"Comedy is a serious business” has been attributed to the actor David Garrick (1717-1779), but cited in print from only 1894. Garrick allegedly said that tragedy was much easier to play.
The comic actor W. C. Fields (1880-1946) said, “Comedy is a business. A serious business with only one purpose—to make people laugh.”
Wikipedia: David Garrick
David Garrick (19 February 1717 – 20 January 1779) was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson. He appeared in a number of amateur theatricals, and with his appearance in the title role of Shakespeare’s Richard III audiences and managers began to take notice. Impressed by his portrayals of Richard III and a number of other roles, Charles Fleetwood engaged Garrick for a season at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He remained with the Drury Lane company for the next five years and purchased a share of the theatre with James Lacy. This purchase inaugurated twenty-nine years of Garrick’s management of the Drury Lane, during which time, it rose to prominence as one of the leading theatres in Europe. At his death, three years after his retirement from Drury Lane and the stage, he was given a lavish public funeral at Westminster Abbey where he was laid in Poets’ Corner.
“Comedy is a serious business. A serious business with only one purpose—to make people laugh.”
W. C. Fields quotes (American Comic and Actor, 1880-1946)
Life and Art of Joseph Jefferson:
Together with some account of his ancestry and of the Jefferson family of actors
By William Winter
New York, NY: Macmillan
Never was a truer word spoken than that of Garrick, when he said that comedy is serious business.
13 May 1894, Springfield (MA) Republican, “Joseph Jefferson’s Talk Concerning the Dramatic Art,” pg. 2. col. 1:
Garrick was asked which he considered the more difficult, to which he replied, “I always consider myself equal to tragedy, whether I am well or ill, but comedy is a serious business.”
26 October 1895, New York (NY) Times, “Jefferson Their Guest,” pg. 13, col. 4:
“Mr. Garrick was once asked,” said Mr. Jefferson, “which he considered the more difficult, tragedy or comedy.
“‘Whether I am ill or well, in high spirits or low, I am always equal to tragedy,’ answered the actor, ‘but comedy—well, that is a serious business.’”
29 March 1896, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 8, col. 3:
COMEDY IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.
At Least so Thinks Mr. Wm. H. Crane—A Personal Experience.
“Any one who will make a casual study of the subject will find that comedy is a very serious business,” said Crane the other day. “The best effects in comedy are secured by what you might call straight methods, and the more seriously amusing scenes are played the better are the results obtained.”
8 April 1896, New York (NY) Times, pg. 9, col. 3:
MR. JEFFERSON’S LECTURE.
The students of Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, were entertained yesterday afternoon by Joseph Jefferson, who talked to them on “Dramatic Art.”
Speaking of the difference between tragedy and comedy, Mr. Jefferson related an anecdote of David Garrick.
“‘No matter,’ said Garrick, ‘how I feel, whether lighthearted or melancholy, I am always equal to tragedy, but with comedy it is different. Comedy is serious business.’”
11 August 1920, Clearfield (PA) Progress, pg. 2, col. 1:
THE WIFE OUGHT TO KNOW
It was Garrick who first gave voice to a present-day truism of the stage that “comedy is serious business.” Now comes Mrs. Charlie Chaplin, in her eagerness to tell the world her divorce troubles, to bear out the philosophy.
16 July 1936, Port Arthur (TX) News, pg. 12, col. 2:
Comedy Is Serious Business For Athletic Harold Lloyd
By Paul Harrison
(NEA Service Staff Correspondent)
He is fond of observing that making comedies is a very serious business.
26 July 1957, Traverse City (MI) Record-Eagle, “Broadway,” pg. 4, col. 3:
“Comedy is a serious business, it can’t be taught, but it can be learned, and every little thing that is observed by the tyro-comic will some day stand him in good stead.”
10 September 1961, Boston (MA) Globe, pg. C19:
Comedy Is Serious Business
“Many writers and producers who began in TV have gone on to work in the movies or theaters. I have no intention of defecting,” says Nat Hiken, the whole works behind the new Fall NBC series titled “Car 54, Where Are You?
Google News Archive
11 March 1963, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “Television” Berman Shows Comedy Is Serious Work” by Cynthia Lowry (AP TV-Radio Writer), pg. 2, col. 4:
NEW YORK (AP)—Comedy is a serious business. The hours are tough and long, pressures build, tempers grow short and sometimes things go wrong.
7 August 1966, The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), Sunday Gleaner Magazine, pg. 10, col. 3:
SAYS “GET SMART” EDITOR:
Comedy is a serious business
by Donald Freeman
Famous American Playhouses, 1900-1971
By William C. Young
Chicago, IL: American Library Association
One of these contains the portrait of Mrs. Siddons, the other David Garrick in the smiling pose indicative of his famous words, “Tragedy is easy enough; but comedy is serious business.”
Famous Actors and Actresses on the American Stage
By William C. Young
New York, NY: R.R. Bowker Co.
Pg. 367 (W. C. Fields):
“...Comedy is a business,” he said. “A serious business with only one purpose—to make people laugh. It isn’t easy, but pity the poor book and magazine writers, for it’s much easier to get a laugh from physical action than from the printed word. Laughs from phyiscal action come from the belly.”
A Damned Serious Business
By Rex Harrison
New York. NY: Bantam Books
Any fool can play Tragedy, but Comedy, Sir, is a damned serious business
Acting with Style
By John Harrop and Sabin R. Epstein
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
David Garrick is credited with saying, “Any fool can play Hamlet, but comedy is a very serious business.”
New York (NY) Times
THEATER; The Stars What I Lured
By KENNETH BRANAGH
Published: March 30, 2003
COMEDY, as an old theatrical adage has it, is a very serious business.
New York City • Music/Dance/Theatre/Film • (1) Comments • Tuesday, January 24, 2012 • Permalink
Anybody who knows anything about comedy knows it is a demanding art and a very hard one and has to be taken seriously. If it was easy, we would have comedy instead of constant tragedy and anger and negativity on Tamil serials bombarding us!