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S. J. Perelman (Sidney Joseph Perelman) Biography

(1904–79), (Sidney Joseph Perelman), Judge, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, feuilletoniste, New Yorker, New York Times Magazine

American humorist, playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, born in Brooklyn, educated at Brown University. He established himself as a writer and cartoonist with Judge, a New York magazine of humour and satire. His humour is characterized by his ear for puns and the absurd meanings generated by words used in false contexts, a gift that he exploited to startling effect in his screenplays for the Marx Brothers, particularly Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932). Perelman described himself as a feuilletoniste and from 1934 was a regular contributor to the New Yorker. In an interview for the New York Times Magazine (26 January 1969) he said of humour that ‘its chief merit is the use of the unexpected, the glancing allusion, the deflation of pomposity, and the constant repetition of one's helplessness in a majority of situations’. Throughout a long career Perelman produced a series of consistently inventive essays and sketches in twenty-five volumes of prose. The Best of Perelman (1947) and The Most of Perelman (1958) are selections of his writings. In 1929 he married Laura West, the sister of Nathanael West.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cynthia Ozick Biography to Ellis Peters Biography