Sense of humour required

May 18, 2006, volume 36, no. 2
By Amany Al-Sayyed

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Writers wanted. Qualifications: sense of humour.

English professor Paul Matthew St. Pierre brings a light-hearted sense of humour to recruiting contributors for his literary anthologies.

This includes his latest book, a Dictionary of Literary Biography. The book is devoted to British humorists who have written or performed in the 20th century, including journalists, essayists and fiction and scenario writers.
As an active researcher in British literary wit, St. Pierre defends literary humorists in the scholarly world of literature. “Sometimes these people are seen as comic rather than literary writers,” he says. “Yes, they would write comic stories, but their personae also comment on national culture and the dynamic of humour in their country.”

Drawing the dividing line between scholarly literature and comic writing is difficult. St. Pierre says that the famous Canadian writer Stephen Leacock is recognized as a literary humorist, yet he never wrote a novel.
Other humorists have written extensively but are regarded as light comic writers. “Humorists are put to that test of publication - did they ever publish? If they were performers, did they publish their scripts?” explains St. Pierre, who included Spike Milligan from The Goon Show, and Eric Idle from Monty Python's Flying Circus, in his book. Both are associated with their studio performances rather than with their writing.

St. Pierre is currently working on a Canadian anthology of humorists and is looking for contributors who have a sense of humour.

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