"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The New Avant-garde: Clean Comedy

I guess if you live long enough you pretty much see everything, but I never thought I’d see an article I read on the front page of Friday’s Weekend Journal. (I can’t link to it, because it requires a subscription--I get the dead tree version--but I can steal a few quotes.) The article’s title drew me in: “Comedy Comes Clean: In a backlash against racy and gross-out material, some comics are turning to still-biting but less salacious jokes.”

Who would have ever imagined that post-Lenny Bruce, the cutting edge of comedy would be comics who refuse to utter vulgarities or refer to bodily functions?

Since I’m not a connoisseur of comedy I had no idea such a thing even existed. Sure I’ve heard about a few comics who refuse to throw the F-bomb to get a laugh, but I would have thought they are few and far between. One of the reasons I think that I’m not a big fan of comedy is that vulgar amorality just doesn’t appeal to me. I would be the first to agree that a good curse word at the appropriate time is not a bad thing at all, but appropriate is the key. Seeing somebody stand on a stage and have vulgarity flow like a river out of his or her mouth isn’t my idea of a good time. Sounds like there is hope for folks like me.

Jeffrey Zaslow, the author states:

It’s no joke. Those in the funny business are saying that, despite all the explicit sitcoms and mean-spirited Internet humor, there’s a quite countermovement toward clean comedy. Some comedians are deciding they’re tired of using profanity as a crutch. Others find clean comedy can be more lucrative.

It’s a backlash, 40 years in the making, in which some comics say it’s time to redraw the line between edgy and unacceptable. “Blue comedy is so commonplace, it’s no longer counterculture.” Says Brian Regan . . . .As he sees it, today’s twenty somethings grew up clicking through cable and pay-TV channels, absorbing a steady diet of nonchalantly raunchy comics and sexually explicit sitcoms. To them, inoffensive humor can seem refreshing.


Zaslow quotes an amazing poll:
According to a [Zogby] poll released yesterday, just 6% of 9,065 respondents say they want edgier, more-sexual entertainment programming; 51% said they want more shows with positive messages, and even references to God and the Bible.

Well, maybe it’s not so amazing. Americans have been exposed to an ever-increasing amount of “edgier” content in every kind of entertainment medium. It makes sense that, in the inexorable laws of economics, that the supply of something determines its cost. The ubiquitous sex, vulgarity and just plain old tastelessness has cheapened the value of such stuff so much that most people over the age of 14 simply don’t find it all that valuable any more. This bodes well for the vast majority of Americans who simply want entertainment that actually entertains.

2 comments:

Francis W. Porretto said...

"Edginess," which has remained curiously under-defined since its inception, has ever been a substitute for genuine wit. Wit requires a keen eye for the natural absurdities of life, and a modicum of sympathy for those who suffer them. Most of our "edgy" comedians lack both.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Have you heard the new one about the salesman and the farmer's daughter? He said he was in real estate: would her Dad need any help in selling the farm?

"Oh, no," she answered. "My Dad bought the farm before he could sell it."

Clean enough for ya? You can take credit for inspiring me.

(Here is another version, if you have more telling time.

Salesman: Can I help your Dad sell the farm?

Farmer's Daughter: Too late for that.

S: You mean he sold the farm already?

FD: No, I mean he bought the farm already.)