To visit Martin's writing website, press here.

June 6, 2012

What's So Funny?

In my constant search for my true self—ain’t we all?—, I asked myself what, or rather who, I think is funny. It’s like a test. I said: Yo, Dude, who do you think is funny? Well, actually, I was jerking around on Youtube, and I bumped into the Smothers Brothers. Oh yeah. I got a few yucks from each vid. Oops, that really dates me, those guys are old men now! But laughs are like gold, dig all you can. You were looking for health pills? You wanted more and better life?

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (the best), Tommy (the funny one), Dickie (the annoying one), Pat Paulsen (still votable), David Steinberg (better than he ever was), Booga Booga! Now that isn’t so funny now, but in context it was because it was such stupid nonsense, like you could say absolutely anything and get a laugh. Whereas the Smothers always had well-written, well-rehearsed, well-timed bits. They were/are the best. And John Hartford was on the show. And Steve Martin and Albert Brooks.

I’m talking about stand-up comedians that truly got me going: George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Rowan & Martin, Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, Rita Rudner, Monty Python.

You’ll notice lots of names missing from my funny-to-me list: Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, the nightclub types: Don Rickles, Alan King, Mel Brooks, Mort Sahl, Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, Cheech & Chong. It’s personal. And it’s a sin to follow the crowd.

You’re saying there are generations of comedians? Duh. Wanna go earlier: Jack Benny, George Burns/Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Martin & Lewis, Three Stooges, Lucille Ball. Good but few true laughs.

The one I liked most from the pre-60’s was Groucho Marx. And Danny Kaye.

Even before that: Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields. Clever, sometimes boring and no laughs.

The Saturday Night Live Gang and everyone after 1975, take a lesson. There are lots of funny people nowadays: Ricky Gervais, Stewart and Colbert, Steven Wright, Robin Williams, Bill Mayer, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David (kinda), but watch out for movies. Too many funny people got into unfunny movies and kind of lost themselves along the road to Hollywood: Steve Martin, Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock. Movies kill comics.

The obvious deduction from all this is that you like what you heard in high school when you first started laughing at grown-up stuff. Maybe so, but maybe comedy doesn’t get better in quality or quantity as the decades roll on. It’s not like computers. Maybe anyone who wants to minister to the humor needy, to doctor our funnybones, to give out the giggles, should look backwards at the masters from whenever, wherever. Some humor gets old, most doesn’t. I think Mark Twain said that.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: What’s with the boss, a month of golden silence, was he sick?
Jeff: Yes. Had nothing to say.
Mutt: Why is that a problem?
Jeff: T’ain’t. He’s got no contract.
Mutt: We don’t either. Maybe we should move to Wisconsin. Oh, never mind.
Jeff: Heard any good jokes lately?
Mutt: In Wisconsin?
Jeff: No.
Mutt: “Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world.”
Jeff: Who said that?
Mutt: I just did … okay, Dave Barry.
Jeff: “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.”
Mutt: Mark Twain?
Jeff: Dave Barry.
Mutt: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
Jeff: I love Dave Barry.
Mutt: That was Mark Twain. And so is, “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.”
Jeff: No way. I got one: "Time's fun when you're having flies."
Mutt: Mark Twain? Dave Barry? George Carlin?
Jeff: Kermit the Frog.
Mutt: Say goodnight, Jeff.
Jeff: Goodnight Jeff.


SanelTop said...

Hello Martin from Fort Bragg !
Thanks for a great walk down the comedic memory lane; I agree with -all- your choices and rejects. Claire and I got a '12 Prius plug-in hybrid with a three month subscription to satellite radio with a comedy channel. I listened to it today and was reminded how much good it does to laugh.
Sorry to hear Mutt & Jeff talk about your month off because you've been sick. I hope you're well again and laughing.
Doug & Claire

E. Martin Pedersen said...

Hi Doug & Claire,
Nice to hear from you. Hope I get a chance sometime to come up and go for a spin in the new rod. Until then keep laughing, it shakes up the molecules and then they re-align better than ever before.