The musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum opens with the song Comedy Tonight.

The lyrics describe how the show is a comedy, and not a tragedy. The show will not contain various elements common in Greek or Roman tragedies.

Nothing for Kings, nothing for crowns
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns
Old situations, New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,Comedy tonight!
Nothing with gods, nothing with fate;
Weighty affairs will just have to wait!
Nothing that's grim. Nothing that's Greek.
She plays Medea later this week.
No Royal curse, no Trojan Horse,
And there's a happy ending of course

What does "polite" mean in this context?

The most common definitions don't really match the other things that explicitly aren't in the play. I don't think it means that everyone is rude.

My best guess is that it means "political" but that isn't a proper meaning of the word. Polite comes from the same root as polished, while politics comes from polis, meaning city. No connection between the two.


  • 2
    It means polite in the sense of formal, orderly, elegant. But no, we'll have farts, pratt falls, and pikkin the nose. Slapping bottoms, staring at chests, goofing around. The show is largely slapstick comedy. Not polite. Jun 15, 2022 at 20:45
  • Interpretation of song lyrics is generally not on-topic here. But, in short, this play features "lovers, liars and clowns" as opposed to kings and crowns - thus, it shouldn't be polite; it shouldn't be "of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture"; shouldn't be "marked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and belles lettres", shouldn't be "marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy"; shouldn't be "marked by a lack of roughness or crudities", etc.
    – Juhasz
    Jun 15, 2022 at 20:47
  • 5
    Mainly, it rhymes with "tonight".
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 15, 2022 at 20:56
  • 1
    ...thanks for the memories. Jun 15, 2022 at 21:25
  • Of course it's not polite. It was written almost 2000 years ago by Roman standup philosophers. Jun 15, 2022 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


Lexico (partnered with Google) gave two definitions that will help, especially the second one:

having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people. "They thought she was wrong but were too polite to say so."

relating to people who regard themselves as more cultured and refined than others. "The picture outraged polite society."

We don't need an extreme opposite (e.g. rude) because the lyrics say that the play will not contain anything polite, i.e. refined. There will be no ladies dressed to the nines, sitting on the edge of their chairs, drinking tea.

  • Correct. May also think of the phrase “This joke is not for polite company.” It does not mean the joke is rude in the sense of being mean, just crass.
    – Damila
    Jun 16, 2022 at 3:34
  • @Damila - Sure. Crass could be a form of non-polite. Goofy could too, though. Jun 16, 2022 at 3:37

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