Vintage Humor – Funny Then, Funny Now

Yes. It’s true. Humor in general does not age well. Most of the jokes and stories that made grandpa guffaw long ago, does not have the same effect on us today. But there are exceptions. And what exceptions they are!

Ambrose Bierce’s delightfully sardonic view of human nature, Oscar Levant’s biting witticisms, Will Rogers’ earthy anecdotes and folksy style, Mark Twain’s insightful satire and humor, Oscar Wilde’s mocking wit, and P. G. Wodehouse’s light hearted charm all in their own unique ways stand the test of time. Want proof? Okay, try reading these quotes without breaking into a smile.

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.” – Will Rogers

“When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do; well, that’s Memoirs.” – Will Rogers

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” – Will Rogers

“He was a solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.” – Mark Twain

“Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” – Mark Twain

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain

“Familiarity breeds contempt – and children.” – Mark Twain

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” – Mark Twain

“Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.”
– Mark Twain

“Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?” – Mark Twain

“I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.” – Mark Twain

“I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.” – Mark Twain

“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.” – Mark Twain

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” – Mark Twain

“Lie: an abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble.” – Mark Twain

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” – Mark Twain

“The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” – Mark Twain

“There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.” – Mark Twain

“To be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler–and less trouble.” – Mark Twain

“As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.” – Oscar Wilde

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” – Oscar Wilde

“I can resist everything except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde

“Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Absurdity: a statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Bore: a person who talks when you wish him to listen.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Callous: gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth – two removed from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Coward: one who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Cynic: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Egotist: a person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Fork: an instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Future: that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true, and our happiness is assured.” – Ambrose Bierce

“History: an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Mad: affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Neighbor: One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Philosophy: route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Positive: being mistaken at the top of one’s voice.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Saint: a dead sinner revised and edited.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Zeal: a certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced.” – Ambrose Bierce

“I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself.” – Oscar Levant

“What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.” – Oscar Levant

“I was once thrown out of a mental hospital for depressing the other patients.” – Oscar Levant

“Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.” – P. G. Wodehouse

“It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t.” – P. G. Wodehouse

“And as for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have been deceived by his appearance
and started embalming him on sight.” – P. G. Wodehouse

“Boyhood, like measles, is one of those complaints which a man should catch young and have done with, for when it comes in middle life it is apt to be serious.” – P. G. Wodehouse

“I mean to say, when a girl, offered a good man’s heart, laughs like a bursting paper bag and tells him not to be a silly ass, the good man is entitled, I think, to assume that the whole thing is off.” – P. G. Wodehouse

Want more? A collection of these vintage quotations can be found in my new book: Victoria Station: Wit & Wisdom of the Ages.

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