Townhall: “Comedy has been intertwined with my existence since my earliest memory. Every Sunday night we watched giants like Alan King or Myron Cohen on Ed Sullivan. Watching the Three Stooges over and over again or the Marx Brothers is how I grew up. As I got older I grabbed on to the brilliant Steve Allen and then was introduced to comic geniuses by the master himself, Johnny Carson. But today it seems like this country has lost its sense of humor, and it is killing me and the rest of us.
When I was in my early 20s we went to the comedy clubs of Los Angeles during the era when Jay Leno was the emerging king. We had Richard Lewis, Gary Shandling and Jerry Seinfeld as budding superstars. We used to party with Budd Friedman, the owner of The Improv, on the weekends after it closed for the night. My personal favorite was the often dark but always masterful George Carlin. The question is would any of these people make it today?
There is an assault on comedy from all sides. I recently watched Can We Take a Joke? which in 75 minutes will make you think ‘no, we can’t.’ The film reiterated what I already knew – the bastions of free thought (colleges) are killing comedy because of political correctness. I had already written how Jerry Seinfeld — who does a very clean, but hilarious stand-up show — will not appear at colleges. This movie showed how comedians like Jim Norton, Lisa Lampanelli and Gilbert Gottfried are fighting back against the killjoys. You know, the people who don’t want anybody to be offended even though comedy is usually about offending people.
I personally come from the Mel Brooks School of Comedy – throw everything you can up on the wall and hope something sticks. The sad thing is I make a lot of Jewish jokes, but I must say after I make the joke that “I can say that because I am Jewish.” We are all afraid someone will be offended.
One of the greats that is still around is Don Rickles. He is the king of insult comics. He insulted everyone so no one thought Rickles was ever actually offensive. He would probably never make it today. Great comics say edgy things. I remember seeing Joan Rivers live. There were times I covered my face and leaned over to my wife and whispered “Did she really just say that?” She was both funny and irreverent.”
“Because of political correctness, the only people you can make fun of anymore are white males who happen to be straight and Republican. Political humor has been around for ages. Bob Hope was a master of making fun of politicians, but never getting political. Johnny Carson did a great stand-up routine every night for 30 years on the Tonight show and we never knew what his personal politics were and Jay Leno followed in that tradition.
Comedy Central started to change things with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They occasionally attacked left-of-center stupidity, but their mainstay was attacking those stupid and bigoted Republicans. It used to be Republicans were just evil. Now they are stupid, racist and anti-woman. This has continued on with all the offshoots like John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah. Seth Myers is a very funny guy, but his decisions to cut off half of his potential audience is baffling. This happened with David Letterman who lurched more and more to the Left as his show on CBS continued and he became less and less funny. Making fun of people with whom you have political differences may seem funny to some, but it wears thin after a while telling the same old joke.
We now have television comedy all centered on attacking white male Republicans, and we have everyone else intolerant of anything that might offend anyone. We need to be able to laugh at whatever we are, whether that be Jew, black, Asian, gay, Hispanic, female, male or large-headed. I recently watched some episodes of You Bet Your Life from almost 60 years ago. Groucho skewered everybody of any background who was a guest on the show. It was flat-out priceless.”
After becoming involved in politics on the internet in the mid 90’s I quickly learned liberals do not cross the line, meeting them half way or bipartisanship was simply BS. There was never any point to debating them, when proven wrong they returned to their initial argument and everything started over, it was playbook. One of the Three Stooges lines always stood out in my mind relevant to this, “You can’t argue with an idiot.”
Humor is essential to a normal life. Making jokes about myself was always the easiest way, other people related, laughed at themselves through me. Knowing when to refer back to a previous joke, relate to someone in front of me, all things learned from watching the best. The biased political attacks offer none of that, they are not funny but offensive.
Today the big question is who can take a joke?