I’m going to start this as a list and link it out to the people whose humor inspired me and soothed my teen-age years, when I wasn’t just playing music as loud as I could manage…
Bill Cosby. I loved his early records- Noah, the chicken heart that ate Philidelphia.. a funny, funny, man. I totally loved “I Spy” too.
Cheech and Chong. All of “Big Bambu” was great but “Dave’s Not Here” remains a relevant cultural touchstone. Its the beginning of any honest talk about smoking dope, as my people say. Yes, I’ve told it, as best I remember, to my son. It sums up a reality that goes with the post-detox Robin Williams’ masterpiece deconstruction of alcohol- “The point of alcohol is to make English your second g*&@#)(@+d language!” Say it, brother Williams!
Bob Newhart. From the Button Down Mind album to that wacky show with Daryl and his other brother Daryl, And to stay on theme, you can throw in his Sir Walter Raliegh phone call about drinking the hot bean juice with some of the burning leaves every morning…
The Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre. Ah, so much to choose from here- the Mr. Science routines on NPR, their “Gonad The Barbarian, a man on the edge of thought”, which 30+ years later STILL provides me with chuckles and some great wise-ass lines (“You speak squeek bear?” “I was raised by squeek bears, in the wilderness”). The Drag Aggies spiel. The “Household Appliances” song. The “Ronald McDonald” song… A friend of mine was in the same apartments as at least some of DBMT at one point and they were apparently kinda obnoxious neighbors- loud, coming and going at all hours, about what you’d expect. How many MS and PhD students were delighted to say, “I have a <whatever degree>, <pause> In Science!” when their diplomas were awarded? There must have been a good 10 years where that would be THE thing to say to your friends…
The Flying Karamazov Brothers… another bunch with boundless talent. Maybe Penn and Teller invented their deconstruction schtick independantly, but the FKBs need to explain how everything worked was pretty amazing, even in the 1970s. The words, the music and the juggling all worked together, with a real delight in language, physical acumen and finding a place for the 2, then 3, then 4 and sometimes 5 truely diverse individuals. And their musical accompanists, the Kamikaze Ground Crew, added another bunch of colorful people and interesting ideas.
George Carlin. Gawd. The philosopher prince. Not JUST for the 7 words, not JUST for any particular bit, but for the strength and clear eyes he brought to the whole business. Funny was only one part of it, and he had some serious staying power. He remains a national treasure.
Chris Rock. No, I don’t approve of a lot of what he says about women, some of his opinions are reprehensiblle, but some of his bits are deadly accurate.. He’s not really about making nice comfort zones on “racial”, cultural and economic issues. Rock gets laughs out of material that could be written for people far more conservative than his actual audience. If the Republicans weren’t an aging, mostly white-male outfit of hypocrites, they’d be a natural audience for some of Rock’s hard truths. Cosby, Chappel and plenty of others too. There are plenty of people who delight in pushing the buttons of the stereotypical liberal unconscious… just as there are people who delight in pushing the buttons on the stereotypical conservative unconscious. Both are endless opportunities for humor. The brittle hypocrisy of the Hanity/Coulter/Limbaugh noise machine can’t be better demonstrated than by their obvious lack of humor. Narrow, mean, vindictive, controlling people are seldom much good at comedy….
Roseanne Barr. Look, before its pathology came to echo that of my own family of origin, I thought the Cosby Show was great. Finally- the real world up on the little screen. Then I realized that part of my positive reaction was to the just-like-my-family father competing with son dynamic… ick! And then I saw Roseanne… dang, she and Mr. Goodman were the best romantic couple since Morticia and Gomez Adams. I think the Roseanne episode where the older daughter writes a poem about her mom and the school orchestra plays the worst recorded version of Pachobel’s Canon may be the greatest 30 minutes of human actors doing comedy on TV……. Again- dang, what an ACCUTE observer! And how lovely the ensemble cast’s work. The time the boy child turned out to have a box of Barbie doll heads under his bed- NEVER explained, just like in real life :^)
And I DID see the “Night Court” episode where they went to the Markie Post characters home and saw all the character’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana stuff…. Night Court was pretty funny too!
I don’t expect anyone will read this, much less reply, but It feels good to give recognition where it belongs!