This post could just as easily be called “Tastes are Personal, Dontcha Know?” It is about comedy and comedians. We all have our favorites, and I will list just a few of mine.
Dennis Miller: Even when I was very liberal, I enjoyed this man. His humor is biting, and extremely clever. Talking about service animals on airplanes, and how carried away (so to speak ) it has gotten, he mentioned a seatmate on an overseas flight, and her “therapeutic puff adder.” He said that Hillary’s campaign was “shakier than a blood bank at a Greyhound Depot.” Something like that, things that would never cross my mind, that catch me by surprise, and make me laugh out loud.
Demetri Martin: If Miller notices the big things passing by, Martin is about little things. I love this guy, so offbeat, so unique. He says, for instance, that during the day when a strip joint is not open, they should put up a sign that says “Sorry. We’re clothed.” He is an acquired taste, but I love this: Words that are only fit for certain uses. When I answer the phone, I say “This is Mark.” When in public, I say “I am Mark.” If I were to switch those expressions, in each case it would sound highly inappropriate. Martin attended law school on a full scholarship, but quit after his second year. When asked why, he told Stephen Colbert “My parents were dangerously close to being proud of me.”
Brian Regan: Just a nuts-and-bolts comic, but I like him because he is clean. After listening to shock comics talk about body parts and drug habits, it is refreshing to hear Brian talk about his childhood, and in a deep voice, talk like a child talks. He discussed comedy with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Having Coffee, and said he loves the profession because he always knows, on the spot, if he has done good work. Audiences tell him.
Anthony Jeselnik: Maybe an acquired taste, and not alwasy tasteful, Jeselnik is great for the inappropriate surprise. For instance, he told a story of having a girlfriend over for dinner, nothing sexual, just a nice evening. The next day she called him and said “I think I am falling in love with you.” He said to himself, “Yeah, I love you too.” But when the words came out, they were “I feel smothered.” The guy always catches me by surprise.
That’s it. I know everyone who has a favorite will chime in, so let’s have some fun with this. I do want to mention two who I no longer care for, and one who is an institution and who is fading.
Don Rickles: Why did I ever think this guy was funny? His throw-off lines, like “My wife was sitting there going …” or “Your barber called. He said…” are useless, but got big laughs back in the day for one reason, and one only: Johnny Carson laughed. Carson made this guy. I listen to him now in a humorless mode, as nothing coming out of his mouth makes me chuckle. (Oddly, the guy had some serious acting chops.)
George Carlin: Coming home from Yellowstone National Park on June 22, 2008, I noticed they were doing one Carlin set after another on Sirius Satellite Radio. Then I learned he had died, and nearly cried. I was very sad. I retrospect I don’t see much humor there as shared outrage. All of us like to belittle other people. At the Mathis conference in 2016, Miles mentioned Carlin as a possible Intelligence plant, as he broke barriers. Perhaps, it was suggested, the Milwaukee Seven arrest was staged. Perhaps Carlin was used to lower our standards. This is what triggered this post – I read his Wiki page looking for evidence to that effect. I found none. He just happened to be a guy who was promoted, probably without his knowledge, in an era when we were being taken down a road towards what we have, largely, now: Gross-out comedy, none of it funny.
On my way to the gym this morning, I listened to a woman talk about her vagina, and making her audience uncomfortable. That is considered a brand of comedy – to make the room uncomfortable. I could do it. After all, the one thing it does not require is talent.
Finally, Jerry Seinfeld: I like the guy, I like his humor and honesty. I watched every episode of Comedians in Cars, and came to realize that Jerry is a comic who is most comfortable around other comics. They understand one another. His audience is shrinking, and he knows it. But his work will stand, like the Marx Brothers or Python, and he will keep at it until he dies. He says it takes him five years to produce one hour of material. That’s because he keeps it clean, and clean comedy is hard work. Raisinette, anyone?
This post is intended just for the fun of it. I love comedy and good comedians. But I will close with a line from a woman who loves to shock us, and who really made me laugh with this one: “Last night I was licking jelly off my boyfriend’s penis, and I had to stop and think … oh my God, I’m becoming my mother.”
Yeah, Sarah Silverman, raunchy as they come, honorable mention.