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A Little Happier: The Surreal Aphorisms of Comedian Steven Wright Shed Light on Human Nature


I love paradoxes, koans, fables, teaching stories, and aphorisms.

Now, what is an “aphorism?” An aphorism is a short statement that contains a large truth about human nature. Because they’re sharp and brief, they’re grand generalizations, and by saying little, they manage to suggest more.

Unlike a proverb, which is a form of folk wisdom, an aphorism is attributed to a particular person.

I’m writing my own collection of aphorisms, and I also collect my favorites written by other people.

For instance, one of my favorite aphorists is Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, who wrote: “The bitterest reproach is bearable so long as you feel it comes from someone who would prefer to praise.”

Steven Wright is a comedian who’s famous for his deadpan style of commenting on the mundane reality of day-to-day life.

Many of his surreal one-liners are also aphorisms that shed a hilarious light on human nature.

  • Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
  • Half the people you know are below average.
  • Every morning I get up and make instant coffee and I drink it so I have the energy to make real coffee.
  • I’m going to get a tattoo over my whole body of me but taller.

Here’s another of his lines – it’s not really an aphorism, but it makes me laugh every time, so I can’t resist including it:

  • I went to a place to eat. It said “Breakfast at any time.” So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

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