Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's Smart Comedy?

OK - so we all get it: I like comedy. Stand-up mostly, but most any laughter will do.

Recently, I've been feeling very ... high brow ... about my comedy. Topical humor - state of the world, state of the state, religion, life the universe and everything (42).

But tonight I had dinner (well, I think it was more a dinner date) with a friend who is fiercely intelligent. And, while I fancy myself a fan of politically- or socially- informed comedy, I was HORRIFICALLY offended by his lack of familiarity with Mel Brookes' History of the World. Looking back (and I easily did so via YouTube,) the humor is classic slapstich. Who's on first, yadda yadda. But I still have to laugh. An avowed Jew making light the insanity of the Spanish Inquisition. Humorizing the Last Supper. Throwing homosexual innuendos into the uber-Victorian sentiment of the French Revolution.

It made me realize that humor doesn't have to be overt to be smart. Sometimes tap-dancing nuns say just as much as Bill Hick's rant on Kennedy or Ellen DeGeneris take on God. I guess what all of this shows is that it takes different things to reach different people.

What this boils down to is the following: liking comedy doesn't make me a stupid frat boy. It can carry more weight than (in the words of Bill Hicks and many others) dick and fart jokes. But it also means that sometimes comedy can carry really important messages without sounding so preachy. Preachy can be funny. And slapstick can have a message. But neither of them carries the weight of the 1980's morality show.

I'd much rather watch George Carlin than an after-school special about the dangers of dating the wrong boys.

So, Jews In Space? Thank you, yes I will.