In the early 80s, I walked into The Improvisation in Hollywood. It was an ordinary evening, nothing special, but the list of comedians who showed up was epic. Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Rosanne Barr, Brad Hall, Sam Kinison, Richard Lewis, Fritz Coleman and several more I can’t remember because it was so long ago. With the exception of Robin Williams, most were fairly unknown at the time.
They were all hysterically funny and I probably came home with wet pants – pre-babies. Their humor was witty, well-written, and kept us laughing all night. Robin Williams came over to our table and started teasing my then mother-in-law, calling her “Juanita.” She was visiting from Michigan and was tickled to death to be picked on. She even came back with a few zingers herself.
But then comedians in clubs started going for cheap laughs
Potty humor in comedy clubs came into Vogue full-throttle in the late 80s and comedians were using F-words in abundance to get laughs. I stopped going because I didn’t think they were particularly funny. As someone who has done comedy as an actress, potty humor is an easy way to make people laugh but not all that clever. Some laugh because they’re shocked or embarrassed. A few comedians are able to pull it off if they use profanity moderately. But a whole set full of F-u’s and penis jokes gets old fast.
I’m hardly a prude, but some of the world’s greatest comedians never had to resort to using profanity. Even Bill Cosby, who turned out NOT to be America’s best dad, was hysterically funny when he did stand-up and lambasted other comedians who went for cheap laughs.
Believe me, I love to laugh LOUD and am probably a comedian’s best audience if they are funny. And sometimes, even raw jokes have me chuckling until I cry. But an over-abundance lacks wit and leaves me dry.
The Correspondence Dinner goes to the dark side
When Michelle Wolf came on stage at the 2018 Correspondence dinner she A-bombed, in my opinion. I’m hardly a fan of the current administration and our bully-in-chief dishes it out but can’t take it when it’s dished out to him. He didn’t even show up. I would have loved to have someone skewer the White House staff who were brave enough to attend in a clever way. But Michelle was not that person. She was brutally mean-spirited, vulgar, and not terribly funny.
A sister blogger and comedian pointed out that only 6 women comedians have appeared at the Correspondent’s dinner since its inception in 1914, which is truly sad. Women are funny too and deserve to have their chance to be featured. And women, who are vulgar, or are not demure, get chastised much more than men when they cross the line. Just look at Hillary Clinton when she called Trump’s base “deplorable.” People went apeshit. Yet Trump has a wiki of insult names he has called people. Here is the NYTimes list.
I would have loved to have seen Julia Louis-Dreyfus (star of Veep) up there on the podium instead of Wolf. She is witty, and her father was a billionaire. How perfect would that have been? Sadly, she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In Michelle’s defense, it would be difficult for any comedian, male or female, to come out alive the way things are going these days.
Satire is a whole different animal
Lenny Bruce was one of the first satirists to use profanity and went through hell because of it. He was funny but told it like it is. Unfortunately, his life had a sad ending. Satire is important in our society because it humorously brings out what is going wrong and that’s what the Correspondence Dinner is supposed to be about. Our first amendment rights and good journalism are essential to our democracy. The press is under attack in this country but having the comedian’s roast go lower than the President doesn’t help and hurts the cause instead.
No matter how you stand on abortion, (I’m pro-choice) it’s not something to ever joke about. And, as much as I dislike the fact that Sarah Sanders lies daily to cover up for the President who does the same, I felt bad that she was being taken apart at the seams and even being fat-shamed by another woman as she sat there stoically trying to survive the evening.
Perhaps, in this divisive political climate, the Correspondence dinner should forego having a comedian, male or female, and just bitch amongst themselves. It would also be nice to see the comedy community become less obsessed with what’s in their pants and go for clever writing instead.