While many comics and commentators have used this phrase, the website QuoteInvestigator, cites a 1957 Cosmopolitan interview with talk show host Steve Allen as the first recorded use of the phrase. Martin Dockery, a brilliant storyteller who works the fringe theatre circuit, uses this phrase creatively in his monologue, Bursting Into Flames. He explains that the greatest and oldest tragedy in the world is the extinction of the dinosaurs. From there, he delivers a string of dinosaur jokes that prove, perhaps, that the equation tragedy + time = humour may not be easily quantified.

Ecclesiastes 3:4
a time to weep, and a time to laugh

While this verse from Ecclesiastes does not use the exact wording, it certainly contains tragedy and comedy and can be even read that tragedy (weeping) comes before comedy (laughter). We often use the phrase “too soon” to describe a situation where there has not been a sufficient passage of time for humour. It can be thought of as simple respect, and the entertainment world has shown this to be the case. Both David Letterman show following the 9-11 tragedy and Jon Stewart’s show after the mass shooting at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris are examples of major media stars showing this respect by offering shows void of humour.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 13, 2017 at 11:37am

If you laugh at the dinosaurs while they're still in the process, one of them might step on you.

But some of the "best" humor is probably gallows humor: people joking because that's what you do when you're used to suffering and somebody is about to make things worse. People laugh, at the time, because crying would give the bastids too much satisfaction.

The tragedies of the past are the tragedies of the present and the tragedies of the likely future; people aren't crying because they haven't heard the punch lines yet.

Comment by David McKay on 5th mo. 13, 2017 at 5:17pm

If you can still laugh at it, it hasn't killed you yet.

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