In the last blog I quoted a line from Shakespeare. In this blog, I am quoting the name of a composition by Stephen Sondheim which he wrote in 1973 for the musical, A Little Night Music. Do you remember who first recorded ‘Send in the Clowns?’ Many famous musicians have sung it, including Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins and the most famous version on the ‘Simpson’s’ by Krusty the Clown. But the first person to record the song, after it appeared on Broadway, was Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, in 1973.
But I digress. I have finally decided that what has changed most significantly during my lifetime, and not in a better way, is entertainment. For the purposes of this blog, specifically ….comedy (thus the clowns). What constitutes good comedy today, compared to what was good comedy 50 years ago?
Well, one thing that I have noticed, is that somehow, comedians today think they have transformed themselves into mental giants overnight. In addition, they have taken it upon themselves to routinely inject their political beliefs into their routines. They do this with malice, with venom, and with a large dose of aggression that certainly was not present in the comedy of my youth.
Everyone knows what comedienne Kathy Griffin has done recently. She, in the hopes of having her head sculpted into a memorial atop the Hollywood hills, held up a severed, bloody head of Donald Trump, in pure ISIS fashion. Besides doing this deplorable act, do you know what the most idiotic part is of this whole ordeal? It was Kathy Griffin’s surprise about the backlash that occurred by her actions. She thought she would be beloved by the radical left. She thought she would become the poster girl for Hollywood and its left leaning politics. She thought she was being funny. But then the backlash occurred and it took aim where it hurts the Hollywood elite the most….in the pocket book! Yes, their god is money and once taken away, they lose faith. In this instance, sponsors began withdrawing their support and as a result, her New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper was canceled. Ouch! But the idiotic Kathy was not done. She apologized for doing the act, but she did not apologize to the POTUS or his family. She did not apologize to Baron Trump who was traumatized by seeing his father’s severed head on national television. Then she decided to strike back by saying that the Trump family are a bunch of bullies and have “broken her” and ruined her career. Ruined your career? You are a D level actress/comedian that has pandered sleazy comedy and sleazy events for years and now you think your career is over? I sure as hell hope so! What part of this action on your part was funny?
But wait, another intellectual giant has weighed in to defend Kathy Griffin. That intellectual giant would be none other than Ace Ventura; Jim Carrey himself! Here is what he said about comedy: “It’s the job of the comedian to cross the line at all times. That line is not real and if you step out into that spotlight and you’re doing the crazy things that (Trump) is doing, we’re the last line of defense. The comedians are the last voice of truth in this whole thing.” Nothing is politically motivated in that statement. (Yeah, right.) Exactly, Mensa Jim, is that line that has to be crossed at all times? Respect? (check). Viciousness? (check). Politically maligned? (check). Common Sense? (check). Entertaining? (check). Funny? (check). Are these the components of the imaginary line? If they are, Kathy Griffin, and your dumb-ass comments defending her are definitely over the line! What’s this B.S. about the ‘last line of defense?’ I am convinced that the last thing you cowardly wienies would do would be to take up arms and defend this country. You may defend your country club, but not your country.
Unfortunately, Kathy Griffin is not alone on her ‘cross the line’ diatribes and actions. Stephen Colbert is so far left politically that it is amazing he can stand up straight. But….Stephen Colbert has an audience and he uses his platform to spew his malicious venom all in the name of comedy. Here is a part of one of his monologues when he begins ranting about Trump: “Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” Granted, I do find humor with the Rogaine part of the monologue, but then he ‘crosses the line.’
Not to be outdone, we have Bill Maher. While on his HBO program Real Time with New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman on a Friday night, the 61 – year – old made the incest joke about first daughter Ivanka Trump’s relationship with her father President Donald Trump. He said: “What do you make of Ivanka and her efforts to sort of humanize her father? We see all this misogyny at Fox News, we see it in Donald Trump himself. A lot of us thought, Ivanka is gonna be our saving grace.” Maher then took it a step further and mimicked Ivanka performing a sex act on her father.
Here is my question. Why are these two disrespectful, constipated at the mouth morons still on television? Well, I answered the question earlier in this blog. Money is the god of Hollywood and these two bring in lots more to their respective networks than Kathy Griffin could ever dream about. She was expendable….they, because of their earning potential, are not. It would be the proper, respectful, action to take to can both of them, but don’t ever expect something proper and respectful to ever come out of Hollywood.
It is obvious that Ace Ventura never watched or followed the comedy of his predecessors. During my youth, the comics were extremely funny and they did not have to ‘cross any line!’ Grandma P’s favorite comic was Red Skelton. He was on TV for over 20 years, from 1951 to 1971. He ended every show with the words, “Good Night and God bless.” His shows were hilarious as he was also a talented mime. His most memorable character was Clem Kadiddlehopper.
I had two favorites. In the early 50’s and 60’s it was Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners. He was a bus driver in New York (Ralph Kramden) and his next door neighbor was Art Carney (Ed Norton), who played a sewer worker. Their wives were played by Jane Meadows (Alice) and Joyce Randolff (Trixie). His ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes provided for a solid basis in humor.
But, my all time favorite comedy show was the Carol Burnett Show. It ran continuously from 1967 to 1978. Her supporting cast included Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, and for a short time, Dick Van Dyke. The show was made up entirely of skits, and, done before a live audience. Some of the routines were hilarious. What made them particularly funny was that oftentimes, there was ad-libing taking place, especially by Tim Conway. The reactions of the other actors was as funny as the skit itself as they were completely caught off guard by his shenanigans. I recommend watching the films of this show. You will see what comedy was meant to be.
There were many other comedians that were extremely funny. Don Rickles, Ernie Kovac, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Phil Silvers, Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball, Morey Amsterdam; these were just some of the funny, humorous comedians of my youth and you know what? They did not cross any damn line to be funny! They may have all pushed the envelope on occasion, but they were never disrespectful, crude or vulgar. They never, ever used their fame for a public political stage. They knew what their position was in our society, they were there to provide entertainment for the family.
So the clowns of the present could definitely learn from the clowns of the past. No one, and I mean no one, is interested in your crude, malicious political commentary. It is classless humor coming from classless people.
Damn. I miss the old days of comedy.