Kidding the Famous
Each generation of Americans has suffered from its share of cockeyed beliefs, absurdities, and humbuggeries, many of which have become fair game for critics tempted to ridicule them. Will was one of those who had joined the voluble club of critics and persistent conversationalists, which included people like Heywood Broun, Herbert Bayard Swope, politician Al Smith, Irvin S. Cobb, Alexander Woollcott, and theatre analyst George Jean Nathan. These gentlemen were an all-American talking team, and Will was one of them.
As he approached nis task, Will's penchant for being relatively noncombative, even when he delivered messages that were scornful, accounted for much of his rising popularity. He challenged clichés, truisms, and stereotypes (even though he went along with some), poking away merrily at supposedly sacrosanct institutions. He specialized in the polite but sly insult, which became his chief weapon in dealing with the high and mighty.
By the early 1920s, Will had already achieved considerable renown as a kidder and needler of the famous. Although he acknowledged that he was always anxious stepping up to the dais to perform his verbal chastising of