Why a lot of comics won’t work colleges …

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update - Season 1
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: WEEKEND UPDATE — Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Tina Fey, Colin Jost and Michael Che at the Weekend Update desk on August 17, 2017 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This latest twitter storm over Tina Fey is why. Or an example of why. And one reason why humor these days – in general – feels constrained, cautious, afraid.

It’s not conducive to art of any kind to live in fear of offending someone … having a joke taken the wrong way … upsetting the irony-challenged … pissing someone off because they don’t understand your historical or cultural reference … or just plain fucking up. By fucking up I mean actually crossing the line, saying something that might be or actually is offensive, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Saying something that even you – upon reflection and when no longer in the heat of comic battle – might well be offended by.

Comedy is hard. Making it up on the spot … or under network deadline … is harder. And mistakes happen when you try.

If fear consumes you, you won’t be able to write or tell jokes. You won’t be a comedian. Or not the kind of comedian I admire, anyway. Here’s a brief and very incomplete list of older humorists I admire: Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Nichols & May, Dick Gregory, Lily Tomlin, The Smothers Brothers, Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Paula Poundstone, Chris Rock, Bill Hicks and back through movie time to The Marx Brothers, Mae West, W.C. Fields on back through literature to Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift. Oh, and that Shakespeare guy.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just know what I do. If I hear a joke I don’t like or understand, I don’t laugh. Comics, especially, stand-ups, are like card counters. They can tell you exactly how many laughs they got that night and which jokes fell flat. Don’t laugh and they’ll hear you

I’m good with that. Only that. I don’t need to tweet about every joke gone awry. Or call on the global small town to assemble with torches and pitchforks. Or eat cake. Unless Tina’s buying.

There Was Nobody like Gene Wilder (1933 – 2016)

silver-streak

The word unique gets misused a lot. You can’t be a little bit unique or more unique than someone else. Unique means one of a kind.

There was nobody like Gene Wilder before Gene Wilder. And, while I’m sure many tried, no one has ever been able to copy him. Do Gene Wilder. Have a Gene Wilder-like career.

He was in a number of good to great movies, including ones you forget he was until you see them again. Such as the 1974 film version of Rhinoceros that co-starred Zero Mostel. And, of course, Bonnie and Clyde.

But I think I’ll remember Gene Wilder tonight by watching Silver Streak (1976), not his best movie certainly but loads of fun and I haven’t seen it in a very long time. In it, He makes a credible romantic lead opposite Jill Clayburgh. While also holding his own comedically with Richard Pryor.

How many actors could do that? And both in the same film? Only one that I know of. Who is gone now.

Unique can’t be replaced. It can only be missed. I will miss Gene Wilder.

The word unique gets misused a lot. You can’t be a little bit unique or more unique than someone else. Unique means one of a kind.

There was nobody like Gene Wilder before Gene Wilder. And, while I’m sure many tried, no one has ever been able to copy him. Do Gene Wilder. Have a Gene Wilder-like career.

He was in a number of good to great movies, including ones you forget he was until you see them again. Such as the 1974 film version of Rhinoceros that co-starred Zero Mostel. And, of course, Bonnie and Clyde.

But I think I’ll remember Gene Wilder tonight by watching Silver Streak (1976), not his best movie certainly but loads of fun and I haven’t seen it in a very long time. In it, He makes a credible romantic lead opposite Jill Clayburgh. While also holding his own comedically with Richard Pryor.

How many actors could do that? And both in the same film? Only one that I know of. Who is gone now.

Unique can’t be replaced. It can only be missed. I will miss Gene Wilder.

I Know Which Brothers I Like Best

The ones who always made me laugh. (Instead of cry over the state of our nation.) In the late Sixties, the short-lived The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour revolutionized the TV variety show by making serious political issues of the day (such as civil rights and Vietnam and drugs) the brunt of sharp-witted sketches and by filling the musical slots with counterculture rock and pop acts.

Future Seventies comedy greats like Steve Martin and Albert Brooks were staff writers on the show and one can imagine Jon Stewart (who would have been seven or eight at the time) watching the Smothers Brothers with his parents and taking notes.

If you need help deciding which pair of siblings you prefer, I recommend these two books.