May 30, 2012

Puns are terrible, right? But then why do we love Groucho? When Mrs. Teasdale tells him: "This is a gala day for you," he says: "Well, a gal a day is enough for me." He also tells her:
"You can leave in a taxi If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff. "

These are puns, right? But instead of being agonizing they're part of the Rosetta Stone for the greatest manic American comedy.

Here's my theory: puns bother us when they suggest a kind of earnest over-attentiveness to the language. So when I say, "I thought Chion was dressed as a Eskimo, but it turned out to be a optical Aleutian," the implication is that I'm thinking about words more than you do, and I'm more amused by them than I should be. Groucho, meanwhile, is sowing anarchy. There's a pun in there somewhere.

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