On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What's happened to comedy?

I have several old comedy LPs, including vintage Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin, and Bill Cosby, and they still make me laugh. They never graphically refer to bodily functions or sex, they don’t advocate the use of drugs, and they never swear more than the occasional hell or damn. And they’re funny, really funny. So when did funny become replaced by filth?

Many of the new comedians base their routines around heavy-duty drug use or sex, and frankly, it makes me uncomfortable. I used to love Robin Williams, but on his recent HBO show, every other word was F-this and F-that. Not necessary. When did our language get reduced to a series of references to body parts and sex acts? When did graphic swearing become accepted as part of our everyday vernacular?

Now I'm no prude. I swear, but that part of my vocabulary is very limited. (If I ever use an upper-tier swear word, you can be sure I am really angry.) There are words I simply do not, can not bring myself to say—words that are beyond cursing, that are disrespectful, disgusting, or demeaning. Why do we think these words are funny? Is it the shock of hearing words our culture has taught us are taboo? Is it nervous laughter? Or are we simply brainwashed into thinking that crassness is cool, that flaunting convention is hip, that being disgusting is youthful? (Keep in mind that bathroom humor is the preferred mode of 12-year-old boys.)

My mother's curses  were creative and funny: "You should grow like an onion with your head in the ground" (even funnier in Yiddish) is my favorite. Those curses were actually meaningful curses, not just random words inserted for shock value. Very effective, and never tiresome, as is repeated swearing.. There are a number of comedians out there who understand that you don’t have to be dirty to be funny. Find them. Encourage them. Shun the filth and let’s get back to what is really funny. And as for the filth-mongers, they should each lose all their teeth but one, and that one should ache. Now that's a curse!

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Blogger Megan said...

Aunt Joyce! I just went back and read this ... THANK YOU!! We still need to have our lunch.

12:49 PM  

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