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FriJan 21

One-Liners Day – January 21, 2022

One-Liners Day is celebrated every year on January 21 in honor of the classic one-liners that have left us stunned, momentarily confused, or rolling on the floor laughing with tears in our eyes. Did you know the first piece of comedy was written over 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece? One-liners are jokes or witty remarks or answers delivered in a single line or sentence. Comedians and actors in their acts usually employ this comedic method. Some of the most famous one-liners include: “I have nothing to declare except my genius” (Oscar Wilde), “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” (“The Godfather”), and “My precious” (“Lord of the Rings”).

History of One-Liners Day

The history of one-liners is a history of comedy. Their appearance in literal form can be traced to ancient comedic plays before they were adopted in films.

The first known set of comedic plays was written starting from 425 B.C. in ancient Greece by the comic playwright and satirical author Aristophanes. In his 335 B.C. work, “Poetics,” Aristotle explained the origin of comedy — from phallic processions and the light treatment of the otherwise base and ugly — and divided comedy into three sub-genres:  farce, romantic comedy, and satire. 

Comedy took a different meaning in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was light-hearted and sometimes used to defy authority. An example of the former is Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the “Punch and Judy” show is an example of the latter. “Punch and Judy” went against the puritanism spirit of that period and went over so well with audiences that they were transformed into hand puppets, becoming popular in Britain. “Punch and Judy” was the equivalent of today’s political cartoons.

The early 19th century saw the rise of pantomime, which included slapstick comedy and sketch comedy without dialogue. This form of comedy was developed by Fred Karno, English music hall comedian and theatre impresario, in the 1890s. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel were two of the most popular comedians that worked for Karno’s company. This era also witnessed the first mainstream clown, Joseph Grimaldi.

American vaudeville appeared in the 1880s until the 1930s, when it waned in popularity, and with its rise came the beginning of popular entertainment as big business. The introduction of cinema, radio, and television in the 19 and 20 centuries increased the popularity of comedians and allowed them to reach more people. Some of the prominent comedians of this era were Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson, and Bozo the Clown.  

One-Liners Day timeline

425 B.C.
The First Comedic Plays

Aristophanes, a comic playwright and satirical author of the Ancient Greek Theater, begins writing comedic plays in ancient Greece.

1800s
The First Mainstream Clown

Joseph Grimaldi becomes the first mainstream clown.

1880s – 1930s
The Introduction of American Vaudeville

The American vaudeville emerges into the famous performance scene and features comedians such as Buster Keaton and W.C. Fields.

19th – 20th Centuries
The Rise of Comedians

The introduction of cinema and the invention of the radio and television increases the popularity of comedians and their global acclaim.

One-Liners Day FAQs

What is the most memorable movie line?

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” by Clark Gable in the movie “Gone With the Wind” is the most memorable movie line in history. 

What is the most quotable movie of all time?

The 1994 masterpiece “Pulp Fiction”, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is the most quotable movie of all time. Literally, every line in the movie can be quoted.

Who is the king of one-liners?

Henry “Henny” Youngman is revered as the king of one-liners. During the height of his comedic career, he was known to tell simple one-liner jokes with interludes of violin playing. 

One-Liners Day Activities

  1. Watch movies that have some of the best one-liners

    Cinema delivered some of the best one-liners we know, and most are still relevant today. You can find these one-liners in “The Godfather,” “Titanic,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Rocky.” Use this One-Liners Day to watch or rewatch them.

  2. Show off your best one-liners on social media

    How good are your one-liners? Mind you, we are not talking about pick-up lines. If you think you’re good at saying something witty and funny in one sentence, you can show off your skills on social media. A platform like Twitter is perfect for such things.

  3. Perform a stand-up comedy show

    One-liners are one of the essential elements of stand-up comedy. You can string your one-liners together or comic lines and deliver them at a stand-up comedy show. Organize your private show and invite friends, family, and neighbors, including those interested in performing.

5 Interesting Facts About Comedians That Might Shock You

  1. Wanda Sykes worked for the N.S.A.

    The stand-up comedian was a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency and was responsible for purchasing the agency’s logistics.

  2. Dave Chappelle features on an album cover

    Prince used a photo of Dave Chappelle dressed up as him in one of his shows as the cover for his single “Breakfast Can Wait.”

  3. Jim Gaffigan performed for Pope Francis

    On Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia in 2015, Jim Gaffigan was the only comedian booked to perform before the pope for the Festival of Families.

  4. Dangerous for television

    N.B.C. executives were so nervous about Richard Pryor that they insisted “Saturday Night Live” should be aired with a five-second delay when he hosted it.

  5. Chappelle once ran away from his show

    In the middle of the third season of “Chappelle’s Show”, Chappelle ran away to South Africa to “hide out from press coverage.”

Why We Love One-Liners Day

  1. One-liners are entertaining

    Some of the most memorable one-liners are from some of the most entertaining movies of all time. For example, “May the force be with you” (“Star Wars”), “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” (“The Godfather Part II”), and “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” (“Braveheart”).

  2. One-liners can be healthy

    When included in a comic act, one-liners can offer several health benefits. Studies have shown that comedy helps in dealing with stress and depression. It can lighten one’s mood, make you feel relaxed and cheerful, and decrease your pains.

  3. One-liners pass important information

    When one-liners are not used to entertain or tell a joke, they are employed to give witty life messages. For example, “You’re not completely useless, you can always serve as a bad example,” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but an onion a day keeps everyone away,” and “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but two Wrights did make an airplane.”

One-Liners Day dates

YearDateDay
2022January 21Friday
2023January 21Saturday
2024January 21Sunday
2025January 21Tuesday
2026January 21Wednesday

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