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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/150

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

tensions and passions. Unusual features, types of ugliness, odd shapes, Falstaff proportions, contain humorous elements.

3. Actions.—Mimicry and all actions of a pretentious and useless sort and in false time and space relations may provoke humor. All mimicry is humorous, whether in the form of the puppet show, the pantomime, the burlesque or the comedy. Hazlitt calls attention to a large group of humorous acts as seen in the "pursuit of uncertain pleasure or idle gallantry." Professor James refers to the same subject in describing our desire for recognition: "We are crazy to get a visiting list which shall be large, to be able to say when any one is mentioned, 'Oh! I know him well'. . . there is a whole race of beings to-day whose passion is to keep their names in the newspaper, no matter under what heading; 'arrivals and departures,' gossip, even scandal will suit them if nothing better is to be had." Useless actions of the ideomotor and absent-minded type are the causes of many of the comedies of errors in every-day life. A young lady who had partially disrobed to make a toilet at the noon hour, wound up by "saying her prayers," that being the usual next step in the evening. A college girl stopped at her own room and knocked vigorously for admission. Forgetfulness, too, is often a source of humor. Here belong the host of stories of the forgetful and absent-minded professor, from which we select one. A certain professor asked the lady of his choice for her hand, in total disregard of the fact that he had made the same request with the happiest result on the day preceding. The wrong use of objects, tools and machinery often makes an act humorous; for instance, posting letters in a neighbor's private letter box, an Indian taking his family to church in a hearse purchased for a carriage, sharpening a hand saw by grinding the teeth out of it. Awkwardness is a common type of action naturally humorous. Any action inherently serious may become humorous by occurring out of time or out of place. Singing ahead of time or out of tune, applauding alone, answering questions at the wrong time at a marriage service, an unmindful deacon removing his small coat with his overcoat and sitting down in his shirt sleeves in church, are cases in point. Hazlitt remarks, "In Jocular history everybody is at angles to real life; people do precisely what they ought not to do, say what they ought not to say, are found where they ought not to be found."

4. Clothes.—Clowns and professional fools supplement their wit, humor and mimicry by their well-known forms of dress. Johnny Bull, Uncle Sam and Santa Claus are always received good-naturedly partly on account of their dress. Hallowe'en, masked balls, the Mardi Gras and Carnivals ancient and modern owe much of their charming good humor to dress. It is well known that we laugh at the dress of foreigners, and they at ours. "Three chimney sweeps meeting three Chinese in Lincoln's-inn-fields, they laughed at one another till they were ready to drop down. . . . Any one dressed in the height of