Criticism of criticism/Notes on laughter (1947)

Marcel Pagnol gives us some tasty reflections on the springs of comedy.

Reflections of Marcel Pagnol on laughter.
Reflections of Marcel Pagnol on laughter.


For Marcel Pagnol:

  1. “Laughter is a song of triumph: it is the expression of a momentary, but suddenly discovered superiority of the laugher over the mocked.
  2. There are two kinds of laughter, as far apart as the two poles of our planet.
  3. The first one is the real laughter, the healthy, invigorating, relaxing laughter: I laugh because I feel superior to you (or to him, or to the whole world, or to myself). We call it positive laughter.
  4. The second one is hard, and almost sad: I laugh because you are inferior to me. I don’t laugh at my superiority, I laugh at your inferiority. It is the negative laughter, the laughter of contempt, the laughter of revenge, of vendetta, or, at least, of revenge.
  5. Between these two kinds of laughter, we find all kinds of shades. And on the equator, at equal distance from these two poles, we will find the complete laughter, constituted by the association of the two laughs.”

Here are two books written in 1945, when he had just been elected to the Académie française. In them, Marcel Pagnol gives us some tasty reflections on the springs of comedy, as Bergson had done half a century earlier. And he settles their account, without malice but with humor, to those he had sometimes had to suffer from and whom he opposes to creators, the critics.

“Critics often talk about authors. That’s its only reason for being. But nobody ever talks about critics, even to sing their praises. I would like to take the liberty here of telling them what I think of them, and of their works as critics; I would like to show them the role they play, and the good or the evil they have done, or can do. I will write of them as freely as they write of us, that is, without sparing any kind of consideration.”

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