My main object is to create comedy entertainment with perhaps a touch of drama. [...] To define the difference between humour and tragedy is difficult. If there is a difference, it is that humour is an attitude, while tragedy is an essence. But one is indispensable without the other---- they are both allies of pity.
From a draft typescript in the Chaplin archives (ref. ECCI00010265, CH096): Interviewers have often asked me why I am prone to make controversial films. My answer is I do not. My main object is to create comedy entertainment with perhaps a touch of drama. If a controversial theme offers this opportunity, then I see little reason for not using it. After all, is not life itself controversial? What modern problem or situation can one write about honestly and truthfully without being controversial? When getting ideas for a story, I look for situations that will arouse my enthusiasm and my imagination. For most creative work is done in the heat of excitement and enthusiasm. […] At this stage of the game, I am no longer inspired by the proverbial “boy meets girl” plot, nor by the heroics of high minded supermen, and their virtuous goodwill towards good-looking women. Such praiseworthy themes leave me flat. I like to go contrary-wise to accepted formulas, to think that I am doing something new, vital, daring and original—-“though I may be deceiving myself”. Humour has tried to promulgate the fact that my film is anti-American. This is erroneous for in many instances “A King in New York” extols America and recognizes it is a great nation, and that the majority of its people have virtues of the highest quality. But today there are dangerous signs of fear dominating the country and of certain policy making that are foreign to the true principals of American democracy. This aspect is brief and lightly touched upon, but the rest of the film is all comedy of the broadest kind. As an entrepreneur of comedy, my object is to create entertainment, invigorated by vital problems and situations current in American life. Humour must have access to all subject matter, ethical, political, or otherwise, must be free to go in any direction.
For humour is many-sided. It has the faculty to see through what appears normal, the abnormal; to see through what appears sane, the insane; it picks out the unsuspecting discrepancies in what appears perfect; to see wrong in the accepted right; the ridiculous in the sublime; the tragedy in comedy—and vice-versa; to see weakness in power, and strength in weakness; to see wisdom in humility. For humour is an approach to truth, illuminating and educating us with surprises. It is not positive or one-sided. The highest example of it is in the words of Jesus, when He said:
“Let him among you who is without sin, first cast the stone”.
What can be more humorous, less positive than this satirical remark.
To define the difference between humour and tragedy is difficult. If there is a difference, it is that humour is an attitude, while tragedy is an essence. But one is indispensable without the other—- they are both allies of pity.