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Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits and Wordsmiths
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Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits and Wordsmiths

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
For most of us, that perfect retort or witty reply often escapes us when we need it most, only to come to mind with perfect clarity when it's too late to be useful. The twentieth-century writer Heywood Broun described this all-too-common phenomenon when he wrote "Repartee is what we wish we'd said."

In Viva la Repartee, Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of Oxymoronica, has lovingly
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Harper
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Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
I always appreciate a witty comeback or clever retort and for that reason I picked up Viva la Repartee - Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits & Wordsmiths by Dr. Mardy Grothe.

While I did enjoy some of the content, I was overwhelmingly frustrated by the fact that there was very little material post 1995, and the majority of examples were from actors and writers from decades ago, and an abundance of entries from Winston Churchill.

Now while Churchill has some of the best
Loveliest Evaris
Very funny and perfect for the fans of the immortal and ingenious comebacks.

My only complaint for this book was this:

Each "comeback" or "retort" or whatever it was, was bolded .. It doesn't really sound like a problem but here's the thing:

Before each comeback there would be some background information and history laid down so the reader knows the context and who's saying what to whom, because that's VERY important for a book like this, wouldn't you say? The problem was, the background info was i
Simone Collins
Jun 27, 2009 Simone Collins rated it liked it
Winston Churchill is THE MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That said, this book is more appropriate for a bathroom or waiting room than for an easy chair... and by that I mean that one ought not to sit down and read it from cover to cover, but rather enjoy it in small bite-sized morsels.
But man... I wish I were witty enough to come up with these wonderful rejoinders and repartees! They're fantastic.
Sep 01, 2016 Brian rated it liked it
During the campaign of Adlai Stevenson who was the Democratic Candidate for President in 52 & 56 was speaking to a crowd and one of his supporters shouted "you have all the support of thinking Americans" to which Stevenson replied, "Madam, that is not enough, I'm going to need a majority."

This book offers varieties of repartee (political, sports, risque, chiastic) from Men and Women throughout History, from mostly famous people from many occupations. I've heard a lot of these types of commen
Aaron Wong
Jan 11, 2015 Aaron Wong rated it it was amazing
Grothe, M. (2005). Viva la repartee: Clever comebacks and witty retorts from history's great wits and wordsmiths. New York: Collins.

Chiastic repartee:
"God is on our side [but] it is more important to know that we are on God's side." - Abraham Lincoln
"Putting the heart before the course." - George S Kaufman, on learning his daughter eloped and dropped out of school
"Champagne to our real friends; real pain to our sham friends."
Al Bità
Feb 19, 2015 Al Bità rated it liked it
A rather delightful collection of many types of repartee — fifteen types in fifteen chapters. Each is given a brief historical or background paragraph or two, as context is all important in this endeavour. No brilliant writing here, but often there are brilliant ripostes! Loads of fun! Enjoy!
Jan 07, 2014 Jeni rated it really liked it
This is the 3rd of Mr. Grothe's books that I've read, and probably my favorite. As a big fan of the "witty comeback," I enjoyed these stories of some of the classic and most amusing retorts in history. The author does a good job of setting up each bout of wordplay, with a little backstory before the punch line. This helped if the people were obscure or just unfamiliar. Some of these made me laugh out loud, but many just impressed me with their verbal dexterity, innuendo and style. Remember these ...more
Kate White
Dec 08, 2015 Kate White rated it it was amazing
Perfect coffee table book. A wordsmith myself, I laughed out loud. Skim through the bolded quips or read the paragraph background stories to learn about cunning historical figures. Better than I expected and perfect gift for my writer friend.
Nov 09, 2015 vaishnavi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, owned-books
A wonderful collection of anecdotes and repartees. Worth the time spent on it. Wonderful example of play with words. My review falls far below what the book deserves. Hopefully someday I will find the words to do the book some justice.
Susan O'Bryant
Feb 24, 2011 Susan O'Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As a fan of wordplay, I was really looking forward to reading this collection of witty retorts. A few of the anecdotes certainly elicited a chuckle, but overall I found the book to be dry and redundant. How many times does one need to read the basics of the lives of Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Sir Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw? Once would do nicely, but the author apparently felt the need to repeat this over and over when referring to these witty wonders. I would most likely r ...more
May 04, 2008 Kathrynn rated it it was ok
This is a small book--about the height of a pen. I don't care for it and it's not what I thought when I ordered it. You have to read short paragraphs, then the "witty" comeback is presented. I don't find many of the comebacks all that witty.


Page 220:

Having wrestled with his weight his entire life, Winston Churchill got progressively rounder and pudgier as he grew older One day, he and his baby grandson were strolling down a London street when friend came upon them and said, "Winston! Ho
Roger Glover
Dec 25, 2011 Roger Glover rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, essay
A Christmas present from my kids, this is not something I would probably have picked up on my own. But sitting down to read it, it turned out to be a pleasant enough way to pass a few hours. The retorts, rejoinders, put downs, come backs, and all other manner of off-the-cuff and premeditated bon mots, and the stories behind them, were for the most part well chosen.

After a point, however, it becomes clear the the author is really impressed with his own scholarship, which puts a bit of a damper on
Aug 21, 2014 Doug rated it it was ok
Bathroom reading.
Jan 23, 2011 Suzie rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Compilation of witty quotes and the stories behind them. The majority of items I either knew of or was not particularly interested in. I did not enjoy Grothe's introductions to each topic and would suggest skipping straight to the quotes. More clever than funny. I would suggest this for people who enjoy New Yorker cartoons. I can't say it was a waste of time since I enjoyed the Silent Cal quotes and now definitely want to watch Mae West's films.
Oct 07, 2014 Andi rated it really liked it
As a fan of witty rejoinder and quick retorts, I found this collection quite humorous. Unlike some critics of the book, I enjoyed the set-up information given before the actual reply. While it was an easy read, and I could have easily breezed through it, I paced myself and eagerly looked forward to reading a new section each day. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite, but some were definitely better than others.
Aug 02, 2010 Jody rated it it was amazing
I adore this book. Perfect for browsing, or reading a chapter at a time. Chapters include laconic repartee, stage & screen repartee, sports repartee, chiastic repartee, oxymoronic repartee, inadvertent repartee, and a host of others. It has sparked a fascination for the Algonquin Round Table and its vicious circle, as well for Churchill who's all over the place in this book as both the executor and the victim of wit.
Mar 26, 2012 Scott rated it it was ok
After reading OXYMORONICA, and thoroughly enjoying it, I was expecting this one to be as immediate. After plowing through a lot of background information to get to one witty punchline or word, I find not many of the comebacks all that witty, let alone interesting. Since this is not a novel, I don't have to read this in one sitting. I'll pick it up from time to time as I read other books.
Feb 05, 2016 Erikka rated it liked it
While I always appreciate witty retorts, a lot of this book was build-up to the quips (which was sometimes needed, but often not) and re- describing the same people over and over (which would only be useful if you were using the book in snippets instead of reading it cover-to-cover ). I did like the repartee though, and laughed out loud at a fair number of them.
Steven Spector
Aug 18, 2013 Steven Spector rated it really liked it
Sentiments of the greatest and most notorious historical smartasses are artfully offered in a simple category format. Quotes are culled from many a century and many a profession. Winston Churchill's words impressed me enough to purchase another work containing only his witticisms. Is it just my belief, or did he successfully insert daggers into his vowels?
Jun 17, 2014 Sofia rated it liked it
Well, it was funny but it lost a couple stars for some inappropriate humour...
Apr 09, 2011 Molly is currently reading it
This book is a great coffee table book - fun to pick up and read a few pages at a time. But hard to read straight through like a novel. I find that the author delays the punch line too long in the final sentence of each anecdote, which makes it pack less punch.
Dec 13, 2011 Megh rated it it was amazing
I get Dr. Mardy's quotes of the week and was intrigued by this book of his. This is the first e-book I've bought/read through Google Books.
And it was awesome. Highly entertaining. Being a fan of word play, I got St. the set for his birthday.
Ed Dodson
Nov 29, 2011 Ed Dodson rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable book of different types of "Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts". Written by Dr. mardy Grothe, a North Carolinian. He has some other books out which I plan to read, and I will probably re-read this one.
Jan 20, 2011 Matthew rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book but mostly as an encyclopedia of wit. I didn't find the author's commentary or context particularly well written or insightful. Instead I found the author's tone a bit off-putting.
Ashley Byrd
Jul 11, 2013 Ashley Byrd rated it it was amazing
This wickedly humorous account of some of the most intelligent comebacks since the invention of the "yo-mamma" joke in ancient Latin. Wit is tough to learn from a book, but this one helps.
Dec 31, 2008 Elyana rated it it was amazing
Great, entertaining book and educational too! I hope I can remember enough of these witty remarks to use myself one day.
Emily Mellow
Mar 31, 2011 Emily Mellow rated it did not like it
Shelves: politics-history
Boring. I started out hopeful that I might learn some history and interesting tidbits, but I guess it's just not my cup of tea.
Aug 18, 2009 Aimee rated it it was ok
Shelves: language, humor
2.5 stars

It was interesting and often amusing, but I felt like Grothe included too much background and interstitial material.
Ramesh Prabhu
Oct 13, 2012 Ramesh Prabhu rated it really liked it
It all depends on the telling, sure. But surely who does the telling matters? (The Reading Room)
Feb 27, 2013 Chelsea rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book isn't what I thought it would. There are more boring explanations than actual humor.
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