Archive for the 'wodehouse' Category

Why I love P.G. Wodehouse (“terrific”)

Monday, December 7th, 2009


I am a tremendous fan of P.G. Wodehouse but I don’t know many people who have read as much of his work as I have (plus I’ve got a several audiobooks that I listen to often) so I thought I’d occassionaly share some of why I love P.G. Wodehouse.

In Code of the Woosters, Madeline Bassett (“the Bassett” – a ghastly girl, a ‘droopy, soupy, sentimental exhibit, with melting eyes and a cooing voice and the most extraordinary views on such things as stars and daisy chains’) is convinced, (wrongly, of course), that Bertie Wooster has come to Totleigh Towers due to undying love for her.

“Why did you come? Oh, I know what you are going to say. You felt that, cost what it might, you had to see me again, just once. You could not resist the urge to take away with you one last memory, which you could cherish down the lonely years. Oh, Bertie, you remind me of Rudel.”

The name was new to me.

“Rudel?”

“The Seigneur Geoffrey Rudel, Prince of Blay-en-Saintonge.”

I shook my head.

“Never met him, I’m afraid. Pal of yours?”

“He lived in the Middle ages. He was a great poet. And he fell in love with the wife of the Lord of Tripoli.”

I stirred uneasily. I hoped she was going to keep it clean.

“For years he loved her, and at last could resist no longer. He took ship to Tripoli, and his servants carried him ashore.”

“Not feeling so good?” I said, groping. “Rough crossing?”

“He was dying. Of love.”

“Oh, ah.”

“They bore him into the Lady Melisande’s presence on a litter, and he had just strength enough to reach out and touch her hand. Then he died.”

She paused, and heaved a sigh that seemed to come straight up from the cami-knickers. A silence ensued.

“Terrific”, I said, feeling that I had to say something, though personally I didn’t think the story a patch on the one about the travelling salesman and the farmer’s daughter. Different, of course, if one had known the chap.

Things that made me laugh (wrenches, humor theory, Stinky McStinkface and Jeeves and Wooster)

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Though Dean and Max had said it was funny, I hadn’t seen Dodgeball until it happened to be on TV the other day. I had a rough idea of the plot but found it funnier and more charming than I’d thought it would be, maybe because I didn’t have many expectations.

The “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” part made me laugh out loud, though I was rather bemused at myself that something so stupid could do so:

The scene goes on a bit longer with the crazy dodgeball coach, as training, continuing to throw wrenches at the team with all of them getting hit in various ways (but, by the continuation, showing they are all essentially unhurt and ok). I was a bit embarrassed to know about myself that physical humor of this type can make me laugh.

I’ve read a bit on the psychology of laughter and remembered (probably as way of comforting myself) that one theory of humor is that it occurs as a release of tension; that some humor is based on the raising of tension and that laughter comes about automatically as an expression of the relief we feel when the tension is released. Eg: a scene in which someone who is supposed to be helping does something so incongruous, unexpected and against the rules of acceptable behavior as to throw a wrench at someone, could be funny *if* the person they throw the wrench at is ok in the end (but would not be funny if the person was not ok).

Another thing which made me laugh recently was a commercial for Orbit gum, for which the theme of the ads is for cleaning ‘dirty mouths’.

This again turns on the diffusing of a tense situation with a juxtaposition of our expectations of normal behavior (and use of words). For me, I think there is always some element of juxtaposition and surprise in what makes me laugh. Too, I suppose, there is the issue of discomfort. I notice a lot of British humor, a kind of humor I seem to find consistently funny, works on the basis of discomfort, the breaking the rules of acceptable behavior in some way and word play.

One of the absolute highest examples of humor for me and my sisters is the Jeeves and Wooster P.G. Wodehouse TV series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. One of the things I remember we especially laughed at was a scene where Bertie is caught by an (accidental) fiance searching for a stolen book, so fakes a fainting spell and then later when his other (accidental) fiance and his harridan aunt join them in the room, he tries to keep them from finding out he is, very unwillingly, engaged to both. One of our favorite lines was when the fiances says: “I think he’s having a brain storm!” to which the aunt replies: “What with?”

You can see the scene on YouTube (no embed available, unfortunately) staring at 1:29 min in section 4/5
(The whole episode is available, though in different parts: 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 5/5. It’s worth it to watch the whole episode, I think and I highly recommend the series and absolutely anything done by Hugh Laurie or Stephen Fry.)

Of course, I can try to think why something made me laugh, afterwards, but that knowledge doesn’t make something funny. I know it’s kind of useless to try to analyze humor, though wiser heads than mine have suggestions.

In order to laugh at something, it is necessary (1) to know what you are laughing at, (2) to know why you are laughing, (3) to ask some people why they think you are laughing, (4) to jot down a few notes, (5) to laugh. Even then, the thing may not be cleared up for days.
-Robert Benchley

Things that made me laugh (Wodehouse again)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

“Ha jolly ha to you, young Stiffy. With knobs on.” I retorted with quiet dignity.
– P.G. Wodehouse
Code of the Woosters

Things that made me laugh (Wodehouse again)

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

“She’s crazy. I wore a moustache my last year at Oxford, and it looked frightful. Nearly as loathsome as yours. Moustache forsooth!” said Stilton, which surprised me, for I hadn’t supposed he knew words like ‘forsooth’. “‘I wouldn’t grow a moustache to please a dying grandfather,’ I told her. ‘A nice fool I’d look with a moustache,’ I said. ‘It’s how you look without one,’ she said. ‘Is that so?’ I said. ‘Yes, it is,’ she said. ‘Oh?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Ho!’ I said, and she said ‘Ho to you!'”

If she would have added ‘With knobs on’, it would, of course, have made it stronger, but I must say I was rather impressed by Florence’s work as described in this slice of dialogue. It seemed to me snappy and forceful. I suppose girls learn this sort of cut-and-thrust stuff at their finishing schools.

P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit

Things that did make me laugh (Wodehouse)

Monday, October 1st, 2007

(listening to Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit on mp3)

Bertie: “You’ve thought of something Jeeves?”
Jeeves: “Yes, sir.
Bertie: “I knew it! I was saying a moment ago that you always find the way. Well, let us have it.”
Jeeves: “There is a method by means of which Mrs. Travers can be extricated from her ‘sea of troubles’ (-Shakespeare).”
Bertie: I didn’t know why he was addressing me as Shakespeare but I motioned him to continue. “Proceed Jeeves!”

See the Random P.G. Wodehouse Quote page.