7 of the Most Confusing Twists in Comedy History

obrien-lopezThere’s no shortage of confusing behavior going on in the entertainment industry. At this stage, the job description for becoming a celebrity might as well include something about carrying on in ways that nobody can understand. Comedians are generally the only ones we can turn to in order to make light of such conduct, but sometimes even they do things with such a baffling twist that you can’t help but shake your head in disbelief — and not because they made a joke that was a little too insensitive for your tastes. For example…

7. Angus T. Jones trashes his own show, tells fans not to watch it, returns for the finale.

The original “half man” of Two and a Half Men may not have been the first cast member to denounce the show, but he was at least the first one to do so who didn’t already have a long track record of doing shitty things. After 10 seasons, Jones converted to Christianity and publicly voiced his displeasure with being a “paid hypocrite” for taking part in a series that he now viewed as “filth.” He even went so far as to tell people not to watch it anymore. And just to prove how hypocritical he could be, he returned to the filthy show two years later for the final episode, where he willingly told jokes about “crap” and “cum”…just like the good Lord intended?

6. Jamie Foxx breaks the ultimate standup taboo, relentlessly heckles fellow comedian.

Modern comedy knows no boundaries, but one thing that’s guaranteed to offend even the most offensive comedian is a heckler. And at a 2003 roast for football player Emmitt Smith, Jamie Foxx became every no-name comedian’s worst nightmare: a heckler who also happens to be an established comic. His target was the significantly less famous Doug Williams. Whether you’ve heard of him or not, Jamie Foxx is the reason.

As much as people familiar with the incident like to say Williams was bombing, he was actually doing relatively well — if we’re taking, you know, laughter into consideration — until a joke aimed at Jamie fell flat. From that point forward, it became a two-man set, with Jamie literally stealing the show by constantly interrupting. Williams was almost able to win the audience back, getting one more good laugh before Jamie delivered the deathblow heard round the internet. It’s a safe bet that the short-lived duo won’t be sharing the dais at any future roasts.

5. Carol Burnett, pioneer of parody, sues Family Guy for parodying her.

Carol Burnett’s been making people laugh for longer than most of us have been alive, and throughout the years, she’s taken part in many a spoof — so many, in fact, that people have actually compiled lists of her best ones. If anybody would be cool with a newer comedy series doing a spoof of her it would be…her, wouldn’t it? Try telling that to the creators of Family Guy, who got sued for doing exactly that.

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In a gag from a 2006 episode of Family Guy, Carol’s iconic charwoman character can briefly be seen mopping the floor of an adult bookstore. The 18-second spot, which also included a variation of Burnett’s theme song, almost cost 20th Century Fox $2 million. For not getting permission to make fun of her. The suit was tossed because parody is protected by the First Amendment, which likely had something to do with Burnett never getting sued for the same thing.

4. Mel Gibson produces Three Stooges biopic, blames Jews for all the wars in the world.

Perhaps no group of people is better at separating the artist from the man than Mel Gibson fans. Through all the racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic remarks — not to mention the battery convictions — they’ve stood by him and even welcomed him back to award shows. All things considered, he did give us the Lethal Weapon movies, right? Plus, if any big star could claim responsibility for keeping the Three Stooges name alive, it would be Mel.

Hold on…what? The guy who admitted to saying that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world? He was a major contributor to the Stooge legacy? Yup — he even produced a biopic about them in 2000. And to be clear, The Three Stooges were a comedy team that involved a total of six guys at different times, but no less than two Jews at once. So let’s try and find the logic in this: Jews are OK, as long as they’re slapping the living shit out of one another? Got it.

3. Denis Leary steals smoking jokes, does commercials for cancer research.

Remember how funny it used to be when Denis Leary would puff on his cigarette like a madman and sing about how he loved to smoke while mocking cancer commercials? Remember how unfunny it was when you found out that he stole most of that smoking material from Bill Hicks, who later died from cancer? Actually, maybe it was unfunny to begin with, but you know what’s even less funny? That same guy doing commercials for cancer research.

That’s right, Denis “I love to smoke” Leary now does commercials for the Lustgarten Foundation — not that it’s not an admirable thing to do, but consider the source here. Who the hell is gonna donate because Denis Leary said so? The same people who thought that “muah, muah, muah” shit was so goddamn hilarious? This is like George Carlin asking for donations for the Catholic Church.

2. Conan O’Brien criticizes Jay Leno and NBC for trying to bump his show, does the same thing to George Lopez.

When NBC stupidly forced Jay Leno to give up The Tonight Show while he was number one the first time, and then tried to bump his successor, Conan O’Brien, to a later time slot to make way for yet another show hosted by Leno, Conan was understandably upset. Refusing to move to midnight, O’Brien stepped down as host of his short-lived version of The Tonight Show and had nothing but unkind words for Leno and NBC. After a $45 million settlement, Coco sailed off into the sunset, landed back on his feet over at TBS, and the rest is history. Including the only other late night show that was on TBS when Conan got there.

You see, the all-but-forgotten Lopez Tonight was doing just fine at 11:00pm until Conan came around and did the exact same thing Leno and NBC did to him. Lopez got bumped to midnight, started getting the guests Conan had the previous night, the ratings dropped, and before long he was canceled — with very little time to pack his bags, and not nearly as much money to put in them.

1. Jerry Lewis steals a routine from Lucille Ball, declares women unfunny.

Jerry Lewis said a lot of controversial things in his life, but none got him more negative attention than when he said that he didn’t “like any female comedians.” It’s unclear if it was intended as an ironic statement, but it came across that way considering that Jerry had spent most of his career acting like a woman. One woman in particular was Lucille Ball, who he also claimed not to like. Whether he loved Lucy or not, he did a bit in one of his movies that was pretty much exactly like one she’d done prior on I Love Lucy — the big difference being, of course, that he was a dude.

In the Lucy episode “Be a Pal,” which aired on October 22, 1951, Ball lip-syncs to a recording of the Carmen Miranda song “Mamãe Eu Quero.” In true Lucy fashion, the record skips, speeds up, and slows down as she tries her best to mouth along to it. The following June, Jerry filmed a movie with Dean Martin called Scared Stiff, in which he lip-syncs to the same goddamn song in drag. The record also skips and slows down as in the original, “unfunny” female version that was apparently in need of a goofier uplift.

It should be noted that Mickey Rooney beat both Lucy and Jerry to parodying that particular Carmen Miranda song in the 1941 movie Babes on Broadway. However, Rooney only performed it in drag; Lucy added the lip-syncing, record skipping, etc. So the fact still remains that Jerry got laughs doing something originally done by a woman.

Tony Alpsen is an occasional writer and drawer of semi-humorous things. In addition to Splitsider, his work has been published by Cracked and National Lampoon. His weekly comic strip series, Ying & Yan (about conjoined twins who can’t stand each other), has been featured by The Duck Webcomics and can be viewed for free at Yingandyan.com or on Tapas — mainly because nobody’s offered to pay for it yet.

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