The beauty of sarcasm

By Emmet Meara, Special to the News
Posted July 22, 2011, at 3:23 p.m.

I believe it was Frank Renew, barbecue chef emeritus, who dubbed Cobb Manor “The Sarcasm Institute.” Frank, who also dubbed himself “The smartest man in New England,” rarely was wrong.

Sarcasm has been labeled by its detractors (those who cannot understand) as the very lowest form of humor. But my new friends at The Sarcasm Society (you can look it up) have stated instead, “There is nothing more beautiful than sarcasm.”

According to TSS, “Sarcasm usually requires a quick wit and the ability to extract the minutest points of weakness in a conversation. So it is quite unlikely that it is the lowest form of humor as some would like to call it. Perhaps not being able to enjoy sarcasm is directly related to not having the ability to come up with sarcastic comments, which in turn creates a feeling of inadequacy, which in turn can spawn a Napoleon complex.”

So there.

The World English Dictionary gives us a definition of “mocking, contemptuous, or ironic language intended to convey scorn or insult.”

My personal counselor (honest to God) once told me that sarcasm was a way of hiding one’s true feelings. I, of course, love it. What are we here for, if not to cut up our enemies and friends?

If I wasn‘t born sarcastic, I certainly fell to it early, watching those early black and white movies when Oscar Levant used his piano playing as a masquerade while he skewered everyone in the room. Oscar once quipped, “Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.” I suppose he could have said, “You bore me. Leave me alone.”

You choose.

Mark Twain brought sarcasm to an high art form. When an old enemy died, Twain said, “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” On the same subject, he said: “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” Of the human condition, he said: “Often, it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.”

Of family life, he remarked, “Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.” After a trip to Jolly Old England, he said, “I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable.”

I never missed an episode of “You Bet Your Life” and the officially madcap, cigar-mauling host Groucho Marx. Was that his real name?

“No, Groucho is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend,” he said. He had a million of them. “A man is as young as the woman he feels.” Or, “A child of five could understand this. Fetch me a child of five.” Or, “If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you.” Then, “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.”

And my personal favorite “I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

Use that whenever you wish but please attribute.

George Bernard Shaw was not only a great author but an ardent sarcastic. He said, possibly of David Grima, “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” The fabulous Oscar Wilde said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

Dave Barry said something I often think of during heated political arguments. He said, “It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.”

Whatever you do today, be sarcastic to someone you love … or hate.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/22/living/blogs-and-columns-living/the-beauty-of-sarcasm/ printed on September 22, 2014