This book is intensely personal. I have known and suffered with most of the men who are unfolded in these pages. I say that I have known them, because, after this book is issued, I may not know them again. They may not want me to.
I have suffered with them when we were discussing the humor of those who were not present at the time. Occasionally I have laughed at them, and with them.
For twenty-eight years I was the literary and managing editor of Life. During this short and eventful and melancholy period of American history, all of the humorists of the day, incipient or otherwise, passed before me in review.
During the first five years I read so many jokes that I rapidly fell into a hopeless decline; I was given up by seven doctors, the majority of whom have since passed away and they sent me off to a sanitarium. By careful nursing for a year, however, I came back. After having lived in an American sanitarium, even for a few months, you become so hardened to all other forms of suffering, that nothing else matters. From then on, until the past few months, I have read jokes unceasingly, and risen above them so far that I can still smile. This shows what heights of endurance a human being can attain, when he abandons his conscience and his moral courage. (end of excerpt)