For more than an hour last night, Neal O'Hara '15, Humorist for the Boston Traveller, kept a large and appreciative audience at the Union convulsed in laughter.
The "joke-making industry" was carefully explained and liberally illustrated by Mr. O'Hara, and he found time to take up facetiously the athletics at Harvard, the question of girls' dress, and the parking question near Harvard Square.
"80 Per Cent Transcript"
Mr. O'Hara started his speech by commenting on the differences of the Harvard of today and the Harvard of ten years ago. The chief trouble with Harvard at present is, according to Mr. O'Hara, that the students are too "high-brow," or as he later explained, "Harvard is 20 percent American, and 80 percent Transcript."
Speaking of athletics, Mr. O'Hara paid tribute to the fighting spirit displayed by the football team last Saturday. "Although Harvard was nosed out by Dartmouth last Saturday--by a rhinoceros nose--I think that athletics are now on a sounder and more honest basis than was the case ten years ago."
"Just Another Joke"
In dealing with the topic of "Humorists, and How They Get That Way," Mr. O'Hara said. "Joke-making is as mechanical as any industry today. Making a joke is just like making is as mechanical as any industry today. Making a joke is just like making a Ford.
"Just as all dramatic plots can be traced back to one of the original 35 plots, so every joke leads back directly to one of the 40 standard kinds of jokes. Every humorist deals in old goods, and this is why he acts so flippantly--he is merely trying to convince the audience that his joke is a new one. This also is the only reason why jokes are built up carefully before they are sprung.
"There are certain standard topics for jokes--Prohibition, marriage, the Irish, Fords, and others. Every humorist uses them, and often he is forced to use them because the audience expects him to."
Jokes Go on Forever
Mr. O'Hara next discussed humor as a profession. "It is," he said, "the most appreciated form of journalistic effort. A feature article or an editorial are soon forgotten, but jokes are remembered and constantly repeated. That is why humorists are paid so much more than other writers. The average salary of a newspaper man is about $50 a week. The average for humorous writers is from $200 to $2000 dollars a week. Only a few men get the top figure, but there are some, Ring Lardner and Will Rogers, for instance, who do.
"On the stage it is the same way. The highest paid actors are not the Barry-mores or the Otis Skinners. The five highest paid actors in American are Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, Fred Stone, and Ed Wynn--all comedians."