A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 10, 2015
“A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny”

"A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny” is an entertainment adage.  “A good comedian can say things funny and other guys just say funny things” was credited in 1959 to American comedian Fred Allen (1894-1956).

The adage is most associated with American comedian Ed Wynn (1886-1966), who repreated it several times. Wynn said in 1960:

“A comic is a monologist who tells jokes, but he isn’t necessarily funny. He’s a man who doesn’t do funny things but who does things funny. He doesn’t open a funny door. he opens a door funny.”

Wynn said in 1961:

“A comedian is not a man who saya funny things, he’s a man who says things funny.”


Wikipedia: Comedian
A comedian (sometimes comedienne for a female) or comic, is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comic.

A popular saying, variously quoted but generally attributed to Ed Wynn, is, “A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny”, which draws a distinction between how much of the comedy can be attributed to verbal content and how much to acting and persona.

Wikipedia: Ed Wynn
Ed Wynn (born Isaiah Edwin Leopold on November 9, 1886 – June 19, 1966) was an American comedian and actor noted for his Perfect Fool comedy character, his pioneering radio show of the 1930s, and his later career as a dramatic actor.

Wynn began his career in vaudeville in 1903 and was a star of the Ziegfeld Follies starting in 1914.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
9 August 1959, The Sunday Press (Binghamton, NY), “Rock ‘n Roll ‘Musically Horrid” Says Ex-2-a-Dayer,” pg. 2-C, col. 1:
ASKED HIS views on humor, Mr. Lemke recalled words of the late Fred Allen.

“He said something like, ‘A good comedian can say things funny and other guys just say funny things,’” Mr. Lemka said.
(Robert Lemke, an ex-vaudevillian.—ed.)

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
1 November 1960, Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express, “Comic Ed Wynn, Winning Still, Discusses Craft” by Hedda Hooper, pg. 6, col. 1:
HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 31—“A comic is a monologist who tells jokes, but he isn’t necessarily funny,” says Ed Wynn. “He’s a man who doesn’t do funny things but who does things funny. He doesn’t open a funny door. he opens a door funny.”...Ed should know—he’s the king comedian of them all.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
8 December 1960, Schenectady (NY) Gazette, “Taste in Comedy Changed, Asserts Ed Wynn at 74” by Joe Finnegan (UPI), pg. 32:
“Red (SKelton—ed.) is saying things funny and the others are saying funny things. There’s a difference. Today, many comedians just stand up and do a monologue.”

Variety archives
15 March 1961, Variety:
Ed Wynn gave the press his own definition of a comic: “A comedian is not a man who saya funny things, he’s a man who says things funny. I think I captured the thought in one sentence,” the vet laugh-getter added.

24 March 1961, Seattle (WA) Times, “Tempus Puget” by Lenny Anderson, pg. A2, col. 4:
For the appreciation of all of us who lack the knack of telling a joke, Ward Collier passes along a definition of a comedian as quoted from Ed Wynn by Variety: “A comedian isn’t someone who says funny things. He’s someone who says things funny.”

24 October 1961, Greensboro (NC) Record, ‘Trade Winds” by Lou Schneider, pg. B8, col. 6:
This reply is for “Students at MIT”: The business manager of a large theatrical organization says, “A comedian says things funny, while a comic says funny things.”

29 October 1961, Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), pg. 14-D, col. 1:
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—What’s the difference between a comedian and a comic?

There is a difference, you know.

Ed Wynn, who classes himself as a comic when not working as a serious dramatic actor, gives this classic answer to the question.

“A comedian says funny things. A comic says things funny.”

Variety archives
15 May 1962, Variety:
“The comic’s a guy that says funny things, and a comedian is a guy that says things funny.” Personally, Berle declares “I’m not as much a lover of jokes, as I am of the situation. The pros, like Hope, Phil Silvers, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante and Jackie Gleason are few and far between.” Berle finds

Google Books
The Great Comedians
By Larry Wilde
Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press
1973, ©1968
Pg. 376:
I am very proud of this: A comedian is not a man who says FUNNY THINGS. A comedian is a man who says THINGS FUNNY. A comedian is not a man who opens a funny door. He opens a door funny.

Google Books
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
1995, ©1968
Pg. 155:
A comedian says things funny; a wit says funny things.

Googlw Books
Howard Stern, A to Z:
The Stern Fanatic’s Guide to the King of All Media

By Luigi Lucaire
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
1997
Pg. 19:
When Stern introduced Berle as a comic, Berle quickly corrected him, “I’m not a comic, I’m a comedian,” an old Friars Club cliche, clarifying, “A comic says things funny, a comedian says funny things.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Tuesday, November 10, 2015 • Permalink