Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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.
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.