellers for many years. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretense that he does not know it is a nub. The bullets and cannon-balls were flying in all directions, and presently one of the latter took the wounded man's head off--without, however, his deliverer being aware of it. En bimeby he hear pause--awed, listening attitude --pat--pat--pat-- hit's a-comin' up-stairs! He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. People of different countries will therefore find different situations funny.
The simplicity and innocence and sincerity and unconsciousness of the old farmer are perfectly simulated, and the result is a performance which is thoroughly charming and delicious. While Twain's material was characteristic of the period in which he wrote, it becomes necessary to examine the individual themes in order to gain a sense of his motives and convictions. Twain did an excellent job of describing the difference between American and European stories and the preference for the American. Very often, of course, the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it. The teller is innocent and happy and pleased with himself, and has to stop every little while to hold himself in and keep from laughing outright; and does hold in, but his body quakes in a jelly-like way with interior chuckles; and at the end of the ten minutes the audience have laughed until they are exhausted, and the tears are running down their faces.
The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. Perhaps that was the problem. He would begin to tell with great animation something which he seemed to think was wonderful; then lose confidence, and after an apparently absent-minded pause add an incongruous remark in a soliloquizing way; and that was the remark intended to explode the mine--and it did. Indeed, that is storytelling to me. Twain's humor is intact, as it is generally based on things that go beyond current events. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles.
But he can't remember it; so he gets it all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; making minor mistakes now and then and stopping to correct them and explain how he came to make them; remembering things which he forgot to put in in their proper place and going back to put them in there; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, after all,--and so on, and so on, and so on. I will talk mainly about that one. Twain explains that when one tells a humorous story, the manner in which the story is told is much more important then the actual content. When it come midnight he couldn't stan' it no mo'; so he git up, he did, en tuck his lantern en shoved out thoo de storm en dug her up en got de golden arm; en he bent his head down 'gin de win', en plowed en plowed en plowed thoo de snow. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter. I suppose there was humor to be found in it, but it wasn't really worth the 20 minutes it took to read.
A rather short essay on how to tell a humorous story, the way a true comedic artist would. To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct. The humorous story is strictly a work of art--high and delicate art-- and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The simplicity and innocence and sincerity and unconsciousness of the old farmer are perfectly simulated, and the result is a performance which is thoroughly charming and delicious. The essay that describes storytelling as an American art is spot on! It's worth the read if you admire Twain's other writings or might be interested in a quick quirky piece. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst.
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. There seem to be various editions of essays by Twain, all having the same title, the Gutenberg edition and the Oxford Edition are quite similar, approaching identity, with the exception that the Gutenberg Project edition is a free download. This piece, while never published during his lifetime as he was never happy with it, is laugh-out-loud funny. As a whole, this made for a nice time filler. All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens November 30, 1835 — April 21, 1910 , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Indeed, that is storytelling to me. He then tells the reader that the American version of the story would be the bumbling storyteller who absentmindedly screws up the details, rambles on for 10 minutes to deliver the funny. Witty and enjoyable, its a refreshing and light hearted look at what Twain got upto, although short he packed a lot into this little volume of his experiences. But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you--every time.