[Ads-l] "A comic does funny things; a comedian does things funny"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 20 20:53:38 UTC 2020

I'll get the ball rolling with these three variants credited to Ed Wynn in
late 1960...

LA Times, Nov. 1, 1960, p. III8 (syndicated column by Hedda Hopper)
"A comic is a monologist who tells jokes but he isn't necessarily funny,"
says Ed Wynn. "He's a man who doesn't do funny things but who does things
funny. He doesn't open a funny door, he opens a door funny."
Quad City Times (Iowa), Dec. 8, 1960, p. 36 (wire story from UPI)
[Ed Wynn:] "Red [Skelton] is saying things funny and the others are saying
funny things. There's a difference. Today, many comedians just stand up and
do a monologue."
Anderson (Indiana) Herald, Dec. 22, 1960, p. 21 (wire story from UPI)
[Carol Burnett:] "I always remember what Ed Wynn once told me: 'Some people
say funny things -- but a true comedian says things funny.'"

On Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 3:32 PM Ben Yagoda <byagoda at udel.edu> wrote:

> Question for Garson: On Facebook, I just encountered a quote attributed to
> Buster Keaton: “A comedian things does funny things. A good comedian does
> things funny.” I was skeptical of the attribution (partly because of the
> flat adverb) but when I Googled the quote I found lots of Keaton
> attributions. But Wikipedia quoted a variant (citing Simpson’s Contemporary
> Quotations, 1988) and attributed it to Ed Wynn: "A comic says funny things;
> a comedian says things funny.”
> That jogged my memory that when I encountered the quote years ago the
> contrast was indeed comic/comedian instead of comedian/good comedian.
> Anyway, Garson, I’d appreciate it if you sleuth out this quote.
> Ben

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