Monday, June 20, 2016

Make 'em laugh

I'm in the middle of a book that came out back in 2003, Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, written by Gerald Nachman. It's a long book, nearly 700 pages, and it's useful as a guide to midcentury humor. While it's hardly exhaustive, it does include extensive interviews with many of the funny people of that era, who are now disappearing from the scene.

In the main, comedians are troubled people and a lot of them are better on stage than they are in real life. I'm too young to remember the heyday of, say, Mort Sahl, who is still alive and performing periodically, or Tom Lehrer, who left the business to return to academia. We do live in an era where you can see their performances easily. Here's Lehrer with a poisoned valentine to Wernher von Braun:

And here's Sid Caesar, in a classic bit from Your Show of Shows:

And Steve Allen, with some random silliness:

These days, we clap at comedians more than we laugh at them. I'm not sure it's progress.


Bike Bubba said...

Not a huge fan of modern comedy....all too often, they've forgotten that you can get laughs without expletives. Instead of a tickle, it's a bludgeon. Sometimes Seinfeld isn't too bad, though.

And shouldn't you have posted this one? Or would it--to quote Donald O'Connor--get you sent back to vau-dee-ville?

Mr. D said...

While that's great stuff, it's not in the book, which is, in the main, about comedians.

Bike Bubba said...

I'll go with "not in the book", but I've got to draw the line at suggesting Donald O'Connor wasn't a comedian. :^) Great dancer and good actor as well, but most of today's comedians could learn a lot from vaudeville.

R.A. Crankbait said...

I'm a big fan of Lehrer. One of the reasons he retired: "Political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize."

I know that as of about this time last year he was still alive as well because I did some checking.

Mr. D said...

Lehrer is still alive, as is Sahl. I just finished the chapter about Bob & Ray. I may have to find some video of that.