April Fools’ Day Special:
Humor from more than just dead white men: some of them are still alive.
⁓The Voice before the Void
A one-liner is a joke that is delivered in a single line. A good one-liner is said to be pithy. Comedians and actors use this comedic method as part of their act, for example: Rodney Dangerfield, Bruce Campbell, Groucho Marx, Jay London, Steven Wright, Emo Philips, Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd, Mark Linn-Baker, Henny Youngman, Mitch Hedberg, Dan Mintz, Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, Jimmy Carr, Anthony Jeselnik, Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis, and so on. Many fictional characters are also known to deliver one-liners, including James Bond, who usually includes short and witty quips after disposing of a villain.
“A baby seal walks into a club.”
“A dyslexic man walks into a bra.” —George Carlin
“I have nothing to declare except my genius.” —Oscar Wilde, upon arriving at US customs, 1882
“Race is just a pigment of the imagination” —Glen Highland
“Venison’s dear isn’t it?” —Jimmy Carr
“Take my wife… please.” —Henny Youngman
A greguería is a short statement, usually one sentence, in which the author expresses a philosophical, pragmatic, or humorous idea in a witty and original way. A greguería is roughly similar to an aphorism or a one-liner joke in comedy. It is a rhetorical and stylistic device used in Spanish and Latin American literature.
Ramón Gómez de la Serna is considered the father of the greguería, which he defined as humor plus metaphor. Gómez de la Serna first used the greguería in about 1910.
Examples by Ramón Gómez de la Serna
El par de huevos que nos tomamos parece que son gemelos, y no son ni primos terceros. (The couple of eggs we eat look like identical twins, and they’re not even third cousins.)
El pavo real es un mito jubilado. (The peacock is a retired myth.)
Las puertas se enfadan con el viento. (Doors get angry with the wind.)
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a form of syllepsis.
“Paraprosdokian” comes from Greek “παρά”, meaning “against” and “προσδοκία”, meaning “expectation”. The term “prosdokia” (“expectation”) occurs with the preposition “para” in Greek rhetorical writers of the 1st century BCE and the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, with the meaning “contrary to expectation” or “unexpectedly.” These four sources are cited under “prosdokia” in Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek Lexicon. Canadian linguist and etymology author William Gordon Casselman argues that, while the word is now in wide circulation, “paraprosdokian” (or “paraprosdokia”) is not a term of classical (or medieval) Greek or Latin rhetoric, but a late 20th-century neologism, citing the fact that the word does not yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary as evidence of its late coinage. However, the word appeared in print as early as 1891 in a humorous article in Punch magazine.
“He was at his best when the going was good.” —Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor
“There but for the grace of God—goes God.” —Winston Churchill
“If I could just say a few words… I’d be a better public speaker.” —Homer Simpson
“If I am reading this graph correctly—I’d be very surprised.” —Stephen Colbert
“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” —Winston Churchill
“On his feet he wore… blisters.” —Aristotle
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” —Groucho Marx
“A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” —supposedly Winston Churchill, about Clement Attlee
“I like going to the park and watching the children run around because they don’t know I’m using blanks.” —Emo Philips
“I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.” —Mitch Hedberg
“I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.” —Bill Hicks
“I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” —Will Rogers
“On the other hand, you have different fingers.” —Steven Wright