“All the world loves a clown,” Cole Porter once wrote. Turns out, not so much. Today, people’s perceptions of clowns are largely negative: clowns are weird, clowns are scary, clowns are incomprehensible. One thing clowns are not is funny. As Louis C.K. has said, “Clowns aren’t funny. There’s nothing worse than somebody who is not funny trying to be funny. That’s what a clown is.”
However, clowns remain intrinsically linked to comedy. The jokester in the back row is called the class clown. Chris Farley carried “The Clown’s Prayer” in his pocket at all times. There are a whole bunch of terrible articles referring to Robin Williams as a [...]
I have an uncomfortable confession to make: I have never liked the Looney Tunes. Despite the cultural pervasiveness of these characters, and a lifelong love of animation on my part, they’ve always struck me as annoying, repetitive, and boring — for all the pandemonium that Bugs Bunny and his ilk ostensibly represent, their chaos is bland, their destruction is predictable, and their lineage is corporate.
To be fair, my exposure to Looney Tunes at the time bore that out pretty well: I grew up in the age of Space Jam and the slew of jerseys, sneakers, McDonald’s toys, pogs, and cookie jars that film spawned. Today is no better, [...]
There's a famous story about The Richard Pryor Show — as Richard Pryor's star was rising in Hollywood in the 1970s, NBC commissioned the man to make a 10-episode sketch program to be broadcast in prime time. Family-friendly viewing not being Pryor's first priority, he clashed with the censors again and again until finally they let him off with only four episodes. These four episodes are still credited with an enormous influence over the genre of TV sketch comedy — directly cited by future blockbusters such as In Living Color and Chapelle's Show — and launching the careers of several performers, including the late Robin Williams in one of his [...]
The last time on From the Archives that we checked in on Jack Benny, it was towards the end of his career, in 1973. While he was getting on in years, his oft-complimented timing was still just as sharp as it always was, and he still put on a good show. However, judging any comedian's performance at the age of 79 seems a little unfair, unless they're George Burns, so today we're going to examine Jack Benny at his peak, with the help of the new Shout Factory DVD The Jack Benny Show: The Lost Episodes.
I've spoken many times in this column about the various studios [...]
The first issue of the National Lampoon appeared in April 1970 and sold fewer than half of the five hundred thousand copies printed. Some readers may have thought they were buying yet another Harvard Lampoon magazine parody, understandably confused by a cover that was a variation on their recent Time parody; a dimly lit model in revealing costume posed against a muddy brown background with the caption “Sexy Cover Issue.” Less predictably, next to the model was a grinning cartoon duck — a Doug Kenney idea. “Henry would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do an interview with [legendary New Yorker humorist] S. J. Perelman,’ and Doug would say, ‘We [...]