Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to Tell Jokes, 1558

Giovanni della Casa finds your jokes wearisome.
(Portrait by Wenceslas Hollar)
"Where your pleasantries are not rewarded with the laughter of listeners, cease and desist from telling jokes in the future. The defect is in you, not in your listeners... For these are movements of the mind, and if they are pleasant and lively, they are an indication and a testimonial of the nimble mind and the good habits of the speaker-- this is particularly liked by other men and endears us to them. But if they are without grace and charm, they have the contrary effect, so it appears a jackass is joking, or that someone very fat with an enormous butt is dancing and hopping about in a tight-fitting vest." 
Giovanni della Casa, Il Galateo overo de' costumi (1558)
Giovanni della Casa: skilled diplomat, astute social critic, fearsome heckler at Renaissance comedy clubs. 


  1. 1. They said "butt" in the 16th century? Who knew?

    2. There is a lot of dancing advice in these posts and now here is a dancing metaphor. Who knew dancing was so much on the minds of our ancestors?

    3. Much as I appreciate the daily advice, I wonder if askthepast is going to take a vacation. There is probably a lot of advice out there about the proper way to take a vacation.

    1. Butt: even more amusing in the Italian original -- "forte grasso e naticuto" (literally, "very fat and buttocked")

      Dancing: In my time-travel fantasy world, Antonius Arena (the author of all the "don't fart while dancing" advice) would host Dancing With the Stars.

      Vacation: askthepast is looking into it...

  2. Oh, my. Just stumbled upon this awesome, wonderful, delightful, witty blog from heaven. Can't stop giggling. THANK YOU!!!

  3. Is that the first record of "Fat man in a little coat"? =P


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