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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 21 01:44:41 UTC 2020

Interesting question, Ben Y. Thanks for sharing excellent citations, Ben Z.

I came across a slightly earlier citation in 1959. After I found this
I noticed that it had very recently been clipped by Barry Popik.

An ex-vaudevillian named Robert Lemke was interviewed, and he (or the
interviewer) attributed the saying to Fred Allen.

Date: August 9, 1959
Newspaper: The Sunday Press
Newspaper Location: Binghamton, New York
Article: Rock 'n Roll 'Musically Horrid' Says Ex-2-a-Dayer
(Continuation title: Rock)
Author: Sunday Press Bureau
Start Page C1, Quote Page C2, Column 1
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Asked his views on humor, Mr. Lemke recalled words of the late Fred
Allen. "He said something like, "A good comedian can say things funny
and other guys just say funny things,"" Mr. Lemke said.
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 3:53 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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."
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/42670027/ed_wynn_funny_things/
> ---
> 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."
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/42670146/ed_wynn_funny_things/
> ---
> 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.'"
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/42670216/ed_wynn_funny_things/
> ---
> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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