The following was written by E.B. White. It was published in the September 27, 1952, issue of The New Yorker.
Adlai Stevenson has been reprimanded by General Eisenhower for indulging in humor and wit, and Mr. Stevenson has very properly been warned of the consequences by his own party leaders, who are worried. Their fears are well grounded. We have had long experience with humor in the literary world, and we add our warning to the other warnings. Nothing is so suspect as humor, nothing so surely brands a work of art or politics as second-rate. It has been our sad duty on several occasions in the past to issue admonitory statements concerning the familiar American paradox that governs humor: every American, to the last man, lays claim to a "sense" of humor and guards it as his most significant spiritual trait, yet rejects humor as a contaminating element wherever found. America is a nation of comics and comedians; nevertheless, humor has no stature and is accepted only after the death of the perpetrator. Almost the only first-string American statesman who managed to combine high office with humor was Lincoln, and he was murdered finally. Churchill is, in our opinion, a man of humor, but he lives in England, where it doesn't count.
The New Yorker subscribes to a press-clipping bureau, and over the years we have examined thousands of clippings from many sources, in praise of one thing or another that has appeared in the magazine. Almost invariably, the praise begins with a qualifying remark, pointing out that the magazine is non-serious in nature and indicating that it takes a superior intelligence (the writer's) to detect truth or merit in such unlikely surroundings. If it's any comfort to Stevenson, we can assure him that in this matter of humor we have been in the same boat with him for a long time, and that the sea has been rough.