The American distinction between the schlemiel and the schlimazl, summarized in the rule of thumb that says the former spills the soup, the latter is the one into whose lap it falls, provides a helpful basis for definition. The schlemiel is the active disseminator of bad luck, and the schlimazl its passive victim. Or, more sharply defined, the schlimazl happens upon mischance, he has a penchant for lucklessness, but the unhappy circumstances remain outside him, and always suggest the slapstick quality of surprise. The schlemiel's misfortune is his character. It is not accidental, but essential. Whereas comedy involving the schlimazl tends to be situational, the schlemiel's comedy is essential, deriving from his very nature in its confrontation with reality.