Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Strictly For Laughs"

Just as, like, a “Thought Experiment”, I wonder, “What would a post be like that involved no criticisms and no complaints?”  And then it hits me.

It would be like a post written by somebody else.

Nobody said it better than Popeye:

“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”

So here comes me, sounding inevitably like me. 

A lot of times, people ask me what comedies I watch on TV, to which my candid response is, 

I don’t watch anycomedies on TV.

Why not?

I don’t know. Probably meaning I doknow, but there is no one definitive answer.  Or else, there isone definitive answer, but I choose to bury it in a flurry of viable alternatives, only one of which – Ding!  Ding!  Ding! – is the explanatory bull’s eye.

“Today’s comedies don’t make me laugh” is a rationale that comes easily to mind.

So does, “They are geared to a younger demographic.”

Then there’s the legitimate, “I have seen it all before.” 

And the professionally assessing, “They don’t do them right.”

And, of course, “Vindictive Spite” (for cruelly casting me aside) is also a credible option.

(I know that last one carries an emotional wallop, so it feels like, “An inveterate ‘Grievance Collector’ – that’s the one!” And maybe it is.  Though I truly believe, if a show genuinely tickled my funny bone, I would abandon “Personal Animus” and laugh my sagging patootie off.  There is just currently no such rib-tickling animal.)

It must be acknowledged, though with bewildering confusion, that the definition of  “comedy” has recently greatly expanded, until it abuts shoulder-rubbingly with “tragedy.”  I cannot give you examples, because I do not watch those shows.  Ask Ken Levine.  He knows what I’m talking about.  (He also knows what he’s talking about.  Check out, if you are not already a follower.)

The networkcomedies do not do it for me.  Especially comedies “Filmed in front of a live studio audience” – the ones Iused to write – which feel to me like precocious children, donning their elders’ attire.  The rhythmic intention is there.  It just doesn’t seem to fit.

Note:  I do not understand how this works, but somehow, later generations are less adept at doing what previous generations did naturally. Could be, it was always that way. I imagine veteran Egyptian artisans carping, “You call those ‘hieroglyphics?’”  The ability seems to go hand-in-hand with the times.  As the times move on, they do other things well, but the gifts of the past appear thuddingly mimicked.  

End of note. 

In my (dauntingly extending) lifetime, something in comedy has radically changed.  And I believe it is substantially about this.”

At some point –  he professorially opines – “I date it back to The Graduate (1967)” – cinematic comedy (including television), more than sidesplittingly funny, had to be intrinsically “about something.”  (I know many earlier comedies were also “about something”, but those thematic “somethings” were not as dominantly “front-and-center.”)  

The Graduateconcerned the awkward transitioning into “adulthood.”  (Along with having an affair with your girlfriend’s mother.  They’re not stupid.  It’s like westerns.  It wasn’t the traditional “Barn Dance.”  It was the traditional “Barn Dance”, morphing into a bone-crushing donnybrook.  Providing something for everyone.)

After The Graduate, “Agenda Comedy” permanently displaced “comedy for the sheer sake of comedy.”  (Say thata few times fast, if you dare.)

Okay, here’s where I’m concerned that I am inevitably “writing old.”

“The ‘Good Old Days’ – when audiences laughed!

(This vituperative pronouncement followed by an uncontrollable coughing fit, a crimsoning complexion and “Do you think we should call the paramedics?”)

I can’t help it.  I just think something is missing.  

Along with – not replacing; I also love comedy that is “about stuff”, regularly indulging in such satirical shenanigans myself  – we need to, sometimes, 

Laugh without thinking.  

My favorite-movie-of-all-time The Court Jester comes to mind.

“The pellet with the poison’s in the Vessel with the Pestle,
The Flagon with the Dragon has the brew that is true.”

Nothing to get angry about. Nothing to learn.  (Other than the location of the punitive pellet with the poison.)

“Who’s on First?”

The “Niagara Falls” routine.   (AKA: The “Floogle Street” routine.  AKA:“The Susquehanna Hat Factory” routine.)

The “Paper Hanger (who can’t get the gluey wallpaper off his fingers) Sketch.”

Everything from Buster Keaton.

You just laughed.

And, perhaps more importantly, there was no segregating division, based on gender, religion, race, economic status, education level or “Country of Origin.”

Everyone laughed at the same thing.

Until they cried, doubled over and threw up.

Can you imagine that phenomenon?  You would haveto imagine it, because it no longer exists. In recent times, “Agenda Comedy” has booted “comedy for the sake of comedy” right off the stage.

And I think that’s a shame.

As with earlier turbulent eras in our history,

Waiting for “President Tape Worm” to pass through our systems,

We could use an untainted belly laugh.

But it is nowhere to be found.


Stubblejumpers Cafe said...

No kidding. The laugh track is there nowadays, but I ain't crackin' a smile. -Kate

Stephen Marks said...

"Hey, get the fuck off my lawn!" Earl misses the comedy he grew up on, the sitcoms that made him laugh without thinking, the type of show that he can watch and chuckle along with while doing a Sudoku puzzle. In a post from April 24th, 2016 Earl mentions his favorite sitcom of all time, "The Trouble With Tracy." When that show was cancelled after 130 episodes Earl's world fell apart so he packed his bags and moved to LA to begin his legacy. The show ran in Canada from 1970-1971, only one year, and yes they produced 130 episodes. All gems. Not a bad one in the bunch, each a classic that Earl would study like it was the Zapruder film. I remember Earl once saying that Diane Nyland was the Mary Tyler Moore of Canada. God damn right Earl. So this Thanksgiving when Earl is watching "The Trouble With Tracy" marathon while doing word search puzzles please, stay the fuck off his lawn!

frank said...

Only comedy I watch now is 'Seinfeld' so totally agree.