Why Can’t We Laugh Anymore?
Why Can’t We Laugh Anymore?
Does it seem to you that we can’t laugh at anything these days? And that political jokes no longer poke gentle fun at their subjects, but exude outright hostility?
Where has all the good comedy gone?
Chris Jones, theater critic for the Chicago Tribune, wrote an article in which he lamented that “it’s never been harder to tell a joke.” And he started his essay with this:
“These are the worst of times for comedy. Especially in Hollywood.”
Jones then cited an article in the Hollywood Reporter which claimed that film comedies have gone belly-up because of Netflix, and because Hollywood would rather make money off movies with “global appeal.”
Yeah, maybe. But Jones continued with what I think is the biggest killer of comedy: political correctness and everyone being too damned offended.
“And, of course, it is far easier to offend when attempting comedy. One person’s joke is offensive to another. These days, gags are often told in semi-private settings, the teller making sure that the audience is friendly in advance. Jokes have to make fun of something and humorists constantly worry about coming off as elitist, disloyal, out of bounds, privileged, tone-deaf or otherwise disqualified from the telling of the joke. Jokes have become a risk few want to take.”
Now my favorite comedy is 1974’s Blazing Saddles, starring the late Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little. It played fast and loose with racial stereotypes that would make the heads of your average college justice warriors explode. The film, however, makes fun of racism in a deft manner. Blazing Saddles skewers everyone and spares no one.
But Mel Brooks could never make his classic comedy today.
Yet it’s not just political correctness that is killing comedies. It’s the outright meanness that pervades comedy shows too.
Joanna Weiss at Politico wrote:
“Once, satire ruled. Today it’s all outrage and punching up — and it’s not always clear where the joke is.”
As an example, she noted Samantha Bee, who, on her TBS program “Full Frontal” called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c***.” As Weiss wrote:
“The line drew a laugh, but there was nothing to puzzle out. No irony, no distance. She just meant it.”
And then there’s Alec Baldwin playing Trump on “Saturday Night Live.” Baldwin’s impression is neither gentle nor light-hearted. He can’t help it — his hatred and vitriol for Trump consumes his entire impression. Baldwin is no Rich Little.
But even liberal website The Daily Beast has tired of Baldwin’s shtick. Not that they’re becoming conservative over there — writer Marlowe Stern has no love for the President. But if we want to laugh at SNL again, he writes, stop with the one-trick pony politics:
“SNL was at its best this season when it steered clear of politics—an area of fatigue if there ever was one—and focused on incisive cultural commentary and mining the weekly host’s talents.”
Moreover, SNL’s founder, Lorne Michaels, doesn’t think anyone could start a show like SNL anymore. There’s too much “narrow-casting,” or targeting of a niche market. Instead, Michaels says that the political sketches should “have influence in the red states…rather than just preaching to the choir.”
Is Alec Baldwin finally getting the hint? Earlier this month he told USA Today that he was “so done” playing President Trump.
Ah, but not so fast.
If pissing off Trump is the point, then I’ll keep doing it! I’ll keep doing it!!https://t.co/nghKFn9ogX
— HABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) June 10, 2019
It doesn’t look like Baldwin will be walking away from his Trump impression anytime soon, does it? That’s because he hates Trump more than he loves good comedy.
I miss the days of movies like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Airplane. I fondly remember the nights in college when my roommate and I would make sure we caught Johnny Carson’s opening monologue. Someone in Hollywood — please bring back that kind of humor. We all need to laugh again.