Laughing Matters — Monty Python, “Upper Class Twit of the Year”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

Sometimes I think the main thing our current comedy is lacking is some good old fashioned hostility directed at the obscenely wealthy buffoons who effectively preserve the reprehensible status quo at the expense of others.

Laughing Matters — The Ben Stiller Show, “Cape Munster”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

After tapping out a whole mess of words about Martin Scorsese yesterday, including a digression about unlikely fare he could direct, my mind has spent most of today idly drifting back to this sketch from The Ben Stiller Show. It’s pure silliness, but I do recall that I could never again take Juliette Lewis’s performance seriously after seeing Janeane Garofalo’s expert mockery of it.

Laughing Matters — League of Extraordinary Freelancers

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

If there was any benefit to The Simpsons rolling on and on and on and on, well past the point of its remarkable — and, to be fair, remarkably long-lasting — brilliance, it’s that the program eventually cycled through so many scenarios that it occasionally became, almost by necessity, delightfully esoteric in its references. Only a comedy show solidly in its nineteenth season can operate with the foolhardy confidence of building a whole set of gags around the appearance of a few icons of alternative comics. But there they were, lined up and each sporting the familiar Groeningian overbite: Daniel Clowes, Alan Moore, and Art Spiegelman.

For Clowes and Spiegelman, the crafted jokes were mostly general, riffing on the divide between indie comix and mainstream superhero falderal. The same was also true of Moore, but the Simpsons creative team (Matt Selman is the credited writer on the episode) also spun a little comic energy in the direction of Moore’s longstanding feud with the corporate callousness of DC Comics, the comic book publisher where the master writer made his fame in the U.S. The main joke was put in the hands of Milhouse, who blithely asks Moore to sign a copy of the cash-in knockoff Watchmen Babies, a fictional (and yet highly plausible) perversion of the mid-nineteen-eighties limited series that is arguably the writer’s masterpiece and inarguably one of the most influential superhero-based works of the era.

The joke is based on a betrayal. DC Comics promised Moore the copyright on the work would be returned to him and the series co-creator, artist Dave Gibbons, as soon as Watchmen went out of print. At the time, well before the proliferation of trade paperback collections repurposing comic book series into “graphic novels,” there was no reason to expect Watchmen would remain officially in print for much more than a couple years. Instead, Watchmen became a permanent fixture in the DC catalog, and Moore never got the ownership he was promised, engendering an entirely understandable seething animosity that persists to this day.

When this Simpsons episode aired, the middling movie adaption was still two years away, and there was certainly no weekly HBO show to further cement Watchmen into the public consciousness. Milhouse’s eager fandom of Watchmen Babies and Moore’s volcanic reaction to the corporate exploitation and dilution of his intellectual labor was based on a comic book well probably unknown to the vast majority of the viewing audience. That even a few minutes of broadcast network time was given over to it is a marvel. There’s a lot to lament in regards to the unwillingness of The Simpsons to exit the pop culture stage, but bits like this one almost compensate for the most dire moments.

Laughing Matters — Albert Brooks and Buddy

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

Of the many benefits provided by this expansive information age, few are as unquestionably good as the constant availability of prime examples the unparalleled comedic genius of Albert Brooks that were once relegated to a couple airings on late night network television. In the history of the educational plaything, no greater use was even made of a Speak & Spell.

Laughing Matters — How Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

Without delving into the particulars, I had cause today to recall director Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved literary epics. Although I will still gladly champion at least twothirds of the first trilogy the filmmaker brought to the screen, my nostalgic appreciation of its virtues is always accompanied by — and tempered by — persistent thoughts of this expert comedic exposure of a major plot problem. I can’t claim to have watched every tidbit crafted by the commendably prolific people behind How It Should Have Ended, but I’m skeptical they ever topped the ingenious simplicity of this early entry in their canon.

Laughing Matters — Leslie Jones on Alabama’s Abortion Ban

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

The institutional heft that’s been taken on by Saturday Night Live in recent years means that the comings and goings of cast members have evolved from mundane showbiz machinations to momentous occurrences akin to changes in heads of state. Excepting the underperforming short-timers who never find their footing on the Studio 8H stage, every departure of a SNL troupe member feels like the end of an era.

Leslie Jones joined the variety show’s writing staff in the midst of the 2013-2014 television season, in part because producer Lorne Michaels was publicly — and properly — shamed over the absence of black women in the cast. It makes sense that Jones wasn’t initially offered a performing role. Especially in her early tenure on the show, Jones struggled with the basic mechanics of sketch work, missing marks and fumbling cues. She was a clear force of nature, though, fierce and charismatic and commanding. She made her SNL on-camera debut as herself, delivering a riotous monologue as a guest commentator on Weekend Update. As black women often have to do in the field of entertainment, she forced her way in.

Now that its been made official that Jones will not return for the forthcoming forty-fourth season of Saturday Night Live, retrospection confirms her final words as a regular in her strongest show role were railing against regressive politics of female oppression spreading like a toxin. The instigating news item was Alabama’s knowing passage of an unconstitutional anti-abortion law as an act of judicial provocation, part of the right wing’s long game to overturn Roe V. Wade, a court case that’s been on the books and repeatedly reaffirmed for nearly fifty years. Jones’s commentary takes aim at the specifics of the fresh news, but it’s more broadly about an assertion of autonomy for all women in all ways. Whether or not she already suspected she wouldn’t return, Jones delivered a perfect closing argument.

Laughing Matters — Garfunkel and Oates, “What’s Gonna Happen to Chris”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

The Sunday New York Times that landed on my doorstep yesterday included a nice surprise on the front of the business section. In the space usually reserved for a disheartening trend pieces that unwittingly exposed the unchecked cruelty of modern capitalism or a dreadfully boring profile of puffy CEO there sat a story about the ongoing resistance to female comic voices in the realm of television, despite the colossal need for content. The article took a reasonably broad view of the state of the industry, but it fully won my affection by expending a significant number of column inches on the endless hustling of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, known together as Garfunkel and Oates.

Among the many pleasures I derived from the article, it called my attention to the most recent Garfunkel and Oates song, which someone escaped my attention when it debuted last November. Employing their usual deft songwriting, the duo aim their satire at the cries of persecution issued by mewling males in response to earnest, long-delayed attempts at redressing inequities in society. They level their feminist ire with thrilled ingenuity and, as a bonus, manage to slip in a deft and rare successful instance of rhyming the word “orange.” The song contains feats aplenty.

Also, the web presence of the Gray Lady now includes a hyperlink to “The Loophole,” as brilliant and filthy of a comedic song as I’ve ever encounter. I think the construction of that particular information superhighway on-ramp is absolutely delightful.