July 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Shaw!


Arguably the single funniest, most wicked playwrite in the entire history of the English language was born this day in 1856. Here's a little bio on the man.

Mom and I happened to be discussing Mr. Shaw the other day, and this discussion led to a broader question: What is it about the Irish that makes them all so goddam funny? There is no humor quite like Irish humor for its combination of deadpan, twinkly eye and latent ferocity, and so many of the Irish seem to be blessed with it that when one comes across an Irishman with no sense of humor, as I have once or twice in my career, it's a genuine shock to the system.

Anyhoo, I suppose I could go into a deeper discussion of Shaw's writings, or else into a larger consideration of the historickal influences that shaped the Irish character, but it's too hot and humid and my brain is too far gone into the pre-vacation doldrums for me to muster the energy to do so. Instead, I'll give you a stream of bat's piss:

Posted by Robert at July 26, 2007 08:47 AM | TrackBack

Feh. Shaw was pink-panty wearing Commie.

Posted by: Gary at July 26, 2007 09:07 AM

Hey, I just said he was funny - I certainly don't endorse any of that Fabian crap.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at July 26, 2007 09:18 AM

I've got to disagree with you here, Robbo.

I actually don't think I've ever laughed at Shaw. Arms and The Man? The Devil's Disciple? Man and Superman? Pygmalion? I defy you to point out a single laugh in them. Those plays read deader than Sanskrit.

I think he may well have been his generation's John Stewart -- people tell you he's funny, so you watch it and laugh at all the points where he instructs you to laugh, but honestly, I don't think I've ever more than smiled at anything of Shaw's. I read him and I say "The man's just simply wrong about everything." The thing is, he's not even wrong in a funny way.

Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, is genuinely funny. W.S. Gilbert is genuinely funny. G.K. Chesterton is genuinely funny.

Shaw's just an angry old commie.

Posted by: The Colossus at July 26, 2007 11:12 AM

"What is it about the Irish that makes them all so goddam funny?"

Same thing that makes them so math-phobic. You can count on the fingers of one hand all the first-tier Irish-born mathematicians, chemists and phycisists (you can't count Boyle, who was the son of an English carpetbagger and not really Irish):

William Hamilton, John Tyndall, Lord Kelvin, Ernest Walton, and John Bell.

About a dozen more second-tiers and you have the sum total of the Irish contributions to science.

Posted by: John at July 26, 2007 08:21 PM

Ahem... Well, as a math-phobic Irish-American (Mom is a Daugherty) I must say, one can have a 140 IQ and still be pathetic with numbers. The Irish are poor folks after all, and have no use for number crunching. Deadpan witicisms are all "we" got.

That said, the "Very Witty Wilde" Python skit is my favorite of all time... for... ah... obvious reasons.

SNL's "Particularly Bad Opera" runs a close second.

Posted by: Hucbald at July 26, 2007 09:34 PM

The Irish are more verbally oriented -- poets, politicans (read: demagogues), priests, lawyers -- if a race as litigious walks the planet, it could only be the Jews. The Irish also have the strange quality of being more fluent in their non-native tongue, English, than are the English themselves.

They've needed it -- if only in court.

And virtually no amount of alcohol renders them less fluent or loquacious.

As for scientists, there's George Boole, too -- again, not really a mathematician, but a logician -- inventor of a way of making math into language, all the better to ambush it in.

And profane. They virtually invented the concept of the non-commissioned officer, both in the old British empire and in the states, mainly through their mastery of the hundred flavors of abuse needed to make a man a soldier.

A marvelous race. They prefer myth to poetry, poetry to history, history to law, and law to most everything else, excepting warfare. McManus's scholarly "History of the Irish Race" begins with the leprechauns; whom the Irish all know are actually the Tuatha de Danaan, driven under the hills by King Milesius. I've never seen anyone dare call him on it, either.

Posted by: The Colossus at July 26, 2007 09:42 PM