high and delicate art

The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect on the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story depend upon the matter. The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it please, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst. The humorous story is strictly a work of art—high and delicate art—and only an artist can tell it…The art of telling a humorous story—understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print—was created in America, and has remained at home.

Mark Twain, “How to Tell a Story” (1897)

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