It was just three short years ago that our director-curator, T.H. Gray, decided the museum world was ready for, nay needed, an online museum dedicated to having a little (or a lot) of fun at its expense. Thus was launched the American Hysterical Society on this day, in the far-gone year of 2011.
You don’t need to get us anything. Not because we don’t want anything, but because you don’t know our size or favorite color. It would be awkward for all of us. Still, if you want to get us something, please consider sharing the AHS with anyone you think, depending on your relationship with them, would be amused or aggravated by our work.
If the past year has taught us anything it’s that we can do both simultaneously.
In the meantime and in honor of our anniversary, here is a piece from the collection which explains our work and places it into its proper historical context:
The Played-Out Humourist
By William Schwenck Gilbert (half of Gilbert & Sullivan)Quixotic is his enterprise, and hopeless his adventure is,
Who seeks for jocularities that haven’t yet been said.
The world has joked incessantly for over fifty centuries,
And every joke that’s possible has long ago been made.
I started as a humorist with lots of mental fizziness,
But humour is a drug which it’s the fashion to abuse;
For my stock-in-trade, my fixtures, and the goodwill of the business
No reasonable offer I am likely to refuse. And if anybody choose
He may circulate the news
That no reasonable offer I’m likely to refuse. Oh happy was that humorist – the first that made a pun at all –
Who when a joke occurred to him, however poor and mean,
Was absolutely certain that it never had been done at all –
How popular at dinners must that humorist have been! Oh the days when some stepfather for the query held a handle out,
The door-mat from the scraper, is it distant very far?
And when no one knew where Moses was when Aaron blew the candle out,
And no one had discovered that a door could be a-jar!
But your modern hearers are
In their tastes particular,
And they sneer if you inform them that a door can be a-jar! In search of quip and quiddity, I’ve sat all day, alone, apart –
And all that I could hit on as a problem was – to find
Analogy between a scrag of mutton and a Bony-part,
Which offers slight employment to the speculative mind:
For you cannot call it very good, however great your charity –
It’s not the sort of humour that is greeted with a shout –
And I’ve come to the conclusion that my mine of jocularity
In present Anno Domini, is worked completely out!
Though the notion you may scout,
I can prove beyond a doubt
That my mine of jocularity is utterly worked out.