The humorous story
is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly
suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic
story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever
heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when
he gets through. (Later Twain says that it is "a pathetic thing to see.")
-Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) in How to Tell a Story
Twain was describing the verbal telling of the story, but what is the distinction between the humorous and the comic story if they are told in writing rather than in speech? Is there a distinction? Or can one write the humorous story gravely and chuckle in the written comic story?