Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Not Funny



I read an article about comedians who aren’t funny. I don’t want to prejudice the discussion so I won’t discuss even a bit of it. I do have some initial thoughts.

One’s first viewing or hearing of a comedian has an enormous effect going forward.  If the first thing you heard them riff on was an exquisite send-up of something you agreed should be made fun of, then it will take quite a bit of that comedian being over-the-line offensive for you to turn on him. OTOH, if your first experience was something which offended you - Wait.  That’s not fair.  That’s not even half true – then that’s going to be there whenever you hear her again.

Finding something Not Funny because it just doesn’t grab you or is culturally too far off from you is different.  Humor from another time and culture has a way of being opaque to us. Occasional moments of Marx Brothers movies make me laugh, but in general, I just shrug. Yet sometimes we acquire a taste for a writer or performer. Neutral is not the same.

In the original AVI family before Romanians, there were usual nights where one person was reading off alone and laughing out loud.  Some blessed evenings, all four of us were cackling alone, yet shouting out bits and explanations to the others.  Gordon Korman, Dave Barry, and Scott Adams figured prominently in this. There were movies attended where we all laughed, and that part did carry through to acquiring Romanians. Chris and I saw Borat together and could not contain ourselves.

LOL, ROTFL, LMAO, and even LMFAO are seldom true.  We use them as signifiers of amusement, but it seldom a literal description.  I laugh out loud more than nearly everyone you know, I am sure, but those are brief and contextual to a live conversation. Very few comedians make me laugh.

Here's an interesting possible conclusion of that:  Very few comedians are funny.  They are amusing, and when we drink, pay money, and sit in crowds to watch them we may laugh, but they are more properly described as amusing. We chuckle and send the clips on to express a point of view.

15 comments:

james said...

And the book is not so funny the second time. Almost always.

Steve Sailer said...

Nah, comedy professionals are incredibly funny, just like professional golfers are incredibly good at what they do.

Standups and TV writers lift my set-ups now and then, but the new punchlines they put to them tend to be a lot funnier than mine.

Alban Mullaj said...

Nick Offerman ,Wanda Sykes


did you read this?

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/why-theres-no-conservative-jon-stewart/385480/

Sam L. said...

Some times we just don't connect.

Texan99 said...

I think I'm more easily amused. I often laugh out loud at comedians, or at things I read; so does my husband, and we constantly read things to each other.

In humor from other periods, it's sometimes clear to me that I'm missing the reference, as in Shakespeare. They say humor is about arousing and then deflating anxiety, so sometimes the joke isn't funny because we don't feel the threat any longer. And yet Jane Austen cracks me up, so some things still come across.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Alban Mullaj, I don't want to kick a visitor who might be able to hear an uncomfortable truth, so I really hesitate to go at this hard. But the Atlantic article you link to is a perfect example of my point, as opposed to the point the author attempts to make. He can dimly see 10-20% of the reality, and tries to be fair, and understand...

...yet ends up completely asinine. Stewart, Colbert, Franken, and Maddow have done nothing new that Limbaugh didn't do on TV more than a decade earlier. It's just that liberals didn't think that was funny. They just know Rush wasn't funny, but Stewart is, because that's what they laughed at. So they KNOW. But objectively, using the 5th Dimension's "Up, Up,and Away" as the condom update theme song was one of the most inspired bits of comedy that ever hit radio. SNL was cooler, but did they produce many individual bits that were better? Comedians have scriptwriters, and they don't have to endure any pushback from their audience. Limbaugh, in turn, did basically what Trudeau did in the medium of cartooning, but it was considered outrageous because he transferred it to radio. Plus, he did it live, taking hostile calls, and for 15+ hours/week. Hate him if you want, but Stewart and Colbert don't remotely approach that. (Maddow is an apples-to-apples comparison.)

There is a difference in how liberals and conservatives approach humor, and I believe that is closely tied to issues of status quo, court jesters, and satire versus mockery. It's a fair issue to consider.

I ask you to look at how subtly but clearly the Atlantic article is self-congratulatory of how the liberal ones are really the smart ones, while giving crumbs that the conservatives have a point, sorta. It is not untrue, but it obscures more than it reveals.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Texan99 said...

I have to say I don't find Rush Limbaugh funny, and I do almost always find Jon Stewart funny. And yet I agree with most of what Limbaugh thinks and probably little of what Stewart does.

There are some funny conservative comedians. Nick Searcy makes me laugh. Dennis Miller often does. Ron White has funny conservative riffs.

Alban Mullaj said...

@AVI

I wasn't trying to make any point ,it was just a link I thought it mildly relevant to the blog. I was basically picking your brain

cheers

Sam L. said...

I remember, Oh so many years ago, Rush saying something like he was going to vote for Clinton, and then spent an hour or so denying (DENYING) that he said it--making the point that that's what Clinton did. Some took longer to get the humor in that. I found that pretty funny.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Alban - good to know. thanks.

T99: generally agree. Stewart gets the tone right, Limbaugh does not. But I found him very funny when he first came out, because of the same outrageousness factor one gets from Borat or Team America. Or earlier, from Pat Paulsen ot George Carlin - the boundary-crossing added to the humor.

I haven't listened to Rush for 15+ years, but in his first years I thought him hysterical, even when I disagreed with him (as on education). The whole "I can't believe he's saying that!" aspect was powerful. It got old, or something.

Sam L. said...

Rush is funny, but mainly in passing. He does entertain, keeping his audience, but "funny" is not the point of the show. Stewart was trying to be funny, so I hear. His schtick wasn't mine.

terri said...

What people find funny is completely subjective.

You mention Borat and Team America....a type of humor that I personally find stupid, vulgar, and generally unfunny.

The majority of Will Ferrel and Jim Carey movies fall into that same category for me; a type of humor I just don't find remotely amusing or funny. OTOH when I have seen Ferrel and Carey in more serious, dramatic roles or less "outrageous" roles...I actually quite like them. The same for Robin Williams.

Limbaugh has never been funny to me either, even when I was a staunch republican. He has never seemed like anything more than an utter jerk who is convinced of his own brilliance and hilarity, without any evidence of either in my opinion.

terri said...

Instead of just listing people/comedians I don't like....

I always loved Steven Wright. I'm not sure why but I have laughed long and hard at some of his deadpan jokes. Jim Gaffigan usually cracks me up.

Alban Mullaj said...

I stopped watching J.Stewart when he interviewed (tried to ) Tony Blair. I had always thought him unprepared to handle people intellectually and that interview sort of exposed him to that

floatingwild said...

Seinfeld. Not funny.