Monday, October 08, 2007

Black humor

Kurt Vonnegut, in an interview in 1974:

In the Modern Library edition of The Works of Freud, you'll find a section on humor in which he talks about middle-European "gallows humor," and it so happens that what Friedman calls "black humor" is very much like German-Austrian-Polish "gallows humor." In the face of plague and Napoleonic wars and such things, it's little people saying very wry, very funny things on the point of death. One of the examples Freud gives in a man about to be hanged, and the hangman says, "Do you have anything to say?" The condemned man replies, "Not at this time."

This country has made one tremendous contribution to "gallows humor," and it took place in Cook County Jail (you'll have to ask Nelson Algren who said it). A man was strapped into the electric chair and he said to the witnesses, "This will certainly teach me a lesson."

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