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From Commentary, a publication of the American Jewish Committee:

WASP Without a Sting

02.01.15 – 12:00 AM | by Terry Teachout

There is hardly anyone under the age of 60 aware of how phenomenally successful Bob Hope once was. His heyday may have been long-lasting—he hosted a top-rated weekly radio series from 1937 to 1953, appeared frequently on TV from 1950 to 1996, and acted in more than 70 films, many of which were hits—but the latter-day consensus is that he was never all that funny. When he died in 2003 at the age of 100, Christopher Hitchens brutally dismissed him as a purveyor of “comedy for people who have no sense of humor.”

Hitchens, of course, being a comic genius. Who can’t recall countless Christopher Hitchens zingers like … uh …

Enter Richard Zoglin, theater critic of Time and author of Hope: Entertainer of the Century, a new primary-source biography whose categorical subtitle is not wholly in accord with its content. While Zoglin makes a convincing case that Hope “virtually invented stand-up comedy in the form we know it today,”

Hope [1903-2003] was able to invent modern stand-up comedy between the wars for the same reason Bing Crosby invented modern pop singing — they both grasped the far-reaching implications of microphones and radios to bring performers in more intimate contact with audiences. No longer did you have to telegraph everything to the cheap seats. (Crosby, by the way, had an unbelievably far-reaching voice that would have made him a success without amplification, but he brilliantly chose to exploit the full potential of the new technology even though he showed less naturally gifted rivals how to compete with him.)

Hope: Entertainer of the Century otherwise exaggerates his significance. It is true, as Zoglin says, that he “achieved success—often No. 1–rated success—in every major genre of mass entertainment in the modern era: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, television, popular song, and live concerts” (though his success in the field of music was far more limited than this description suggests). But he was influential as a comedian only, and scarcely any of his work was distinguished.

Inventing modern stand-up is kind of a big deal.

Moreover, Hope’s 1940s movies were wildly innovative, anticipating many of the post-modern stylistic flourishes of Woody Allen’s best 1980s films (as Allen has repeatedly pointed out). Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope. Love and Death is simply the Cowardly Bob Hope Character plugged into a pastiche of War and Peace and other 19th Century Russian novels.

If anyone deserves the title of “entertainer of the century,” it would be his longtime collaborator Bing Crosby, for he was as successful as Hope, worked in as many fields, and was vastly more significant and consequential, both as a musician and as a film and radio performer.

Crosby’s role in helping create Silicon Valley’s venture capital culture is potentially interesting. Hope was a real estate tycoon, usually ranked second to Gene Autry among stars in that regard. That’s less striking than Crosby’s important role as a Steve Jobs-like customer and investor pushing analog high-tech along for decades, but it’s not wholly boring.

… But Zoglin, for all his admirable thoroughness, inexplicably fails to emphasize the central fact about Hope and his career—one that not only goes a long way toward explaining why he was so successful, but also why we no longer find him funny. Simply: He wasn’t Jewish.

Born in London in 1903, Leslie Townes Hope was the fifth of seven sons of a stonecutter who brought his family to Cleveland in 1908 in a futile attempt to improve their meager lot. … The gag-based humor of these monologues was largely topical, especially during World War II, when the show was broadcast each week from military camps that furnished Hope with captive but willing audiences of servicemen who reveled in his inside jokes (“You know what the barracks are—a crap game with a roof”). Most of his shows survive on tape, but they are no longer listenable—unlike, say, Jack Benny’s. The jokes, in spite of the crisp, cocky flair with which Hope rattled them off, are inextricably rooted in their long-ago time and place. In the words of the radio historian John Dunning, “The moment is lost, the immediacy gone, and a modern listener is left, perhaps, with a sense of curiosity.”

That kind of explains Hope’s enduring popularity with old Americans (including Woody Allen) that Teachout finds so inexplicable: Hope and Crosby peaked in talent during WWII, which was — you can look it up in the newspapers — a big deal to people at the time.

Hope’s persona as a physical coward was particularly funny to Americans when millions of men had to risk their lives in WWII and were thus nervous about how they would respond to danger. (And it wasn’t just combat that could kill them, but also training and transportation. Here’s a statistic I have heard but haven’t seen confirmed, but it sounds plausible: 30,000 American troops died during WWII in non-combat airplane accidents: that’s like a packed 737 going down every week.)

Woody Allen got tremendous mileage out of Hope’s shtick in his own career even though it was awfully dated by then. (Allen turned 18 the year the Korean meatgrinder war wrapped up: how much do you think he worried how he’d do in combat if he’d been drafted? My best guesses: Allen probably worried all the time, and he would have done himself proud.)

It’s hard today to put ourselves back inside the heads of Americans in the 1940s, but Hope obviously tapped into a major psychic obsession of that time. That’s what the USO tours for the rest of Hope’s life were about — men in danger of violent deaths found Hope’s character funny. Hope acted out for draftees the opportunistic 4-Fs with flat feet back home who were getting rich and making time with their girlfriends. But now he’d bumbled into their world.

What was missing from his style? Even though Hope was a first-generation European immigrant, there was nothing remotely ethnic about his stage manner. He was among the few successful WASP comics of his generation, and despite the fact that he hired such Jewish writers as Larry Gelbart and Mel Shavelson, the jokes they penned for him lacked the sharp ironic tang of Jewish humor that is to this day one of the essential ingredients in American comedy.

This argument has been going on a long, long time. I recall in the early 1970s reading in the Los Angeles Times that WASPs aren’t funny, and then somebody sent in a letter pointing out that the four most successful stand-up humorists in American history — Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Bob Hope, and Johnnie Carson — were all WASPs. But retconning history is a compulsion among victors these days.

Teachout goes on to explain that Bob Hope was bad because A) he was inoffensive (to the old majority) and B) he was offensive (to Baby Boomers). Like I’ve said once or twice: Who/Whom.

Needless to say, Richard Zoglin is well aware that Hope was not Jewish, but he only mentions it briefly in his book, twice in passing and again when he cites a letter that Neil Simon sent to the comedian in 1973. Hope wanted to adapt Simon’s The Sunshine Boys as a screen vehicle for himself and Bing Crosby, a notion that Simon flatly refused to entertain, explaining in reply that his vaudeville team was nothing like Hope and Crosby:

Not only are their appearance, mannerisms and gestures ethnically Jewish, but more important, their attitudes are as well. And if the audience would believe that Bob and Bing could portray two old Jews, then John Wayne should have been in Boys in the Band. Simon was, of course, dead right.

Of course, Neil Simon plays (17 Tony nominations), unlike Bob Hope monologues, are immortally funny.

Seriously, my wife starred in a 1987 dinner theater production of Neil Simon’s 1978 musical They’re Playing Our Song, and I had to script doctor a half-dozen of Simon’s jokes that were already painfully, show-stoppingly unfunny just 9 years after Simon’s show had debuted.

And the jokes I came up with to replace Simon’s stinkers no doubt aren’t funny anymore either. One guy in the audience laughed for five minutes straight at one of my new jokes whose punchline was “Continental Airlines!” But Continental Airlines doesn’t exist anymore and it’s not worth trying to explain why in 1987 some poor bastard who had maybe just come from a workday spent as a paying hostage of Continental thought that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard in his life.

Sic transit gloria comici.

Also, a lot of Simon’s humor came encrusted with Beverly Hills class and ethnic privileges and prejudices that Indiana dinner theater audiences found off-putting. To show you what I mean, here’s Roy Scheider as Broadway director Bob Fosse in Fosse’s All That Jazz running a table reading of a 1970s Simonesque play:

I fixed the most unintentionally obnoxious lines Simon had written for my wife’s character, and the production went over well with audiences that included lots of frequent flyers who were on my yuppie wavelength, such as corporate Christmas party groups from offices in the Chicago suburbs.

But one night most of the playgoers were black lady schoolteachers from Gary, Indiana on an outing, and they found nothing about Simon’s characters or dialogue amusing or even likable. They just sat there staring stonily at the rich white people characters up on stage, as appreciative of Simon’s witticisms as Bob Fosse having a heart attack. (Nor did they find amusing my Dave Barryish additions that had so convulsed the corporate crowds.)

It’s ever thus with comedy.

That reminds me of a running gag in Fosse’s All That Jazz in which the hero is trying to edit a film he has directed about a sainted comedian whose historic importance is constantly celebrated in the media: a lightly fictionalized version of Fosse’s biopic Lenny with Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce. The problem facing Fosse’s alter ego in postproduction is that if Lenny Bruce’s stand-up style was ever funny, it sure wasn’t funny anymore by the mid-1970s, as demonstrated by the annoying working cut footage that Fosse is glumly trying to edit:

So, over the course of the movie Fosse returns to the editing room to tweak the stand-up scene, finally, after infinite pains, succeeding in making Lenny Bruce funny on film.

Then when the movie is released, a film critic is shown on TV announcing that the director’s hyperactive editing gets in the way of revealing the obviously enduring talent of Lenny Bruce, and the only good part of the movie is the stand-up scene when the director sits back and just lets Dustin Hoffman channel the genius of Lenny Bruce without all that fussy Fosse editing.

(By the way, Dustin Hoffman has probably gone from overrated to underrated, perhaps due to the piling up of all the anecdotes about him being a jerk on the set, which aren’t actually all that relevant to what we see on the screen. Hoffman’s reputation, like Hope’s, has suffered from living a long time past his peak. But, like Hope’s, his peak was pretty impressive.)

Mark Steyn has dissected best how Hope was meta before meta, and I’ll put that below the fold:

 



 

Steyn wrote:

When you’re that big – when you’re as mass as mass media can get – you don’t have hardcore followers, you’re not a cult or a genius like Buster Keaton or Monty Python.

… As a boy in Cleveland, he’d dress as Chaplin and waddle down Euclid Street. But, as soon as he could, he dispensed with the pathos of the little tramp, the sentimentality of the ethnic comics, and embraced instead the dapper assurance of a newer American archetype: the wiseguy, the kind of rat-a-tat quipster you could find in the sports columns and the gossip pages of the Jazz Age but not in its comedy routines, in their way as convention-bound as grand opera.

Much of what we now take for granted as the modern comedy monologue – the delivery, the structure, the subjects – comes from the template developed by Hope. …

If Hope started out as the first modern comic, he quickly became the first post-modern one….

Other comedians had writers, but they didn’t talk about them. Radio gobbled up your material so you needed fellows on hand to provide more. But Hope not only used writers, he made his dependence on them part of the act.

… In vaudeville, a performer would have a comic persona – he’d be a yokel, say, and he’d tell jokes about rustics and city folk – but Hope’s comic persona was the persona of a comic: he played a guy who told jokes for a living, and the conceit (in every sense) worked; by advertising the fact that he had a team who did all the tedious chores like providing the gags, he underlined his extraordinary preeminence.

I don’t know about you, but I find the meta-joke that Hope made out of his ridiculously successful career (which included living to be 100) very funny. But not everybody gets the joke anymore.

 
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  1. Funny you should draw the comparison between Woody Allen and Bob Hope. On the old SCTV comedy show, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas made this same connection in their own way in a skit that’s still very funny:

    http://youtu.be/yjYVyyTBdh4

    • Replies: @Udolpho
    Great catch. SCTV had some great sketches and this is one of the best. Far superior to the stuff SNL produced.
    , @george
    Great post. If you search on woody allen bob hope you can find Tonight Show episodes where Allen guest hosts and Hope is a guest. I think SCTV got their inspiration from that interview.
    , @Anonymous
    It's scary how much better this is than SNL the last 35 years.
    , @ganderson
    Funny stuff- I thought of this immediately upon seeing this article. To this day, on the golf course when looking for an errant shot, mine or someone else's I'll say "the Amazing Kreskin couldn't find this ball".
  2. On the subject of unfunny comics – what’s with Don Rickles? He made a career out of mugging like a kid out of Special Ed class.
    BTW – Love the “poor bastard” line – made me laugh.

    • Replies: @Father O'Hara
    A)I begin to read the comments and get hit with this? Don Rickles KILLED! As a mere youf,I would beg me mudder to let me stay up to catch Carson if Rickles was going to be on. Same with Rodney Dangerfield. Was brilliant til all the baby boomer assholes mad ehim hip then he wasn't any more. He told an interesting tale of how some guy had him sit in his lap when he was a kid and touched him in bad ways. Art from pain? C) I DK if this has been discussed per Steves comment but Lenny Bruce sucked donkey d*ck!!! A lowlife unfunny piece of sh*t.
  3. Drama is good at crossing borders and temporal gaps. Comedy is much more specific to time and place. I’ve tried watching Chaplin movies, and they don’t do anything for me.

    And I don’t find Bob Hope to be the least bit funny.

    • Replies: @Tom Regan
    Very true. Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn't amuse many people today.
    But neither would Don Rickles - as another poster mentioned - or Jackie Mason or Lenny Bruce or Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.
    , @Lurker
    I find Laurel & Hardy hold up quite well.
  4. In 1987, Continental was controlled by the infamous Frank Lorenzo, who took a scorched-earth policy toward labor-management relations. I once read that, of all the companies surveyed by a firm that specialized in employee-morale research, Continental had the least-happy employees. Its pilots were widely despised as scabs.

    Lorenzo was a second-generation immigrant who enriched America by destroying Eastern Airlines. (Granted, Eastern’s survival was in doubt even before he took over, but he certainly didn’t help.)

    • Replies: @Prof. Woland
    Frank Lorenzo once said he used a carrot and stick approach to management. He took the carrot and rammed it up their [email protected]@ and tamped it in with the stick.
    , @Former Darfur
    In 1987, Continental was controlled by the infamous Frank Lorenzo, who took a scorched-earth policy toward labor-management relations. I once read that, of all the companies surveyed by a firm that specialized in employee-morale research, Continental had the least-happy employees. Its pilots were widely despised as scabs....Lorenzo was a second-generation immigrant who enriched America by destroying Eastern Airlines. (Granted, Eastern’s survival was in doubt even before he took over, but he certainly didn’t help.)

    Eastern was killed by Charlie Bryan at least as much as by Lorenzo, but the real villains were the people who appointed Frank Borman CEO. Borman was a good astronaut and fighter pilot, but like most astronauts he wasn't particularly likely to excel at corporate management. Being an astronaut requires high levels of sometimes infrequently associated traits, but it specifically tends to exclude people who are sufficiently independent thinking and ruthless to do well in corporate executive life. Remember, the astronaut corps was chosen as much to not embarrass the government or to cause operational friction as it was for technical abilities. The real reason they were all test pilots was empire building and public relations: flying a spacecraft without lifting or control surfaces has more in common with operating a submarine than a fighter jet.

    Lorenzo and Bryan hated each other, but both were willing to (and did) put their own personal struggles over the good of the company and both should have been gotten out of the way long before Eastern imploded. For that you don't need a Borman, you need a Putin. You need a ruthless operator who understands corporate politics, not spaceflight or aeronautics.

    Compton at TWA was a similar failure. As CEO he retained the title of Captain and flew one flight a month to retain currency. He flew the last TWA revenue flight and is remembered by TWA alumni as having negotiated about the worst possible deal possible with American in regards to the TWA work force.

  5. “Hope’s 1940s movies were wildly innovative, post-modern avant la lettre, anticipating many of the stylistic flourishes of Woody Allen’s best 1980s films. Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope.”

    Also, don’t forget Allen’s 1973 Sleeper. That especially was a tribute to Hope’s films of the ‘4o’s.

    On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Another possible reason that Bob Hope has fallen out of favor, and that would be at least partly due to his Republican politics. It’s a well known fact that Bob Hope was no liberal Democrat but supported all the main GOP nominees.

    And of course, unlike most baby boomer standup comics, Bob Hope actually went to Vietnam to entertain the troops and supported the war.

    But as to who died richer, Crosby or Hope, the ruling consensus is in favor of Hope, especially since he lived longer, and, unlike Crosby, didn’t have some wacky kids to help run Bob Hope Enterprises.

    • Replies: @Glaivester
    On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Seinfeld is half Mizrahi. I wonder if the non-Ashkenazi portion of Seinfeld contributed to his lack of "borschtiness").

    Speaking of which, I wonder how Mizrahi or Sephardic comedians generally fit into the humor world. Chris Kattan and Dan Hedaya immediately leap to mind.
    , @dcite
    Abbott & Costello were among Seinfeld's main inspirations according to what I've read. I think one of them was Jewish, but the act has never seemed "Jewish" to me. I only saw them as rerun on tv many years after their heyday and didn't seem that funny.

    otoh, I have always laughed at Laurel & Hardy and W.C. Fields (maybe my favorite). It's funny because I don't like most slapstick, and a lot of their funniness was in that area. It was their expressions and vocal nuances that were hilarious. Same with Lucille Ball.
  6. I mentioned in the other thread that Jews are becoming less socially progressive, that applies to Commentary as well, which at this point is just forum for justifying whatever the government of Israel is doing today, plus endless and thinly veiled ethnic cheerleading. I mean, the relatively small readership of Commentary (33 K per month) is almost certainly comprised of older Jewish folks who like to read articles that flatter them with how great Jews are. It’s the Jewish equivalent of Ebony or Jet.

    This publication, like other similar pubs (e.g., New Republic) are tanking because the readership and the mentality just isn’t there. Thus Jewish Americans will follow German Americans, Irish Americans, and Italian Americans in the Self-Approbation sequence, to be followed (probably) by Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, and Latin Americans.

    Meanwhile, Bob Hope was funny, and the Road movies were terrific. Some of those featured appearances by Robert Benchley, who didn’t really work out in films, but he is a prior model of the self-deprecating and somewhat timorous American. Benchley, in turn, along with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Leacock, are just a step or two behind Twain. Still laugh out loud funny a century (or almost) later.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    There's a Robert Benchley short from about 1940 about how to give a business presentation pre-Powerpoint.
    , @Dave Pinsen
    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.
  7. So it was you that came up with that Continental Airlines joke? That joke was huge in the late 80s.

  8. Steve,

    Martin Short is often mistaken for being Jewish, but he’s an Irish-Catholic from Hamilton ,Ontario. What is it about his humour and/or demeanour that strikes people as “Jewish”? He seems to think he picked up certain elements of Jewish humour from friends growing up in Hamilton.

    He’s also an alumnus of SCTV.

    • Replies: @Francis
    Did he ever play hockey?
    , @Cagey Beast
    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall's role in Tender Mercies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1rq9lsTp8

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I'd vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn't remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O'Toole did some really funny stuff.

  9. @SPMoore8
    I mentioned in the other thread that Jews are becoming less socially progressive, that applies to Commentary as well, which at this point is just forum for justifying whatever the government of Israel is doing today, plus endless and thinly veiled ethnic cheerleading. I mean, the relatively small readership of Commentary (33 K per month) is almost certainly comprised of older Jewish folks who like to read articles that flatter them with how great Jews are. It's the Jewish equivalent of Ebony or Jet.

    This publication, like other similar pubs (e.g., New Republic) are tanking because the readership and the mentality just isn't there. Thus Jewish Americans will follow German Americans, Irish Americans, and Italian Americans in the Self-Approbation sequence, to be followed (probably) by Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, and Latin Americans.

    Meanwhile, Bob Hope was funny, and the Road movies were terrific. Some of those featured appearances by Robert Benchley, who didn't really work out in films, but he is a prior model of the self-deprecating and somewhat timorous American. Benchley, in turn, along with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Leacock, are just a step or two behind Twain. Still laugh out loud funny a century (or almost) later.

    There’s a Robert Benchley short from about 1940 about how to give a business presentation pre-Powerpoint.

    • Replies: @yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Robert Benchley also had a supporting role in Crosby-Hope's Road to Utopia (1945).
    , @Steve Sailer
    Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint:

    http://youtu.be/G1yc-19z14s?t=2m14s
  10. Hope’s stand-up is really stale today, compared to, say, Sid Caesar’s sketch stuff, although this may have more to do with sketches being more general and less topical.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    How long did Sid Caesar last on top?
  11. Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    • Replies: @Robert the Wise
    Clearly, you have not reckoned with the marvel of German engineering that is FUNNYBOT!
    , @syonredux

    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.
     
    There are plenty of gifted WASP humorists in America:

    James Thurber, Peter Benchley, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Mark Twain, Chevy Chase, etc
    , @syonredux

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.
     
    Can't comment on German Germans, but H.L. Mencken was extremely funny.The exception that proves the rule?
    , @James Kabala
    The Simpsons actually has heavy German influence. Creator Matt Groening and important writers George Meyer and John Swartzwelder have German surnames. Of course with a German surname there is always the "ethnically German or Jewish?" question, but Groening (raised Protestant) and Meyer (raised Catholic) are not Jewish. I don't know for sure about Swartzwelder, but his political views are said to be libertarian-bordering-on-survivalist, which certainly be unusual for a Jewish person.
    , @Anonymous
    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    David Letterman?
  12. Funny is funny. If it makes you laugh, it’s funny. There’s really no analyzing it. Robin Williams and Steve Martin and Jim Carrey, to name a few —WASPS all —but all successful comics.

    I am proud to say I met Bob Hope in 1986, got a photo with him and shook his hand. He was elderly but didn’t look it when I met him. He did a stand-up routine (his son, Tony Hope was running for Congress and Bob was helping out at a campaign rally).

    What impressed me about Bob Hope was this: he was older, established, he had all the money in the world and was world famous but he was still HUNGRY. He really wanted the audience to love him and be a hit. At one point in his routine he told a joke that only got mild laughs, then he told another joke on the same subject that was a dud, and you could see his eyes dart as he quickly shifted gears to another topic. The next joke got a laugh and he was back on track.

    Hope never lost that neediness. He had to be a smash hit. He was always HUNGRY.

    • Replies: @juswonderinaboutbaseball
    Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope's greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. That is what set him apart from everyone else because you cannot teach those things and most people don't pick up on it consciously because it occurs so quickly. He would sometimes use flat material just to purposely mug. But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously.

    I think MacDonald is right. MacDonald does it but it doesn't look natural. With Macdonald, I cannot tell if MacDonald is exaggerating and mugging to bring it out and highlight it or it is just so unnatural that it comes off as a bad Hope impression. Woody Allen was pretty quick and good at it. Maybe that's why he has such a thing for Hope; maybe like with singers, you gravitate to people who are easier for you to imitate.

    Chevy Chase was just as quick as Hope, but was doing the reverse Hope where his reaction would usually be contemptuous or smug and it is off-putting to most people. I bet half of Chase's infamous prickliness is just others subconsciously picking up on his dumb faces and attributing a lot more malice and dislike to Chase than intended.

    My grandmother worked with Hope when he was on the rise, and she and her husband ran for a while in his social circle- sometime in the late 20s or early 30s- and she described him as the most unbelievably confident and driven man she had ever met. The only performer she ever saw who could get on stage with nothing and win over an audience.
    , @MEH 0910
    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he's French-Canadian Catholic.
  13. Best Bob Hope joke:

    “I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it mandatory.”

    • Replies: @Lurker

    I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it mandatory.
     
    That used to be a joke. But somewhere a social engineer is sketching out plans...
  14. This reminds of Auster talking about the Jewish dilemma when faced with a gentile icon. It’s a giant hairy ball of “…how can this be? WE are the CHOSEN!”

    Intelligent, assimilated types recognize that the gentiles produce giants and that is just the way it is in the real world. While the unassimilated bunker mentality Jews (type you find at Commentary) do not acknowledge that there have ever been any iconic gentiles. It just doesn’t compute.

    • Replies: @Sam Haysom
    Terry Teachout is about as assimilated a Jew as you can be namely a founding stock Dutch descendent from Missouri.
    , @Amasius
    They've practiced intensive eugenics on themselves for at least 2000 years in order to boost their average IQ by 7 points, inflicting all kinds of genetic physical and mental illnesses on themselves in the process. I suppose they think they deserve superiority after all that work and sacrifice.

    But yeah, Cole Porter is better than any Jewish songwriter and George Carlin is better than any Jewish comedian. Talent over work.
  15. Contra Simon, WASP actors have successfully played Jewish characters, e.g., Jack Lemmon as Shelly “The Machine” Levine in Glengarry Glen Ross, William Hurt as Richard Feynman in The Challenger.

  16. @Steve Sailer
    There's a Robert Benchley short from about 1940 about how to give a business presentation pre-Powerpoint.

    Robert Benchley also had a supporting role in Crosby-Hope’s Road to Utopia (1945).

  17. In defense of Jewish humor the Apostle Paul did kind of invent stand up humor with his shrine to the unknown God gibe at the Aeropagus. Whenever I read Acts 17 I like to imagine Paul giving that part of the speech sounding like Jerry Seinfeld.

  18. @SPMoore8
    I mentioned in the other thread that Jews are becoming less socially progressive, that applies to Commentary as well, which at this point is just forum for justifying whatever the government of Israel is doing today, plus endless and thinly veiled ethnic cheerleading. I mean, the relatively small readership of Commentary (33 K per month) is almost certainly comprised of older Jewish folks who like to read articles that flatter them with how great Jews are. It's the Jewish equivalent of Ebony or Jet.

    This publication, like other similar pubs (e.g., New Republic) are tanking because the readership and the mentality just isn't there. Thus Jewish Americans will follow German Americans, Irish Americans, and Italian Americans in the Self-Approbation sequence, to be followed (probably) by Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, and Latin Americans.

    Meanwhile, Bob Hope was funny, and the Road movies were terrific. Some of those featured appearances by Robert Benchley, who didn't really work out in films, but he is a prior model of the self-deprecating and somewhat timorous American. Benchley, in turn, along with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Leacock, are just a step or two behind Twain. Still laugh out loud funny a century (or almost) later.

    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Silber
    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.

    "I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery."
  19. @ed
    Steve,

    Martin Short is often mistaken for being Jewish, but he's an Irish-Catholic from Hamilton ,Ontario. What is it about his humour and/or demeanour that strikes people as "Jewish"? He seems to think he picked up certain elements of Jewish humour from friends growing up in Hamilton.

    He's also an alumnus of SCTV.

    Did he ever play hockey?

  20. My brother always felt Nipsey Russell was a comedic genius.

  21. This sounds like some retroactive ethnic triumphalism. Given Hope’s popularity, certainly a lot of people found him funny. I remember seeing one of his TV specials in the 70s where he did a monologue and thinking it was funny – not astoundingly, hilariously so – but workmanlike enough. Of course he had a stable of writers to provide him with material.

    You want to talk about unfunny – how about Mel Brooks. Other than “The Producers” (which was not only funny, but was deftly directed) and “The Twelve Chairs”, his movies were juvenile crap – nothing but potty and sex jokes for the most part, and not even good ones.

    Comedy is mostly hit-and-miss. If one is not incredibly witty (like Fred Allen for example), the best tack is to just throw out a lot of jokes – a fraction of them are bound to hit home. Hope did that. So did George Carlin, Stephen Wright, and Jay Leno. In movies, that’s also the approach of the Zucker/Abrams team.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Mel Brooks just did a one man show on HBO at age 88. He was funny.

    Also, History of the World Part 1 was funny.

    , @Anonymous
    I thought that Young Frankenstein was his best movie. Notice that both "Producers" and "Young Frankenstein" had Gene Wilder in them. Maybe Wilder had a good influence on Brooks.
  22. @Steve Sailer
    There's a Robert Benchley short from about 1940 about how to give a business presentation pre-Powerpoint.

    Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint:

    http://youtu.be/G1yc-19z14s?t=2m14s

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    "Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint"

    I love his frequent snorting and throat-clearing that punctuate his presentation. He's very funny. I've never heard of him.
    , @Tracy

    And it wasn’t just combat that could kill them, but also training and transportation.
     
    They used to say about B-24 Liberators, which had a tendency to go kablooey (on take-off even), "At the sound of the next explosion, it will be 1:24".
  23. But I can’t think of many funny Jewish comedians. Seinfeld was and is a pathetic dud and the same with all those on his show. They weren’t funny, they were desperate and annoying.

    Don Rickles was merely desperate. He’s like the ugly, fat kid in school desperate for people to like him and ends up with everyone wanting to stuff him in a trash can.

    Adam Sandler is talentless and needs a good script and director to make him to appear even remotely funny.

    Now the Marx Brothers and the stooges were funny.

    Though they don’t compare to George Carlin, Jonathan Winters or Johnny Carson.

    Neil Simon, I just don’t get why he’s considered funny. I prefer The Munsters and Adams Family over his work.

    • Replies: @athEIst
    Seinfeld was and is a pathetic dud and the same with all those on his show.

    Perhaps Seinfeld is pathetic but not compared to the others on Seinfeld. From Kramer to Elaine and thru George's parents, Seinfeld's parents and culminating in George who is painful to watch.
  24. Commentary magazine has no direct comments to its articles. Who would have thought it?

    Oh, here is a compilation of 20 Bob Hope jokes:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/10167070/Bob-Hope-his-20-best-one-liners.html?frame=2363170

    Not too shabby. Some of them have entered the culture and set up camp.

  25. @Stan Adams
    In 1987, Continental was controlled by the infamous Frank Lorenzo, who took a scorched-earth policy toward labor-management relations. I once read that, of all the companies surveyed by a firm that specialized in employee-morale research, Continental had the least-happy employees. Its pilots were widely despised as scabs.

    Lorenzo was a second-generation immigrant who enriched America by destroying Eastern Airlines. (Granted, Eastern's survival was in doubt even before he took over, but he certainly didn't help.)

    Frank Lorenzo once said he used a carrot and stick approach to management. He took the carrot and rammed it up their [email protected]@ and tamped it in with the stick.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    Yep, that was his philosophy.

    As a child, I had a morbid fascination with plane crashes. I was fairly precocious, so I was reading "adult" books about them when I was in the first and second grade.

    I remember reading about the Eastern Airlines L-1011 crash* in 1972 - and then, literally a couple of days later, hearing on the news that Eastern had shut down.

    This was right after the Gulf War began - mid-January 1991. That whole time period is vivid in my mind - I remember sitting in front of the TV for hours on end and reading every single word printed in the newspaper. Desert Storm was the first news event that I'm old enough to remember watching and obsessing over as it happened.

    In another strange twist, I was reading about the Lockerbie disaster when I learned that Pan Am had been grounded for good. (This was later in '91 - early December, if I recall correctly. I remember seeing Star Trek VI in the theater on opening night a few days later.)

    *In the late '70s, there was a cheesy TV movie about that crash starring William Shatner as an NTSB investigator. I used to have it on VHS. I might even still have it, somewhere - I never did get around to throwing away all of my old VHS tapes.
  26. @Anonymous
    Hope's stand-up is really stale today, compared to, say, Sid Caesar's sketch stuff, although this may have more to do with sketches being more general and less topical.

    How long did Sid Caesar last on top?

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Roughly, for about 15 minutes.
    , @athEIst
    How long did Sid Caesar last on top?

    Until his alcoholism got him.
  27. Is Teachout Jewish? He is from rural Missouri or Arkansas, I believe, and his distinctive last name (which sounds like two English words but I would guess has nothing to do with them) gives no clear ethnic indicator. Before he wrote for Commentary he used to appear frequently in the defunct (but since revived online) Catholic magazine Crisis.

    • Replies: @Stephen H.
    Terry Teachout is simply the Lindsey Graham of entertainment commentary.
    I knew him when he was the out-of-work epicene adviser for the student Illini Review in the early 80s.
    , @Percy Gryce
    I used to write for Crisis in the mid '90s--under my real name of course. The original title of the magazine was Crisis in Catholicism. In either case, a terrible name, aping as they did the NAACP's century-old journal, The Crisis. I guarantee that was the choice of Michael Novak rather his co-founder the late Thomist and Notre Dame professor Ralph McInerny.

    In any event, good to see it mentioned here on iSteve.
  28. In light of the big SNL retrospective that aired last week (with huge media buzz) this article from Commentary seems even dumber.

    The “stiff” goyische white guys held their own yesterday and they hold their own today. And they just keep coming.

    Q: What would SNL be without non-Jewish white guys?

    A: Cancelled a long time ago.

  29. @Collider
    This reminds of Auster talking about the Jewish dilemma when faced with a gentile icon. It's a giant hairy ball of "...how can this be? WE are the CHOSEN!"

    Intelligent, assimilated types recognize that the gentiles produce giants and that is just the way it is in the real world. While the unassimilated bunker mentality Jews (type you find at Commentary) do not acknowledge that there have ever been any iconic gentiles. It just doesn't compute.

    Terry Teachout is about as assimilated a Jew as you can be namely a founding stock Dutch descendent from Missouri.

  30. That kind of explain Hope’s enduring popularity with gentile Americans (and Woody Allen) that Teachout finds so inexplicable: Hope and Crosby peaked in talent during WWII, which was — you can look it up in the papers — a big deal to people at the time.

    Remember, Hope was born in 1903. In WW2 he would have turned 40. Many comics today are has-beens at forty. By 1973, he was seventy. How many seventy year olds are still at the top of their game? The fact that this guy was still chugging along while closing in on 100 is amazing. So what that he had to start reading cue cards. I also like the fact that he showed an unshakable devotion to his adopted nation by entertaining troops in war zones over multiple decades. In short he was a patriot.

    BTW, add Benny Hill to the list of funny English people.

  31. @Days of Broken Arrows
    Funny you should draw the comparison between Woody Allen and Bob Hope. On the old SCTV comedy show, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas made this same connection in their own way in a skit that's still very funny:

    http://youtu.be/yjYVyyTBdh4

    Great catch. SCTV had some great sketches and this is one of the best. Far superior to the stuff SNL produced.

  32. I always enjoyed and respected Bob Hope for his incredible USO commitment. To see the moments of joy that he brought to our troops in hot spots around the world reminds me of a certain type of American spirit that got diminished over the years by a general coarsening of life.
    He had a more beneficial and long-lasting impact than so many more controversial entertainers.

  33. Norm McDonald, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, and Adam Carolla are non Jews who have been hysterically funny. So too John Candy and Dave Thomas, the latter with Rick Moranis created the hysterically funny McKenzie Brothers. Heck Charlie Sheen can be hilarious when not on coke.

    I would say Jewsh humor has long peaked. The up and comers are guys wiling to do three nights in Cleveland then four in Cincy. Likely blue collar Whites akin to Karry the Cable guy. Not too many Jews willing to travel and do Darwinian stand up for small odds. Better payoff in govt or the law.

  34. A recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher featured a predictably fawning Maher interviewing Mel Brooks. The centerpiece of the interview was an extended anecdote/joke the punchline of which was that WASP icon Cary Grant was a dope and a bore. It’s the Jew’s world, the rest of us goyim are just living in it.

    • Replies: @Mike Zwick
    Cary Grant was Jewish.
  35. During World War II, when Americans shared both a common culture and an iron determination to prevail over their common enemy, such a comedian could speak for millions of listeners from coast to coast. But that America no longer exists, and the Americans of the 21st century demand more from comedy than mere reassurance. That is why Bob Hope is forgotten today, and will remain so. All he had to offer were punchlines that no longer have punch.

    Well, I am glad they at least admitted this and did not try to retcon history with that propositional nation-notion, or that garbage that muslims were a significant part of America from before the Founding. And yes, we are aware that America no longer exists, are pissed, and would like to know at whom we can direct our ire.

  36. What’s weird is that Teachout spent a lot of the late nineties in a series of fights with black chauvinist jazz critics who wanted to excise or at least minimize all white contributions to the development of jazz. He was also one of the first critics to really rip into academic Aftocentricism so it’s not like he’s some super PC wallflower.

    • Replies: @Pincher Martin
    He also wrote a very good biography of Mencken.
    , @Anowow
    Yeah, really weird, Sam. What are your thoughts on what motivates Teachout.


    Speaking for myself, considering the development of neocon thought, it isn't surprising in the least.

    For neocons and their lackeys, blacks are only useful as cudgels to beat the goy peasants with.

    Teachout proves himself a loyal dog, or righteous mensch or whatever they call it, like some other people one could think of, and not limited to Whiskey.

    Maybe they'll be good enough to give Teachout a placque on the Mount of Olives or favorable mention on a website.

    Otherwise, Teachout sounds like something a hippie would think of for a surname. Apropros, though, for a faux-conservative like Teachout as the 60's, post-WW2 American exceptionalism and neoconservatism have common origins.
    , @SFG
    He writes for Commentary, so he has to please his masters.

    Also, if you live in New York City, it's not obvious Jews and blacks are on the same side.
    , @Stephen H.
    Terry is what a flower becomes after having been pollinated.
  37. @Mr. Anon
    This sounds like some retroactive ethnic triumphalism. Given Hope's popularity, certainly a lot of people found him funny. I remember seeing one of his TV specials in the 70s where he did a monologue and thinking it was funny - not astoundingly, hilariously so - but workmanlike enough. Of course he had a stable of writers to provide him with material.

    You want to talk about unfunny - how about Mel Brooks. Other than "The Producers" (which was not only funny, but was deftly directed) and "The Twelve Chairs", his movies were juvenile crap - nothing but potty and sex jokes for the most part, and not even good ones.

    Comedy is mostly hit-and-miss. If one is not incredibly witty (like Fred Allen for example), the best tack is to just throw out a lot of jokes - a fraction of them are bound to hit home. Hope did that. So did George Carlin, Stephen Wright, and Jay Leno. In movies, that's also the approach of the Zucker/Abrams team.

    Mel Brooks just did a one man show on HBO at age 88. He was funny.

    Also, History of the World Part 1 was funny.

    • Replies: @David R. Merridale
    Young Frankenstein was funny.
  38. “Simply: he wasn’t Jewish”

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.

    • Replies: @Clyde

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.
     
    Peak Eddie Murphy was "Raw", done from a comedy appearance. Today he is an aging lamester, still wearing an earring and being arrested while cruising for trannies ten years ago.
    , @Clyde

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.
     
    Peak Eddie Murphy was "Raw", done from a comedy appearance. Today he is an aging lamester, still wearing an earring and being arrested while cruising for trannies ten years ago.
  39. @Prof. Woland
    Frank Lorenzo once said he used a carrot and stick approach to management. He took the carrot and rammed it up their [email protected]@ and tamped it in with the stick.

    Yep, that was his philosophy.

    As a child, I had a morbid fascination with plane crashes. I was fairly precocious, so I was reading “adult” books about them when I was in the first and second grade.

    I remember reading about the Eastern Airlines L-1011 crash* in 1972 – and then, literally a couple of days later, hearing on the news that Eastern had shut down.

    This was right after the Gulf War began – mid-January 1991. That whole time period is vivid in my mind – I remember sitting in front of the TV for hours on end and reading every single word printed in the newspaper. Desert Storm was the first news event that I’m old enough to remember watching and obsessing over as it happened.

    In another strange twist, I was reading about the Lockerbie disaster when I learned that Pan Am had been grounded for good. (This was later in ’91 – early December, if I recall correctly. I remember seeing Star Trek VI in the theater on opening night a few days later.)

    *In the late ’70s, there was a cheesy TV movie about that crash starring William Shatner as an NTSB investigator. I used to have it on VHS. I might even still have it, somewhere – I never did get around to throwing away all of my old VHS tapes.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    My father spent weeks slogging around in the Everglades picking up pieces of that 1972 L-1011 crash.
  40. @Sam Haysom
    What's weird is that Teachout spent a lot of the late nineties in a series of fights with black chauvinist jazz critics who wanted to excise or at least minimize all white contributions to the development of jazz. He was also one of the first critics to really rip into academic Aftocentricism so it's not like he's some super PC wallflower.

    He also wrote a very good biography of Mencken.

    • Replies: @Zach
    Actually Teachout's biography of Mencken is unmemorable. William Manchester wrote the best Mencken biography.
  41. @Stan Adams
    Yep, that was his philosophy.

    As a child, I had a morbid fascination with plane crashes. I was fairly precocious, so I was reading "adult" books about them when I was in the first and second grade.

    I remember reading about the Eastern Airlines L-1011 crash* in 1972 - and then, literally a couple of days later, hearing on the news that Eastern had shut down.

    This was right after the Gulf War began - mid-January 1991. That whole time period is vivid in my mind - I remember sitting in front of the TV for hours on end and reading every single word printed in the newspaper. Desert Storm was the first news event that I'm old enough to remember watching and obsessing over as it happened.

    In another strange twist, I was reading about the Lockerbie disaster when I learned that Pan Am had been grounded for good. (This was later in '91 - early December, if I recall correctly. I remember seeing Star Trek VI in the theater on opening night a few days later.)

    *In the late '70s, there was a cheesy TV movie about that crash starring William Shatner as an NTSB investigator. I used to have it on VHS. I might even still have it, somewhere - I never did get around to throwing away all of my old VHS tapes.

    My father spent weeks slogging around in the Everglades picking up pieces of that 1972 L-1011 crash.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    That's very interesting. It must have been ghastly.

    And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb.

    I've met people who were involved in the ValuJet cleanup. (There wasn't much to pick up after that one - the plane disintegrated on impact.) Those aboard suffered horribly before they died, all because some workers at an aircraft-maintenance company wanted to clean out the mail room.

    (OT: A company called SabreTech was hired to renovate a few old planes that ValuJet had purchased from Europe. As part of the routine overhaul, the mechanics removed the old planes' highly-flammable chemical oxygen generators. The generators sat around the warehouse for a while, and finally ended up in the mail room. One day, a supervisor ordered the guy on duty to "get rid of all this crap that's lying around." That guy put the generators in boxes and sent them to the airport. They were loaded onto a ValuJet DC-9 bound for the airline's home base of Atlanta. At some point during takeoff or shortly thereafter, the generators fired and sparked a raging inferno that must have seemed like a literal incarnation of hell to the passengers and crew. The NTSB determined that the proximate cause of the crash was the unconscious - or dead - pilots' slumping onto the control yokes, sending the plane into a nosedive.)

    One of the guys who worked on the ValuJet disaster told me that the government disposed of hundreds if not thousands of bodies after Hurricane Andrew. Many such stories abound in the Miami area. (I've spent some time down there - lots of weird shit goes on.) It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    Some of the salvaged components from Flight 401 were used in other Eastern L-1011s.

    Over the next few years, there were numerous "ghost sightings" on planes that used those components. At one point, a flight attendant claimed to have seen the dead captain of Flight 401 telling her to check the oven in the galley - an oven that had been rescued from the wreckage in the Everglades. Supposedly the woman discovered that there was a short in the wiring and that the oven was about to burst into flames.

    There was a book about the "ghosts" of 401. I think the book was also made into a TV movie - not the one with William Shatner, but another one.

  42. In any comedy competition, I’d pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up–nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of–Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are–I’m thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don’t shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US."

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    , @Anonymous
    Monty Python isn't funny.

    Most of the people - Americans, anyway - who say they like Monty Python will admit that it's not funny if you interrogate them about it.
    , @Dave Pinsen
    The only time I remember laughing during Monty Python's The Flying Circus was their killer joke bit. Most of it wasn't funny. Same with their movies. Even the clever bits weren't "ha!" funny.

    And comparing British TV to American TV is like comparing a sprinter to a middle distance runner. The Brits only produce a handful of episodes of any of their shows.
    , @Anonymous
    "In terms of stand-up–nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of–Sam Kinison."

    Didn't he mostly just yell a lot and scream, "Bitches!"?
    , @syonredux

    Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American,
     
    You must be joking.

    On the other hand, if you are being serious, well, you're just plain wrong.The Best American comedy is quite outstanding:

    James Thurber: His brief comedy pieces are masterpieces."The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," for example, will endure forever.

    Mark Twain: Comedy with legs.It takes true genius to write comedy that still holds up a century after it was written: "The Awful German Language", Roughing It, "Extracts from Adam's Diary", etc

    The Marx Brothers: At their peak (Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, etc) some of the funniest stuff ever committed to celluloid.

    Buster Keaton: Far superior to Chaplin.Indeed, things like The General and Sherlock,JR are worth Chaplin's entire oeuvre

    Ambrose Bierce: The consummate master of hard, slashing comedy.They didn't call him "Bitter" Bierce for nothing.

    Tom Wolfe:Comedy built on brilliant social observation.No one is better at dissecting the human drive to feel socially superior: Bonfire of the Vanities, From bauhaus to our House, The Painted Word, etc
  43. “Needless to say, Richard Zoglin is well aware that Hope was not Jewish, but he only mentions it briefly in his book”

    This is a pretty terrible oversight. But what’s even worse is that the book doesn’t mention he’s not a woman AT ALL!

  44. @OsRazor
    In any comedy competition, I'd pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up--nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of--Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are--I'm thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don't shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    “Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    • Replies: @Ezra
    Not sure, but "Fawlty Towers" still holds up as hilarious.
    , @Sunbeam
    '“Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?'

    The Holy Grail of comedy actually. Literally it was like a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to the whole field.

    Some things about English comedy don't translate here though. There is some gag they did a couple of times, like some serious person such as a newscaster is reading the news, and stands up at the end wearing a tutu.

    Just doesn't translate.

    I'm sure it works the other way though too.

    Geez. Monty Python. That "None Shall Pass" skit is legendary. If there were a top ten comic skits thing, that one would be in it.

    Or is this some kind of understated sarcasm, or a point that went over my head?
    , @Paul Walker Most beautiful man ever...
    "But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?"
    To me it's about as funny as funny gets. Forty years later me and my friends still quote Python.
    This may be a Brit/Commonwealth cultural thing that you Seppos just don't get.
    , @OsRazor
    "But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?"

    The Flying Circus (TV) is hit and miss, the hits being very funny and even the misses a bit unsettling, but I'll grant that the misses far outweigh the hits. I'd say 25%/75% ration, which is ok for comedy. Some of the best skits from Flying Circus are redone nicely in the compilation movie Completely Different.

    The movies? Still hold up wonderfully. Little dates them. The first time I saw them, I was laughing uncontrollably. To get into the specifics would be to write for pages. Even now I watch them and smile. And they hold up nicely. I've introduced kids who've grown up on South Park and John Stewart to Monty Python and almost all of them find the movies hilarious. There's nothing small or smug about Monty Python.

    In very broad strokes (ignoring the creative brilliance and collaboration of the Cambridge and Oxford educated members) two reasons why Monty Python is funny, why for that matter someone like George Frazier's Flashman stuff is funny. They're about something, beautiful fables of absurdity. There's nothing navel gazing about it, the self-references are handled very deftly. Second, mechanics and execution. The British are fantastic impersonators, no one does it better, whether it's accent, attitude, you name it. I think it has everything to do with traversing the stark class markers the British grow up with. It's very important to know with whom you're dealing and how to detect the genuine article from a fake. This capacity to be mentally quick on your feet--we Americans are hopeless. Just consider how awful our Congressional performances are compared to the British Parliament.
    , @Anonymous
    Steve, have you seen "the IT crowd"? A brit sitcom that's amazing. It's available on netflix. The episode where the character's attend a gay musical might be the perfectly written sitcom episode. Every episode was written by the same guy.
  45. Mel Brooks movies are discussed and no mention of Blazing Saddles?

    Maybe the humor was juvenile, but sometimes that works.

    I’d point at the first Porky’s movie, and Airplane as examples.

  46. 13- Thursday- best Bob Hope joke. That’s from Field Marshal Slim. When the English legalized homosexuality someone asked him what he thought. ‘I think it’s very fine idea. Very fair. Just so we don’t make it mandatory.’

  47. @Steve Sailer
    "Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US."

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    Not sure, but “Fawlty Towers” still holds up as hilarious.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Right, Monty Python v. Fawlty Towers: brilliant v. funny.
  48. @Ezra
    Not sure, but "Fawlty Towers" still holds up as hilarious.

    Right, Monty Python v. Fawlty Towers: brilliant v. funny.

    • Replies: @BillWallace
    Disagree. A lot of Monty Python still makes me laugh out loud today.
    On the other hand I just started watching Fawlty Towers for the first time and I'm finding it just ok.
    , @Father O'Hara
    The first time I ever saw MP,they were doing the election skit. The Sensible Party vs the Silly party vs the Very Silly party. I thought it was very funny.I was hooked instantly. The funniest thing they did may have been simple physical comedy,John Cleese as the Minister of Silly Walks. Brilliant? Eric Idle in some weird make up that made him look like a moldering,3/4 dead ancient old hunched up man,as the obsequious Hollywood type MC. "No one could be more honored than I..." Funny? Funny as a mutha*****!
  49. @Steve Sailer
    "Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US."

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    ‘“Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?’

    The Holy Grail of comedy actually. Literally it was like a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to the whole field.

    Some things about English comedy don’t translate here though. There is some gag they did a couple of times, like some serious person such as a newscaster is reading the news, and stands up at the end wearing a tutu.

    Just doesn’t translate.

    I’m sure it works the other way though too.

    Geez. Monty Python. That “None Shall Pass” skit is legendary. If there were a top ten comic skits thing, that one would be in it.

    Or is this some kind of understated sarcasm, or a point that went over my head?

    • Replies: @John Derbyshire

    I’m sure it works the other way though too.
     
    Yep. A recurrent feature of my English childhood was sitting listening/watching some Christmas Special featuring Bob Hope, the adults all grumbling: "Why do the Yanks think he's funny? He's not funny."

    For the record, I didn't find Hope that funny; but then, his jokes were mainly for adults.

    I L-O-V-E-D Abbott and Costello, though.
    , @Boomstick
    Python is interesting as comedy because it's so often a spoof of logic. Perhaps that's why it's so beloved of the nerd classes. To cite a few examples: the Witch Investigation, the Argument Clinic, the Holy Hand Grenade, and the Stoning Scene in Life of Brian. It's brilliant, clever stuff, but in a specific way that stands apart from much of the rest of comedy.

    Extra World War T content:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFBOQzSk14c
  50. The most deplorable one [AKA "Fourth doorman of the apocalypse"] says:

    Isn’t this known as revisionism? They did a lot of that in the USSR.

  51. Let’s face it. Hope wasn’t funny. Jewish ethnic chauvinism doesn’t change that. His stuff was stale and corny as hell. Hell, I don’t think Hope himself thought he was funny. I don’t think he even gave a shit. He didn’t care as long as he made money.

  52. “In any comedy competition, I’d pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish.”

    Rickles and Dangerfield are hard to beat.

    • Replies: @Paul Walker Most beautiful man ever...
    "Rickles and Dangerfield are hard to beat."
    Don Rickles? Rickles is as funny as a Plantar Wart. Dangerfield was sad to watch.
  53. A lot of old comedy are not dirty. People like filth in today’s comedy.

    No one much remembers Johnny Carson either.

    Abbott and Costello are forgotten.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    "Abbott and Costello are forgotten."

    The Susquehanna Hat Company sketch is immortal.

    "Bagel Street ? Don't talk to me about Bagel Street ...."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THZV5g1CNZM

    One of the problems with a lot of Python is that the old cultural references - working class women in headscarves and curlers, City types with umbrellas and bowlers - are vanishing or vanished. There's an early scene in Life Of Brian where the Judean Popular Front (or whoever) are writing "Romans Go Home" in Latin on a wall - a Roman centurion spots a grammatical error in the Latin and makes them write it properly - on the wall - 50 times. That's not going to mean a lot to anyone whose schooldays were after the late 1960s.
  54. The first time I ever went to a movie I saw Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.” I was six and my parents, for some ill-advised reason, took me. It struck me even at that age that something about Allen wasn’t right. Many years later I realized that it was his hyper-Jewish outlook that bothered me. This wallowing in illness, like a nihilistic, ungracious version of Charlie Chaplin. Nauseating.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Annie Hall was hilarious. Probably the best comedy of the '70s.

    Interesting, though, that Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the '80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn't a comedian.
  55. @OsRazor
    In any comedy competition, I'd pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up--nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of--Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are--I'm thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don't shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    Monty Python isn’t funny.

    Most of the people – Americans, anyway – who say they like Monty Python will admit that it’s not funny if you interrogate them about it.

    • Replies: @Prof. Woland
    Non-sequitur or the off the wall humor the like the Brits do is better spoofing a formal uptight culture such as was the rule during the British Empire. In an informal, no rules type culture like ours, there is noting to really contrast the two with so the mockery comes off as snark. One reason the current liberal attacks on neo-cons fall so flat is that they are the ones who should be getting lampooned.
  56. Is Commentary TRYING to produce antisemitism?

    I am not naturally inclined to what Derb calls “The Jew Thing,” but this is enough to make me want to buy the complete works of Kevin MacDonald.

  57. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Monty python was/is plenty funny in the ha ha sense i.e. belly laughs, and not just innovative sense. The TV skits and the movies right up to A FISH CALLED WANDA.

    Also, as general observation, the writers deserve credit but nobody cares about unknowns performing famous comedy routines. The audience wants stars.

  58. @BehindTheLines
    Drama is good at crossing borders and temporal gaps. Comedy is much more specific to time and place. I've tried watching Chaplin movies, and they don't do anything for me.

    And I don't find Bob Hope to be the least bit funny.

    Very true. Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn’t amuse many people today.
    But neither would Don Rickles – as another poster mentioned – or Jackie Mason or Lenny Bruce or Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    " Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn’t amuse many people today. But neither would ... Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.

  59. Jews are often talk about how great Lenny Bruce was or how great Sid Caesar was, but they don’t often talk about how great the Three Stooges were.

    Why is that, do you suppose?

    • Replies: @dcite
    Seinfeld does talk about Stooges. A Romanian gymnast made him promise to tell her more about Stooges someday.
  60. @Steve Sailer
    My father spent weeks slogging around in the Everglades picking up pieces of that 1972 L-1011 crash.

    That’s very interesting. It must have been ghastly.

    And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb.

    I’ve met people who were involved in the ValuJet cleanup. (There wasn’t much to pick up after that one – the plane disintegrated on impact.) Those aboard suffered horribly before they died, all because some workers at an aircraft-maintenance company wanted to clean out the mail room.

    (OT: A company called SabreTech was hired to renovate a few old planes that ValuJet had purchased from Europe. As part of the routine overhaul, the mechanics removed the old planes’ highly-flammable chemical oxygen generators. The generators sat around the warehouse for a while, and finally ended up in the mail room. One day, a supervisor ordered the guy on duty to “get rid of all this crap that’s lying around.” That guy put the generators in boxes and sent them to the airport. They were loaded onto a ValuJet DC-9 bound for the airline’s home base of Atlanta. At some point during takeoff or shortly thereafter, the generators fired and sparked a raging inferno that must have seemed like a literal incarnation of hell to the passengers and crew. The NTSB determined that the proximate cause of the crash was the unconscious – or dead – pilots’ slumping onto the control yokes, sending the plane into a nosedive.)

    One of the guys who worked on the ValuJet disaster told me that the government disposed of hundreds if not thousands of bodies after Hurricane Andrew. Many such stories abound in the Miami area. (I’ve spent some time down there – lots of weird shit goes on.) It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    Some of the salvaged components from Flight 401 were used in other Eastern L-1011s.

    Over the next few years, there were numerous “ghost sightings” on planes that used those components. At one point, a flight attendant claimed to have seen the dead captain of Flight 401 telling her to check the oven in the galley – an oven that had been rescued from the wreckage in the Everglades. Supposedly the woman discovered that there was a short in the wiring and that the oven was about to burst into flames.

    There was a book about the “ghosts” of 401. I think the book was also made into a TV movie – not the one with William Shatner, but another one.

    • Replies: @Another Canadian
    Here's a very groovy 1970s clip with Bob Welch talking about the Ghosts of Flight 401 (notice a very Wolfmanny Wolfman Jack):

    groovy video here

    My sister-in-law is a retired Northwest flight attendant and she claims the Ghosts of Flight 401 created a bit of a buzz amongst flight crews back in the day.
    , @Another Canadian
    Here's a groovy film clip from the 70s with Bob Welch singing about the Ghosts of Flight 401.
  61. @OsRazor
    In any comedy competition, I'd pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up--nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of--Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are--I'm thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don't shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    The only time I remember laughing during Monty Python’s The Flying Circus was their killer joke bit. Most of it wasn’t funny. Same with their movies. Even the clever bits weren’t “ha!” funny.

    And comparing British TV to American TV is like comparing a sprinter to a middle distance runner. The Brits only produce a handful of episodes of any of their shows.

  62. @Steve Sailer
    Right, Monty Python v. Fawlty Towers: brilliant v. funny.

    Disagree. A lot of Monty Python still makes me laugh out loud today.
    On the other hand I just started watching Fawlty Towers for the first time and I’m finding it just ok.

  63. Steve,
    In noting that what used to be funny, no longer is,
    you say “Sic semper comicus”.
    Your Latin needs a little tweaking.
    You are confusing
    [1] Sic transit gloria mundi
    = Thus passes the glory of the world
    = What used to be popular, no longer is
    with
    [2] Sic semper tyrannis
    = Thus always to tyrants
    This was shouted by the _avant la lettre_ vaudevillian
    John Wilkes Booth shortly after his encounter with
    President Lincoln during the play “Our American Cousin”.
    (When was the most recent performance of this play?
    Isn’t it time for a Neil Simon-like revival?)

    Maybe a more Ciceronian version of your quip would be
    “Sic transit gloria comici”
    = Thus passes the 15 minutes of the stand-up comic.

  64. I, too, used to have a morbid fascination for plane crashes. Still do, if I’m honest. The Eastern flight gave me the utter heeby jeebies–yes, I’ve seen the Shatner film, but far more terrifying is the re-enactment that was made to train flight crews. You hear actors reading the transcript, fussing over a damn bulb that won’t go off, as you watch the altimeter click off feet while they flew the plane into the ground.”The last words of the transcript: “Hey, we did something to the altitude.” “We’re still at 2000, right?” Wrong. Crash.

    “And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb.”

    No. It was not. That’s why they created a training film. (It’s also why they added a master alarm alert if the autopilot is turned off below a certain altitude.)

    That Teachout article is amazingly offensive. Hope wasn’t a nice guy, but in addition to inventing stand up comedy, he was the first comedian to break the fourth wall, and long before Carson was making jokes about his jokes falling flat. And his verbal humor was exceptional, even if it was put to use in films that today are quite silly. Much of his humor only seems old hat because everyone copied and improved on the original–which they could only do because he did it first.

    It’s like watching the 1933 movie 42nd Street, when the director tells Ruby Keeler that she’s going out as a chorus girl, but coming back a STAR. Yeah, it’s been done to death. AFTER. Not before.

    • Replies: @donut
    The Smithsonian Channel has a series called Air Disasters . There are a couple of similar shows available on Youtube. While pilot error is frequently the cause , many times the cause is some ridiculous electrical or mechanical malfunction . Bad design is occasionally sited which seems surprising on the face of it what with all the computers involved in design and over a century of experience but airplanes are incredibly complex machines . Watching the videos of the crash investigations I was impressed by the skills and determination of the investigators . The skill and professionalism of the pilots that pull through are also remarkable . US Airways Flight 1549 , piloted by Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger was made a big deal of and rightly so because he landed in the Hudson and they could get cameras on the spot , but there are dozens of other pilots out there who have pulled off even more impressive saves with only the recognition of their peers and the passengers whose lives they saved .

    The plane in this video came to a bad and kind of creepy end . It's about 47 min long if anyone is interested.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLN5D4lOlos

    As for comedians it's all a matter of personal taste . I suppose even Don Rickles has fans.
  65. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.”

    I have never understood the popularity of Borscht belt comics. Did/do they really appeal to many people? My impression has always been that their comedy very often seems forced and quite crass.

  66. @jackson
    The first time I ever went to a movie I saw Woody Allen's "Sleeper." I was six and my parents, for some ill-advised reason, took me. It struck me even at that age that something about Allen wasn't right. Many years later I realized that it was his hyper-Jewish outlook that bothered me. This wallowing in illness, like a nihilistic, ungracious version of Charlie Chaplin. Nauseating.

    Annie Hall was hilarious. Probably the best comedy of the ’70s.

    Interesting, though, that Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the ’80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn’t a comedian.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "Annie Hall" was made by its editor in postproduction. It was originally a 2 hour and 20 minute murder mystery, but then the editor convinced Allen to drop the entire crime part (which resurfaced years later as Manhattan Murder Mystery) and make it into a very short romantic comedy by adding some voiceovers.

    I would guess that being a playwright is harder than being a screenwriter in that just getting characters on and off stage and the like is an ordeal in the theater because you can't cut. The word is spelled "playwright" like "wheelwright," which rightly reflects the high degree of craftsmanship required, whereas screenwriters (notice the different spelling) can rely upon editing to get them in and out fast.

    They're maybe going to give the Best Picture Oscar to "Birdman" for being a movie with few cuts, even though plays are like that all the time.
  67. Monty Python not funny?

  68. @Dave Pinsen
    Annie Hall was hilarious. Probably the best comedy of the '70s.

    Interesting, though, that Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the '80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn't a comedian.

    “Annie Hall” was made by its editor in postproduction. It was originally a 2 hour and 20 minute murder mystery, but then the editor convinced Allen to drop the entire crime part (which resurfaced years later as Manhattan Murder Mystery) and make it into a very short romantic comedy by adding some voiceovers.

    I would guess that being a playwright is harder than being a screenwriter in that just getting characters on and off stage and the like is an ordeal in the theater because you can’t cut. The word is spelled “playwright” like “wheelwright,” which rightly reflects the high degree of craftsmanship required, whereas screenwriters (notice the different spelling) can rely upon editing to get them in and out fast.

    They’re maybe going to give the Best Picture Oscar to “Birdman” for being a movie with few cuts, even though plays are like that all the time.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Interesting - had no idea about the murder business cut from Annie Hall. That would have been a mess if it had been left in.

    Moonstruck is pretty much a perfect movie. Shanley's script was great, but what a cast. Shanley's probably part of a relatively small group of Tony-winning playwrights who are also Oscar-winning screenwriters.
    , @Anonymous
    Interesting. I had no idea about that regarding Annie Hall. You would never know just from the movie.

    I wonder if it would have been like Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I liked but which seemed disjointed and like two different movies in one.
  69. @Steve Sailer
    "Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US."

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    “But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?”
    To me it’s about as funny as funny gets. Forty years later me and my friends still quote Python.
    This may be a Brit/Commonwealth cultural thing that you Seppos just don’t get.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But if all five performers in Monty Python had been as funny as Cleese, the show would have been funnier.

    It's a little bit like how Wes Anderson movies, whether you think they are funny or not overall, are obviously funniest when Owen Wilson is onscreen.

  70. @OsRazor
    In any comedy competition, I'd pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up--nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of--Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are--I'm thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don't shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    “In terms of stand-up–nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of–Sam Kinison.”

    Didn’t he mostly just yell a lot and scream, “Bitches!”?

  71. @Paul Walker Most beautiful man ever...
    "But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?"
    To me it's about as funny as funny gets. Forty years later me and my friends still quote Python.
    This may be a Brit/Commonwealth cultural thing that you Seppos just don't get.

    But if all five performers in Monty Python had been as funny as Cleese, the show would have been funnier.

    It’s a little bit like how Wes Anderson movies, whether you think they are funny or not overall, are obviously funniest when Owen Wilson is onscreen.

  72. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Tom Regan
    Very true. Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn't amuse many people today.
    But neither would Don Rickles - as another poster mentioned - or Jackie Mason or Lenny Bruce or Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    ” Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn’t amuse many people today. But neither would … Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    True about Joan Rivers. One of her standup specials was on cable last year or the year before. Hilarious. There was really no fall-off in her humor over a long career.

    Jackie Mason I saw on Broadway 10 or 12 years ago. He was very funny, and an equal offender politically.
    , @Zippy

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.
     
    I think humor is very individual, that's all I can say about this discussion. Because I remember turning to Lady Zippy and saying "was Joan Rivers ever funny"? And she says, "no."

    But I thought Seinfeld was hilarious. And while I hate hate hate Sarah Silverman, I do think she can be funny.
  73. @Steve Sailer
    "Annie Hall" was made by its editor in postproduction. It was originally a 2 hour and 20 minute murder mystery, but then the editor convinced Allen to drop the entire crime part (which resurfaced years later as Manhattan Murder Mystery) and make it into a very short romantic comedy by adding some voiceovers.

    I would guess that being a playwright is harder than being a screenwriter in that just getting characters on and off stage and the like is an ordeal in the theater because you can't cut. The word is spelled "playwright" like "wheelwright," which rightly reflects the high degree of craftsmanship required, whereas screenwriters (notice the different spelling) can rely upon editing to get them in and out fast.

    They're maybe going to give the Best Picture Oscar to "Birdman" for being a movie with few cuts, even though plays are like that all the time.

    Interesting – had no idea about the murder business cut from Annie Hall. That would have been a mess if it had been left in.

    Moonstruck is pretty much a perfect movie. Shanley’s script was great, but what a cast. Shanley’s probably part of a relatively small group of Tony-winning playwrights who are also Oscar-winning screenwriters.

  74. “Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the ’80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn’t a comedian.”

    One of the longest laughs I’ve ever experienced in the theater–just sheer howling joy–was when John Cleese galloped up the stairs, struck a pose, and said “Champagne!”–then screamed as the woman turned out to be his wife. Plus, the recurring gag of Kevin Kline saying Aaaasssssshoole! and “Don’t call me stupid”. Speaking of Monty Python. Maybe not a great comedy, but stupendously funny at its best.

    Then there’s Spinal Tap and the great Princess Bride, speaking of Jewish and Sid Caesar via the next generation of Carl Reiner (who I always thought far funnier than both Mel and Sid).

    Ghostbusters is no small achievement, either.

    Wait. Airplane was made in the 80s. Game over.

    I think Moonstruck was by far the most prestigious great comedy made in the 80s, and certainly the most romantic. And very, very good. But “best” is a big word, even in the 80s, which was a notoriously weak decade for great films. I’d certainly put it in the top 10 but leave it at that.

    I also didn’t know that about Annie Hall. Not sure what it says about me that I like Manhattan Murder Mystery much more than Woody’s most famous film.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    I don't know that '80s films were that weak, but I'd say Moonstruck was one of the top-5 movies of the decade, and the one that holds up best to rewatching today.
    , @Melendwyr
    The Princess Bride, while being very gently humorous, isn't what I'd call a comedy.

    Now Spaceballs, that's a comedy!
  75. @Anonymous
    " Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn’t amuse many people today. But neither would ... Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.

    True about Joan Rivers. One of her standup specials was on cable last year or the year before. Hilarious. There was really no fall-off in her humor over a long career.

    Jackie Mason I saw on Broadway 10 or 12 years ago. He was very funny, and an equal offender politically.

  76. Is ‘Teachout’ a real surname?

    If so, from which land did it originate?, is it a transliteration of something else?
    Anyhow, it sounds ridiculous, as it is the converse of that phrase beloved of 1960s lefties the ‘teach-in’.

  77. Announcing … The First iSteve Video!

    Shot in my office:

    http://youtu.be/yXS55JmtUNM?t=2m47s

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Very nice! You've obviously got your paperwork very well organized. This is a splendid start to the iSteve audios/videos that, I believe, you said you were going to make!
  78. To be funny you have to be an outsider, but not too far out. You have to able to mock yourself so that you can mock others without seeming arrogant. British are brilliant at humor because of the class system. The best British humor often comes from the upper middle class who have to be both deferent to the aristocracy, but also loathe them. This creates that tension between mocking others and mocking yourself that works. Canadian WASPs have a similar advantage because they are permanent underdogs to the US. People who want to climb up the social ladder, like educated middle class Brits or Jewish immigrants, tend to notice things more because they spend time trying to figure out how the system works. Jewish humor had this in spades as long as Jews were underdogs. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a funny Jew in modern America. While British right wing humor is generally hilarious, American right-wing humor tends to fail because American conservatives can’t grasp the concept of being self-deprecating, they often just come off as mean and arrogant. Steve Sailer, btw, gets this and is one of the most consistently entertaining writers on the political Right because he is able to strike just the right tone of underdog nostalgia and self awareness of his own shortcomings. Most continental humor, whether based in left or right wing, tends to be awful, because most Europeans take themselves too seriously. German humor, I have noticed, tends to just be very mean, whether it is left wing elites mocking Bavarian rustics, or right wingers mocking Turks. Italian and French humor is rooted in clowning around and slapstick, the humor of the peasant marketplace. Unlike a British or Jewish comedian who make you think he is really mocking himself, the Italian or French comedian puts a real or symbolic mask on before he plays the fool.

    • Replies: @dcite
    Masks are an integral part of Italian humor especially. Also, the French disguise themselves--Marcel Marceau.
    Masked traveling bands of comedians came from Italy to England in the early 1700s, each mask representing a different "type" and thus masked, they played for cleverly stupid.
    , @Anonymous
    The best British humor is ultra dry. Jewish humor can be very dry but it's never quite as dry as British humor. Jews tend to be too expressive and extroverted in their comedy to be as dry as the Brits. They'll be doing very dry stuff but there's always a giveaway with loud exclamations, certain gestures and mannerism - it's like a big wink to the audience. Larry David for example will be doing very dry comedy but will have that smart aleck look on his face the whole time acknowledging that it's dry stuff. While the Brits seem to revel in maintaining the stiff upper lip.

    German humor is not really humor as we understand it. Germans have no sense of irony and the idea of ordinary people or ordinary situations being funny is alien to them. To them, being funny means wearing a funny hat and saying silly things. It's like you have to wear a funny hat or costume and behave and speak in exaggerated ways to be funny. That and screaming insults or falling down the stairs gives you an idea of what German humor is like.
  79. @education realist
    "Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the ’80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn’t a comedian."

    One of the longest laughs I've ever experienced in the theater--just sheer howling joy--was when John Cleese galloped up the stairs, struck a pose, and said "Champagne!"--then screamed as the woman turned out to be his wife. Plus, the recurring gag of Kevin Kline saying Aaaasssssshoole! and "Don't call me stupid". Speaking of Monty Python. Maybe not a great comedy, but stupendously funny at its best.

    Then there's Spinal Tap and the great Princess Bride, speaking of Jewish and Sid Caesar via the next generation of Carl Reiner (who I always thought far funnier than both Mel and Sid).

    Ghostbusters is no small achievement, either.

    Wait. Airplane was made in the 80s. Game over.

    I think Moonstruck was by far the most prestigious great comedy made in the 80s, and certainly the most romantic. And very, very good. But "best" is a big word, even in the 80s, which was a notoriously weak decade for great films. I'd certainly put it in the top 10 but leave it at that.

    I also didn't know that about Annie Hall. Not sure what it says about me that I like Manhattan Murder Mystery much more than Woody's most famous film.

    I don’t know that ’80s films were that weak, but I’d say Moonstruck was one of the top-5 movies of the decade, and the one that holds up best to rewatching today.

  80. What chance have you got against someone with stonecutter connections ?

  81. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Saying that Anglo-Saxons are ‘not funny’ is just plain, well, ridiculous.
    What other ethnicity could, for example, come up with such a hilarious funster as Benny Hill?

    Not to mention Kenny Everett, Dick Emery, the Two Ronnie’s, Morecambe and Wise, Bernard Manning, Dad’s Army, The Goodies, Led Dawson etc etc.
    Was the very excellent TV sitcom ‘Shelley’ starring Hywel Bennett ever broadcast on US TV? A 1980s show concerning the travails of a professional layabout, Shelley, in my opinion was the finest piece of UK television comedy written in the last few decades.
    Also noteworthy was ‘Rising Damp’ starring Leonard Rossiter and ‘Porridge’ starring Ronnie Barker.
    British TV comedy in the 70s, the golden age of TV, had an obsession with jaded, cynical, grumpy middle aged men casting tired comment on the world. It was a bit like Steve, but with more cynicism and pathos.

    • Replies: @ganderson
    IMO one of the funniest shows of all time was "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" GREAT! and SUPER!
  82. “Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint:”

    Armando Iannucci (Italo-Scot) doing actual Powerpoint comedy. Effing Brilliant.

  83. ‘“Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    Funny, because this isn’t the same in Britain. For people growing up in Britain through the 80’s and Nineties into the early 2000’s, I think far more people would cite Blackadder, satirist Chris Morris (especially his ‘Brasseye’ series’) and ‘The League of Gentlemen.’

    These are the comedy programmes that I constantly hear in everyday speech and conversation, yet these are the shows that don’t seem to have meant so much in America.

    • Replies: @Harold
    I wonder if how many of those American women who really like Dr House have ever seen Hugh Laurie on Blackadder.
  84. @Steve Sailer
    Announcing ... The First iSteve Video!

    Shot in my office:

    http://youtu.be/yXS55JmtUNM?t=2m47s

    Very nice! You’ve obviously got your paperwork very well organized. This is a splendid start to the iSteve audios/videos that, I believe, you said you were going to make!

  85. @Priss Factor
    "In any comedy competition, I’d pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish."

    Rickles and Dangerfield are hard to beat.

    “Rickles and Dangerfield are hard to beat.”
    Don Rickles? Rickles is as funny as a Plantar Wart. Dangerfield was sad to watch.

  86. I’m Jewish, with a Jewish brother who did standup that was more brilliant than funny, so he is now a computer programmer, and we’re both more sympathetic to the Sailer perspective than the median Jew. On the other hand, I have mutual Facebook friends with Terry Teachout, know a number of Commentary writers, and have distant relatives who made a good living on 1970s tv schlock you’ve heard of.

    My brother and I think Monty Python is funny, even if we didn’t immediately get the full gist of the Semprini joke and other humor tied to early 1970s Britain. So too Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, early Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Larry David, the Marx Brothers, Don Rickles, NBC-era David Letterman, Chris Elliott, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chris Rock standup, and Arrested Development. My brother loves Bob Hope, Lenny Bruce, and the Three Stooges; I don’t. I like the Lenny Bruce Jewish/goyish routine, and very little else Bruce did. I can’t stand The Big Bang Theory, though I’m probably its key nerdy Jewish demographic. Funny is funny, and I don’t understand the anti-Semitism of some of the commenters here who criticize comedians as too Jewish or the philo-Semitism of some writers. On the other hand, I hated Top Five and loved Annie Hall, so who am I to dispute others’ tastes for their own personal affinities?

    Hope had two comedy careers: the 1940s movie star, and the much longer career as a standup gag teller. I appreciate, but don’t particularly like either: both are painfully dated to my sensibilities. The 1970s sketches seem particularly hackish get-off-my-lawn stuff (especially compared to, say, contemporaries like Carol Burnett); look up the YouTube video of his hippy sketch, which The Simpsons hilariously parodied. But I don’t get Teachout’s critique. As Sailer correctly points out, Woody Allen successfully translated the Bob Hope persona to his early movies; and surely a significant percentage of Hope’s filing cabinet index cards of jokes were written by Jews, if not a majority. My favorite Hope joke is “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it’s known in my house, Passover.” Hope hardly lacked for Jewish affinities. I think Teachout’s real complaint is the now politically incorrect gay bashing in some of Hope’s jokes, but that’s less likely to sell to Commentary. (Separately, Hope told thousands of jokes. No matter how hackish he was, I’d be surprised if someone couldn’t cull a couple of dozen of good ones from that. I appreciate what he did for the USO, but I don’t see how anyone my age or younger can sit through one of his 90-minute tv specials.)

    • Replies: @Don't drone me bro!

    Funny is funny, and I don’t understand the anti-Semitism of some of the commenters here who criticize comedians as too Jewish ...
     
    Steve likes to bring up topics that can't be broached in polite society (with the implicit question: why is that?); the commenters attracted to these topics are living answers that question.
  87. @Steve Sailer
    Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint:

    http://youtu.be/G1yc-19z14s?t=2m14s

    “Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint”

    I love his frequent snorting and throat-clearing that punctuate his presentation. He’s very funny. I’ve never heard of him.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley's "Treasurer's Report" in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote "Jaws."

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley's bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

    , @Steve Sailer
    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley's "Treasurer's Report" in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote "Jaws."

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley's bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

  88. A lot of people seem to regard comedy and comics as a zero-sum proposition: funny vs. not funny (this includes, embraces “dated vs. current, filthy vs. earthy, and so on).

    But comedies and comics are like anything else: each one has a genre, or niche.

    If I recall correctly, the thing I find gratuitous about Hitchens’ scathing piece on Bob Hope is that Hitchens’ tried to smear Hope as a “good clean fun” kind of comic, or as a “Communion breakfast comic,” as if there was something odious about Hope’s broadly appealing, genially ribbing brand of humor. Hitchens decided to dismiss or overlook that Hope’s comedy is genial – it’s not cutting, not cutting-edge, not “transgressive.’” Of course Hope’s schtick was what you could call “family entertainment,” yet Hitchens found that not just unfunny, but somehow offensive to the intelligent – to the intelligentsia and their pretension to know-it-all, including their pretension to know what is appropriate or desirable. And I think that’s exactly why G.I.s loved Hope – because Hope didn’t appeal to snobs, because instead Hope did bring them family entertainment, gave the G.I.’s a warm fuzzy family sense in the middle of their faraway, lonely, and too often harrowing, violent trials: the G.I.s didn’t want acid humor or “transgressive” aggression because those boys pined for the security and tranquility of home, and Hope delivered home to them. Hope also paraded attractive young women for the boys as well, but the boys didn’t go on to revere those cheesecake ladies, they went on to feel lifelong gratitude to Hope, despite almost none of those veterans being able to recall or recite a single one of the Hope gags they’d witnessed when they were in the service. But then Hitchens never wore the uniform, never had to be involuntarily stuck in one crummy or horrible place, bereft the entire time of privacy and of agency over his daily doings and of agency over his own mortal destiny – when someone’s in that jam, they don’t want the comedy of conflict, they want the comedy of Mom’s unavailable prissy dinner table, they ache for the comedy of sleeping safe in your own bed of clean, sweet-smelling sheets at-home: in their overseas world of war’s unrelenting, monumental monotonous obscenity, the G.I.’s craved the comedy of decency.

    Back to the genre, niche nature of comedy ( and granting that de gustibus non est disputandum), for example, I’ve found that most of the time I see the Three Stooges, I find them to be pathetic and boring because their schtick is juvenile slapstick, but every eighth or tenth time I see them, they crack me up. So even your mood – the niche that you’re in – can influence how you respond to a comic act (and, indeed, to a dramatic act). Also, and this jives with my Dad’s expression that “there’s a time and a place for everything,” there are times, or events, to which one kind of comedy is fitting, and other kinds aren’t – when other kinds fall flat or, indeed, offend gratuitously. No one tells penis jokes at a Communion breakfast, and no one tells Communion breakfast jokes down at the Improv: a time and a place for everything, and that’s how decent, civilized people arrange their lives and labor to form the world they have to live in. This is why comics whose entire schtick is monotonously “transgressive” have a niche audience, a niche market – their schtick is fitting for just one kind of time and one kind of place.

    For example, one of the funniest Borscht Belt comics was Myron Cohen, who told long-story jokes that gave deep insight into human foibles, and not just Jewish foibles. Buddy Hackett’s Borscht Belt schtick was, on the other hand, often as blue as blue gets – way beyond risqué. But then there’s a time for a Myron Cohen, and there’s time for a Buddy Hackett. Same is true for gentile acts: there’s a time for a Gallagher and there’s a time for a George Carlin, a time for the articulateness of a Nipsey Russell and a time for the street-sense of a Richard Pryor. And I think the maturity of the audience has lot to do with dismissing, or with appreciating, that “time and a place for” sense of comedy.

    Mel Brooks’ work veers drastically in quality and in theme as well. I just watched his High Anxiety and found it as dull as ditchwater, singularly unfunny…except for Brooks use of the movie as a vehicle for takes, gags on Alfred Hitchcock’s style, but then you have to know Hitchcock’s cinematic pedigree for you to get Brooks’ gag-takes on Hitchcock. Blazing Saddles is, far and away, Brooks’ best film, not least due to the opulent talent of Madeline Kahn, whose send-up of Marlene Dietrich is undyingly spot on, but this movie is also Brooks’ most thematically consistent and possessed of perfect pacing and razor-sharp characterizations (as opposed to a series of hammy put-ons). Then there’s Spaceballs, which is so juvenile that, as with the Three Stooges, I have to be in the right mood for it to make me laugh. To me The Producers has fine moments, but it suffers from too many spells that drag: its pacing discourages rapt viewing.

    Monty Python’s BBC-TV schtick was conceptual, not situational, not topical, and that’s why most people find it less than belly-laugh-grade. Yet, keeping in mind “a time and place for everything,” the troupe also did brilliant situational work, as in A Fish Called Wanda and in Fawlty Towers. They proved themselves versatile beyond the repute of their brief BBC-TV series, which is the bit of their careers that most people focus on, often exclusively.

    Shifting now to my own taste, the one hugely, enduringly popular comic I never found even remotely amusing is…Lucille Ball. Her ponderous, exhaustively plodding set-pieces never came within light-years of my funny bone. And don’t even get me started on the sheer anger and bile of Sam Kinison – there was something very hurt, very twisted, and relentlessly unforgiving in that poor man, so that to me nothing of his ever seemed to be comedy but was captured instead by what my Dad would say to someone like Kinison:

    Dad would pretend to halt, and pour a sudden look of intense sympathetic concern into the misanthrope’s eyes and say, “Gee, it seems, maybe, your rectal nerve is crossed with your optic nerve….”

    “Really? Is that…is that bad?”

    “It gave you a shitty outlook on life.”

    • Replies: @Harry Baldwin
    in their overseas world of war’s unrelenting, monumental monotonous obscenity, the G.I.’s craved the comedy of decency.

    I wonder if that's still the case? I saw a Louis CK routine he performed for troops in Iraq and it was full of his scatological material. Louis usually does a mixture of social commentary and lowbrow stuff, but for the troops he went full lowbrow. I guess that's an indication of what he thinks they like.

    Unlike others here, I find a lot of Louis CK's stuff funny. I don't understand the unequivocal assertions--"Monty Python is not funny!" "Annie Hall is not funny!"--when obviously other people disagree. It's no use arguing about taste.
  89. @Al Gore Rhythms
    ‘“Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    Funny, because this isn't the same in Britain. For people growing up in Britain through the 80's and Nineties into the early 2000's, I think far more people would cite Blackadder, satirist Chris Morris (especially his 'Brasseye' series') and 'The League of Gentlemen.'

    These are the comedy programmes that I constantly hear in everyday speech and conversation, yet these are the shows that don't seem to have meant so much in America.

    I wonder if how many of those American women who really like Dr House have ever seen Hugh Laurie on Blackadder.

    • Replies: @Glaivester
    Hugh Laurie really has two major character types he is known for: the fop (his Blackadder characters, Bertie Wooster) and the jerk (his character in Sense and Sensibility, House).
  90. How can it be that noone has linked to this Bob Hope joke yet?

    • Replies: @Another Canadian
    My keyboard just got a coffee shower after seeing that video clip.
    , @donut
    Who says his humor isn't still topical today ?
  91. @Anonymous
    "Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint"

    I love his frequent snorting and throat-clearing that punctuate his presentation. He's very funny. I've never heard of him.

    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley’s “Treasurer’s Report” in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote “Jaws.”

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley’s bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

    • Replies: @Kylie
    @ Steve Sailer,

    "Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber."

    Knowing of this connection between the two writers and loving The Thurber Carnival, I picked up a copy of Benchley's A Chip Off the Old Benchley. I found it flat and painfully unfunny, couldn't even get through it. I could imagine it working if Benchley had acted it out but not just as read.

    By contrast, you are consistently funny. Almost as funny as Henry James.
    , @Dana Thompson
    Benchley was a wonderful writer. When I was a little kid in the late 1950's I ransacked the local libraries trying to track down every one of his published works. I still remember being on the phone to the circulation desk at the Ohio State University trying to learn if they had "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield" on their shelves. I couldn't seem to make myself understood - I still can't imagine why.
  92. @Anonymous
    "Robert Benchley on how business presentations were done before Powerpoint"

    I love his frequent snorting and throat-clearing that punctuate his presentation. He's very funny. I've never heard of him.

    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley’s “Treasurer’s Report” in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote “Jaws.”

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley’s bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

  93. I really wish Steve would stop approving comments asking “Is so and so Jewish?” It’s asinine.

    Better yet, lets go back to the Scots-Irish thing from Blogspot.

    • Replies: @James Kabala
    Sorry, I was actually trying to argue that Teachout was probably not Jewish, since comments were already assuming that he was.
    , @James Kabala
    Sorry, I was actually trying to argue that Teachout was probably not Jewish, since comments were already assuming that he was.
  94. […] [email protected] (Vox) Steve Sailer observes an almost inexplicable slam on a great American comedian:Hope is of real value as a chronicle of a career. For even though Bob […]

  95. @Hugh
    "Simply: he wasn't Jewish"

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.

    Peak Eddie Murphy was “Raw”, done from a comedy appearance. Today he is an aging lamester, still wearing an earring and being arrested while cruising for trannies ten years ago.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke. Humor depends a lot upon surprise, but there's both specific surprise and meta-surprise. After awhile people start getting bored with any individual personality's jokes. They can't necessarily anticipate the punchlines, but they can, post hoc, see where the punchline was coming from: "I see what you did there" is not a promising reaction.
  96. So. Comedy. And Jews.

    The outstanding traits of the Jewish people (compared to other European groups), tend to be:

    – Intelligent
    – Neurotic
    – Talkative / Attention Loving
    – Success and Power Oriented

    They’re also very urban, as a consequence of their personality.

    Once you get into the idea of doing comedy as a thing – and there are some cultures where this is “not done, old boy, simply not done”, the English professional classes from the 1930s or even the 1960s, or a Chinese American recent immigrant background – to a certain degree I guess, if you are just fairly smart and willing to stand in the middle of a room full of people and talk and talk until you find what works and gives you the success and power you crave, you will succeed through persistance (and the sheer relative numbers of your group trying that sort of thing).

    And if you do this in large urban centres where tastemakers gather (New York), then you’ll become more notable to society at large.

    With the neuroses, I can think of comics, and people, who are very neurotic and irritable and funny and those who aren’t really neurotic or irritable at all and are very funny. So that’s not really a benefit or hindrance as such.

    As a Brit, Americans often seem to vacillate a lot between sincere and venal, and between idealistic and cynical. Other countries don’t really get that super-wholesome “Mormon” type and the ultra-venal cynical success seeking individualist as often, nor do individuals move between each of these modes as often. I wonder if that affects the ability of Americans to produce comedy.

    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    • Replies: @Cagey Beast
    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    You're very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He's always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.

  97. @Paco
    Funny is funny. If it makes you laugh, it's funny. There's really no analyzing it. Robin Williams and Steve Martin and Jim Carrey, to name a few ---WASPS all ---but all successful comics.

    I am proud to say I met Bob Hope in 1986, got a photo with him and shook his hand. He was elderly but didn't look it when I met him. He did a stand-up routine (his son, Tony Hope was running for Congress and Bob was helping out at a campaign rally).

    What impressed me about Bob Hope was this: he was older, established, he had all the money in the world and was world famous but he was still HUNGRY. He really wanted the audience to love him and be a hit. At one point in his routine he told a joke that only got mild laughs, then he told another joke on the same subject that was a dud, and you could see his eyes dart as he quickly shifted gears to another topic. The next joke got a laugh and he was back on track.

    Hope never lost that neediness. He had to be a smash hit. He was always HUNGRY.

    Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope’s greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. That is what set him apart from everyone else because you cannot teach those things and most people don’t pick up on it consciously because it occurs so quickly. He would sometimes use flat material just to purposely mug. But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously.

    I think MacDonald is right. MacDonald does it but it doesn’t look natural. With Macdonald, I cannot tell if MacDonald is exaggerating and mugging to bring it out and highlight it or it is just so unnatural that it comes off as a bad Hope impression. Woody Allen was pretty quick and good at it. Maybe that’s why he has such a thing for Hope; maybe like with singers, you gravitate to people who are easier for you to imitate.

    Chevy Chase was just as quick as Hope, but was doing the reverse Hope where his reaction would usually be contemptuous or smug and it is off-putting to most people. I bet half of Chase’s infamous prickliness is just others subconsciously picking up on his dumb faces and attributing a lot more malice and dislike to Chase than intended.

    My grandmother worked with Hope when he was on the rise, and she and her husband ran for a while in his social circle- sometime in the late 20s or early 30s- and she described him as the most unbelievably confident and driven man she had ever met. The only performer she ever saw who could get on stage with nothing and win over an audience.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I had a guy who worked for me in the 1980s that I got handed off to me because none of the other managers wanted him because if you were talking to him and he didn't understand something, a look of total stupidity would wash over him. It took me awhile to figure out he was a solid 115 IQ problem-solver, he just had incredibly transparent facial expressions. Most people fake confidence for a few seconds when they're trying to figure out what you are talking about but have lost the thread, but he couldn't fake it.

    Once I figured that out, we made an excellent team because I'd just immediately pick up that he'd lost track and back up and go over what I wanted him to do again, but slower. It's really much more efficient for a boss-report relationship if the report doesn't hide his incomprehension from the boss, but it's rare.

    , @Anonymous
    "Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope’s greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. ... But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously."

    This is how I remember David Letterman from when he was first on TV in the 1980s. It seemed like he could make anything funny. His show always seemed extremely low-budget, like something filmed in someone's a segment, but it was incredibly funny. In fact, the cheesier or more low budget the routine, the funnier it almost seemed. And his motley crew of oddball sidekicks just added to the show's entertainment value.
  98. […] [email protected] (Vox) Steve Sailer observes an almost inexplicable slam on a great American comedian:Hope is of real value as a chronicle of a career. For even though Bob […]

  99. @Paco
    Funny is funny. If it makes you laugh, it's funny. There's really no analyzing it. Robin Williams and Steve Martin and Jim Carrey, to name a few ---WASPS all ---but all successful comics.

    I am proud to say I met Bob Hope in 1986, got a photo with him and shook his hand. He was elderly but didn't look it when I met him. He did a stand-up routine (his son, Tony Hope was running for Congress and Bob was helping out at a campaign rally).

    What impressed me about Bob Hope was this: he was older, established, he had all the money in the world and was world famous but he was still HUNGRY. He really wanted the audience to love him and be a hit. At one point in his routine he told a joke that only got mild laughs, then he told another joke on the same subject that was a dud, and you could see his eyes dart as he quickly shifted gears to another topic. The next joke got a laugh and he was back on track.

    Hope never lost that neediness. He had to be a smash hit. He was always HUNGRY.

    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he’s French-Canadian Catholic.

    • Replies: @Cagey Beast
    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he’s French-Canadian Catholic.

    You're thinking of Avril Lavigne. Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

  100. @juswonderinaboutbaseball
    Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope's greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. That is what set him apart from everyone else because you cannot teach those things and most people don't pick up on it consciously because it occurs so quickly. He would sometimes use flat material just to purposely mug. But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously.

    I think MacDonald is right. MacDonald does it but it doesn't look natural. With Macdonald, I cannot tell if MacDonald is exaggerating and mugging to bring it out and highlight it or it is just so unnatural that it comes off as a bad Hope impression. Woody Allen was pretty quick and good at it. Maybe that's why he has such a thing for Hope; maybe like with singers, you gravitate to people who are easier for you to imitate.

    Chevy Chase was just as quick as Hope, but was doing the reverse Hope where his reaction would usually be contemptuous or smug and it is off-putting to most people. I bet half of Chase's infamous prickliness is just others subconsciously picking up on his dumb faces and attributing a lot more malice and dislike to Chase than intended.

    My grandmother worked with Hope when he was on the rise, and she and her husband ran for a while in his social circle- sometime in the late 20s or early 30s- and she described him as the most unbelievably confident and driven man she had ever met. The only performer she ever saw who could get on stage with nothing and win over an audience.

    I had a guy who worked for me in the 1980s that I got handed off to me because none of the other managers wanted him because if you were talking to him and he didn’t understand something, a look of total stupidity would wash over him. It took me awhile to figure out he was a solid 115 IQ problem-solver, he just had incredibly transparent facial expressions. Most people fake confidence for a few seconds when they’re trying to figure out what you are talking about but have lost the thread, but he couldn’t fake it.

    Once I figured that out, we made an excellent team because I’d just immediately pick up that he’d lost track and back up and go over what I wanted him to do again, but slower. It’s really much more efficient for a boss-report relationship if the report doesn’t hide his incomprehension from the boss, but it’s rare.

  101. @ed
    Steve,

    Martin Short is often mistaken for being Jewish, but he's an Irish-Catholic from Hamilton ,Ontario. What is it about his humour and/or demeanour that strikes people as "Jewish"? He seems to think he picked up certain elements of Jewish humour from friends growing up in Hamilton.

    He's also an alumnus of SCTV.

    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall’s role in Tender Mercies:

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I’d vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn’t remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O’Toole did some really funny stuff.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I went to high school with one of Jerry Lewis's sons -- He was about three years older. I vaguely recall him being part of Ed Begley Jr.'s crowd at Notre Dame, but I could be mistaken about that.
    , @donut
    Agree with all of the above .
    , @Pincher Martin

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I’d vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn’t remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O’Toole did some really funny stuff.
     
    I recently saw The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and Herbert Lom. It's a 1955 film that was remade in 2004 by the Coen Brothers with Tom Hanks in the Alec Guinness role. The movie is considered a classic comedy, but I didn't laugh one time before I finally gave up on it halfway through. The setups for the particular scenes all seemed forced and unoriginal.

    I'm not old enough to have seen Sellers in his great Inspector Clouseau roles during those films' theatrical runs, but I saw them more than a decade later when I watched them on TV. A Shot in the Dark, the early Pink Panther films are all considered classic comedies. And I thought they were funny when I was ten years old. But I recently saw a couple of those films again on TV and they didn't seem the least bit funny. Whatever it was about them that I had liked was gone.

    , @Anonymous
    "As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I’d vote for Terry-Thomas"

    Apologies if I don't post the link properly, but Terry Thomas' commentary on American women in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" was hysterically funny, at least to me. The sheer contempt with which he says "Mother's Day..." makes me laugh no matter how many times I've seen it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvAG5Zeuwgs
  102. @Sam Haysom
    What's weird is that Teachout spent a lot of the late nineties in a series of fights with black chauvinist jazz critics who wanted to excise or at least minimize all white contributions to the development of jazz. He was also one of the first critics to really rip into academic Aftocentricism so it's not like he's some super PC wallflower.

    Yeah, really weird, Sam. What are your thoughts on what motivates Teachout.

    Speaking for myself, considering the development of neocon thought, it isn’t surprising in the least.

    For neocons and their lackeys, blacks are only useful as cudgels to beat the goy peasants with.

    Teachout proves himself a loyal dog, or righteous mensch or whatever they call it, like some other people one could think of, and not limited to Whiskey.

    Maybe they’ll be good enough to give Teachout a placque on the Mount of Olives or favorable mention on a website.

    Otherwise, Teachout sounds like something a hippie would think of for a surname. Apropros, though, for a faux-conservative like Teachout as the 60’s, post-WW2 American exceptionalism and neoconservatism have common origins.

  103. @Stan Adams
    That's very interesting. It must have been ghastly.

    And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb.

    I've met people who were involved in the ValuJet cleanup. (There wasn't much to pick up after that one - the plane disintegrated on impact.) Those aboard suffered horribly before they died, all because some workers at an aircraft-maintenance company wanted to clean out the mail room.

    (OT: A company called SabreTech was hired to renovate a few old planes that ValuJet had purchased from Europe. As part of the routine overhaul, the mechanics removed the old planes' highly-flammable chemical oxygen generators. The generators sat around the warehouse for a while, and finally ended up in the mail room. One day, a supervisor ordered the guy on duty to "get rid of all this crap that's lying around." That guy put the generators in boxes and sent them to the airport. They were loaded onto a ValuJet DC-9 bound for the airline's home base of Atlanta. At some point during takeoff or shortly thereafter, the generators fired and sparked a raging inferno that must have seemed like a literal incarnation of hell to the passengers and crew. The NTSB determined that the proximate cause of the crash was the unconscious - or dead - pilots' slumping onto the control yokes, sending the plane into a nosedive.)

    One of the guys who worked on the ValuJet disaster told me that the government disposed of hundreds if not thousands of bodies after Hurricane Andrew. Many such stories abound in the Miami area. (I've spent some time down there - lots of weird shit goes on.) It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    Some of the salvaged components from Flight 401 were used in other Eastern L-1011s.

    Over the next few years, there were numerous "ghost sightings" on planes that used those components. At one point, a flight attendant claimed to have seen the dead captain of Flight 401 telling her to check the oven in the galley - an oven that had been rescued from the wreckage in the Everglades. Supposedly the woman discovered that there was a short in the wiring and that the oven was about to burst into flames.

    There was a book about the "ghosts" of 401. I think the book was also made into a TV movie - not the one with William Shatner, but another one.

    Here’s a very groovy 1970s clip with Bob Welch talking about the Ghosts of Flight 401 (notice a very Wolfmanny Wolfman Jack):

    groovy video here

    My sister-in-law is a retired Northwest flight attendant and she claims the Ghosts of Flight 401 created a bit of a buzz amongst flight crews back in the day.

  104. @Harold
    How can it be that noone has linked to this Bob Hope joke yet?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a6YdNmK77k

    My keyboard just got a coffee shower after seeing that video clip.

  105. @Cagey Beast
    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall's role in Tender Mercies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1rq9lsTp8

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I'd vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn't remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O'Toole did some really funny stuff.

    I went to high school with one of Jerry Lewis’s sons — He was about three years older. I vaguely recall him being part of Ed Begley Jr.’s crowd at Notre Dame, but I could be mistaken about that.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I was mistaken: Ed Begley Jr. graduated from my high school a number of years before I enrolled. I think he was in my best friend's older brother's time, along with athletes like Tim Foli and John Vella.
  106. Got cut off, but wanted to add.

    That had to hurt when the black folk ignored the contribution of “others” to jazz. This particular peasant derives a great deal of satisfaction when Black folk ignore said contributions to Civil Rights, to the consternation of the chosen people or old-fashioned 20th-century US white liberals in general.

  107. @Hugh
    "Simply: he wasn't Jewish"

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.

    Peak Eddie Murphy was “Raw”, done from a comedy appearance. Today he is an aging lamester, still wearing an earring and being arrested while cruising for trannies ten years ago.

  108. @Clyde

    Chris Rock could certainly use some Teachout therapy. Rock can be funny for 5 minutes, but then the all black all the time thing gets stale very fast and I turn off.
     
    Peak Eddie Murphy was "Raw", done from a comedy appearance. Today he is an aging lamester, still wearing an earring and being arrested while cruising for trannies ten years ago.

    Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke. Humor depends a lot upon surprise, but there’s both specific surprise and meta-surprise. After awhile people start getting bored with any individual personality’s jokes. They can’t necessarily anticipate the punchlines, but they can, post hoc, see where the punchline was coming from: “I see what you did there” is not a promising reaction.

    • Replies: @Clyde

    Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke.
     
    How about Coming to America? It had its moments. Music by: Nile Rodgers
    And Trading Places had good social commentary and HBD material
    Eddie net worth = 85 million. Not as much as Adam Sandler by a long shot and both specialize in movies for 10 year old boys

    Anyone who lives past 90 has lead a good life and Bob Hope made it to 100.
  109. @Stan Adams
    That's very interesting. It must have been ghastly.

    And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb.

    I've met people who were involved in the ValuJet cleanup. (There wasn't much to pick up after that one - the plane disintegrated on impact.) Those aboard suffered horribly before they died, all because some workers at an aircraft-maintenance company wanted to clean out the mail room.

    (OT: A company called SabreTech was hired to renovate a few old planes that ValuJet had purchased from Europe. As part of the routine overhaul, the mechanics removed the old planes' highly-flammable chemical oxygen generators. The generators sat around the warehouse for a while, and finally ended up in the mail room. One day, a supervisor ordered the guy on duty to "get rid of all this crap that's lying around." That guy put the generators in boxes and sent them to the airport. They were loaded onto a ValuJet DC-9 bound for the airline's home base of Atlanta. At some point during takeoff or shortly thereafter, the generators fired and sparked a raging inferno that must have seemed like a literal incarnation of hell to the passengers and crew. The NTSB determined that the proximate cause of the crash was the unconscious - or dead - pilots' slumping onto the control yokes, sending the plane into a nosedive.)

    One of the guys who worked on the ValuJet disaster told me that the government disposed of hundreds if not thousands of bodies after Hurricane Andrew. Many such stories abound in the Miami area. (I've spent some time down there - lots of weird shit goes on.) It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    Some of the salvaged components from Flight 401 were used in other Eastern L-1011s.

    Over the next few years, there were numerous "ghost sightings" on planes that used those components. At one point, a flight attendant claimed to have seen the dead captain of Flight 401 telling her to check the oven in the galley - an oven that had been rescued from the wreckage in the Everglades. Supposedly the woman discovered that there was a short in the wiring and that the oven was about to burst into flames.

    There was a book about the "ghosts" of 401. I think the book was also made into a TV movie - not the one with William Shatner, but another one.

    Here’s a groovy film clip from the 70s with Bob Welch singing about the Ghosts of Flight 401.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.
  110. @Thursday
    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    Clearly, you have not reckoned with the marvel of German engineering that is FUNNYBOT!

  111. @Another Canadian
    Here's a groovy film clip from the 70s with Bob Welch singing about the Ghosts of Flight 401.

    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    • Replies: @Another Canadian
    No, from Fleetwood Mac, and his father was a film producer for Bob Hope, so an harmonic convergence of seemingly divergent threads.
    , @Brutusale
    Steve, I believe you're thinking of Bob Weir.

    Re: Monty Python. A good part of the fun for me when seeing the Python film The Life of Brian was the sullen reaction of my Jewish friends during the whole People's Front of Judea/Judean People's Front riff. They seemed to take it as a personal affront. The film's tweaking of the Chosen was lessened by the deletion of a few scenes during in the original theatrical release, driven by the distributor's worries about Chosen-American sensibilities. I've read that the original PFJ kit had helmets sporting a Star of David.

    Funny then, funny now.
    , @Trayvon Zimmerman
    Bob Welch is also part of the reason Guns and Roses, the last true rock and roll band, imploded. IIRC correctly, it was at Welch's house that their drummer, Steven Adler, first did heroin. He eventually got hooked, became unreliable in both showing up for rehearsal and in actual performance, and they fired him. Slash has said that Adler's drumming style was a foundational element of GnR's sound, and there was no one who could duplicate it, and his firing was the beginning of the end for the band. Of course, with Slash's own drug problems down the road, and Axl Rose's personality issues, GnR was never going to last for decades. But if it weren't for Adler's heroin problem, they probably would've lasted longer than they did.
    , @Anonymous
    Bob Welch - Fleetwood Mac
    Bob Weir - Grateful Dead

    I'm not sure either was #2.
    , @Anonymous
    I did not know that (said a la Johnny Carson). I've always thought of him as a Fleetwood Mac guy.
    , @fwood1
    You must be joking. Bob Weir was #2 in the Grateful Dead, Bob Welch was in Fleetwood Mac prior to Buckingham & Nicks.
  112. @M
    So. Comedy. And Jews.

    The outstanding traits of the Jewish people (compared to other European groups), tend to be:

    - Intelligent
    - Neurotic
    - Talkative / Attention Loving
    - Success and Power Oriented

    They're also very urban, as a consequence of their personality.

    Once you get into the idea of doing comedy as a thing - and there are some cultures where this is "not done, old boy, simply not done", the English professional classes from the 1930s or even the 1960s, or a Chinese American recent immigrant background - to a certain degree I guess, if you are just fairly smart and willing to stand in the middle of a room full of people and talk and talk until you find what works and gives you the success and power you crave, you will succeed through persistance (and the sheer relative numbers of your group trying that sort of thing).

    And if you do this in large urban centres where tastemakers gather (New York), then you'll become more notable to society at large.

    With the neuroses, I can think of comics, and people, who are very neurotic and irritable and funny and those who aren't really neurotic or irritable at all and are very funny. So that's not really a benefit or hindrance as such.

    As a Brit, Americans often seem to vacillate a lot between sincere and venal, and between idealistic and cynical. Other countries don't really get that super-wholesome "Mormon" type and the ultra-venal cynical success seeking individualist as often, nor do individuals move between each of these modes as often. I wonder if that affects the ability of Americans to produce comedy.

    Comedy wise though, I wouldn't praise Britain too hard at all at the moment - we have too many people who've learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    You’re very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He’s always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.

    • Replies: @dcite
    "You’re very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He’s always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy."

    That is true. I once talked with an English guy about my own age in the early 90s. This young man was very brilliant and not without humor, but our conversation was about a serious subject. Yet at some point I couldn't resist a Python analogy. He blew up sort of. Got real annoyed and went on for some minutes about how he couldn't discuss anything serious or consequential with fellow students back at school a few years earlier, because they'd always bring up some Python reference.

    Now I actually shared his angst about that. The surest way to shut down topics you don't want to face, is to ridicule and mock. It's done constantly in the media, on topics they want to shut down.

    U.S. Jewish comedians are particularly the thing nowadays, because the society that produced that genre doesn't exist anymore. However, my favorite all time comedian was Peter Sellers. British Jewish comedians are still fantastic because they (at least the comedians) really never wanted to bring anything down. Not really.

    , @Lurker
    Its not just an English thing, it's British & Irish thing too not to mention Aussie & Kiwi. Refusing to take important matters seriously. Many Americans and Canadians seem much too earnest by comparison.

    It's also infuriating at times.
    , @Anonymous
    Some Jewish men also seem to do this. They turn everything in a conversation into a joke, and often at someone else's expense. A man who lived down the street from my family when I was growing up frequently did this, as did my father's second cousin's husband. My mother, who's quite good-natured and swears very little, has always had very little patience for men who behave in such a manner. She usually describes them as asses.
  113. American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to. Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.

    Woody Allen on the other is a neurotic a-hole, how anyone can find that excruciating princess on the pea character funny is beyond me.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to.
     
    Don't feel bad, dear fellow.Top-grade American humor is too complex for the hoi-polloi.For them, there's always Are You Being Served and the Carry On franchise

    Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.
     
    A third-rate Buster Keaton.
  114. @MEH 0910
    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he's French-Canadian Catholic.

    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he’s French-Canadian Catholic.

    You’re thinking of Avril Lavigne. Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
    Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

    Wikipedia begs to differ:

    Early life
    James Eugene Carrey was born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, to Kathleen (née Oram), a homemaker, and Percy Carrey (1927–1994), a musician and accountant. He has three older siblings, John, Patricia, and Rita. He was raised Roman Catholic. His mother was of French, Irish, and Scottish descent and his father was of French-Canadian ancestry (the family's original surname was Carré).
     
    , @MEH 0910
    Hold the phone. At some point Jim Carrey became a Presbyterian.

    Is Jim Carrey a Presbyterian?

    Yes, he is. Though he was raised a Roman Catholic Christian. As of an interview he gave with Shane Peacock of Saturday Night magazine in June 1993 (published in Toronto), he was attending a Presbyterian church.
     

    Eh, with his French ancestry, and having been raised a Catholic, I still say he isn't a WASP.
  115. I don’t think Cliff Gorman playing Dustin Hoffman playing Lenny Bruce in “All That Jazz” was funny, but that’s the point. I never found Bruce funny. Or Hoffman. I guess Fosse couldn’t persuade Hoffman to reveal how unfunny he was, and so hired Gorman instead.

  116. Hope was a funny guy. Entertaining WWII troops, on the side of right.
    Vietnam War was bad news for Hope.

    Pryor’s not pesky funny like Hope, but Pryor’s stand up is the shizz.

  117. @Thursday
    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    There are plenty of gifted WASP humorists in America:

    James Thurber, Peter Benchley, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Mark Twain, Chevy Chase, etc

  118. @Pincher Martin
    He also wrote a very good biography of Mencken.

    Actually Teachout’s biography of Mencken is unmemorable. William Manchester wrote the best Mencken biography.

  119. @Sam Haysom
    What's weird is that Teachout spent a lot of the late nineties in a series of fights with black chauvinist jazz critics who wanted to excise or at least minimize all white contributions to the development of jazz. He was also one of the first critics to really rip into academic Aftocentricism so it's not like he's some super PC wallflower.

    He writes for Commentary, so he has to please his masters.

    Also, if you live in New York City, it’s not obvious Jews and blacks are on the same side.

  120. The one thing that’s obvious to me from this whole discussion is that comedy is very culturally specific. What’s funny in 1970s America might not be funny in 2010s America, and forget bringing other countries into the mix.

    I found myself laughing pretty hard at (subtitled) ‘Bernd das Brot’, a German kids’ show about a depressed loaf of bread who just wants to sit in his room and look at the wall, but his crazy friends keep dragging him into adventures.

    • Replies: @Lurker

    I found myself laughing pretty hard at (subtitled) ‘Bernd das Brot’, a German kids’ show about a depressed loaf of bread who just wants to sit in his room and look at the wall, but his crazy friends keep dragging him into adventures.
     
    I have to thank you for that! I saw that about ten years ago in a hotel room in France. It was German with French subtitles and I couldnt understand a word of it. Ive often wondered wtf I was watching - now I know!
  121. @education realist
    I, too, used to have a morbid fascination for plane crashes. Still do, if I'm honest. The Eastern flight gave me the utter heeby jeebies--yes, I've seen the Shatner film, but far more terrifying is the re-enactment that was made to train flight crews. You hear actors reading the transcript, fussing over a damn bulb that won't go off, as you watch the altimeter click off feet while they flew the plane into the ground."The last words of the transcript: "Hey, we did something to the altitude." "We're still at 2000, right?" Wrong. Crash.

    "And to think that it was all due to a faulty light bulb."

    No. It was not. That's why they created a training film. (It's also why they added a master alarm alert if the autopilot is turned off below a certain altitude.)


    That Teachout article is amazingly offensive. Hope wasn't a nice guy, but in addition to inventing stand up comedy, he was the first comedian to break the fourth wall, and long before Carson was making jokes about his jokes falling flat. And his verbal humor was exceptional, even if it was put to use in films that today are quite silly. Much of his humor only seems old hat because everyone copied and improved on the original--which they could only do because he did it first.

    It's like watching the 1933 movie 42nd Street, when the director tells Ruby Keeler that she's going out as a chorus girl, but coming back a STAR. Yeah, it's been done to death. AFTER. Not before.

    The Smithsonian Channel has a series called Air Disasters . There are a couple of similar shows available on Youtube. While pilot error is frequently the cause , many times the cause is some ridiculous electrical or mechanical malfunction . Bad design is occasionally sited which seems surprising on the face of it what with all the computers involved in design and over a century of experience but airplanes are incredibly complex machines . Watching the videos of the crash investigations I was impressed by the skills and determination of the investigators . The skill and professionalism of the pilots that pull through are also remarkable . US Airways Flight 1549 , piloted by Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was made a big deal of and rightly so because he landed in the Hudson and they could get cameras on the spot , but there are dozens of other pilots out there who have pulled off even more impressive saves with only the recognition of their peers and the passengers whose lives they saved .

    The plane in this video came to a bad and kind of creepy end . It’s about 47 min long if anyone is interested.

    As for comedians it’s all a matter of personal taste . I suppose even Don Rickles has fans.

  122. @Cagey Beast
    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall's role in Tender Mercies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1rq9lsTp8

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I'd vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn't remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O'Toole did some really funny stuff.

    Agree with all of the above .

  123. @OsRazor
    In any comedy competition, I'd pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

    Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

    In terms of stand-up--nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of--Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

    The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are--I'm thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don't shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

    Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American,

    You must be joking.

    On the other hand, if you are being serious, well, you’re just plain wrong.The Best American comedy is quite outstanding:

    James Thurber: His brief comedy pieces are masterpieces.”The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” for example, will endure forever.

    Mark Twain: Comedy with legs.It takes true genius to write comedy that still holds up a century after it was written: “The Awful German Language”, Roughing It, “Extracts from Adam’s Diary”, etc

    The Marx Brothers: At their peak (Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, etc) some of the funniest stuff ever committed to celluloid.

    Buster Keaton: Far superior to Chaplin.Indeed, things like The General and Sherlock,JR are worth Chaplin’s entire oeuvre

    Ambrose Bierce: The consummate master of hard, slashing comedy.They didn’t call him “Bitter” Bierce for nothing.

    Tom Wolfe:Comedy built on brilliant social observation.No one is better at dissecting the human drive to feel socially superior: Bonfire of the Vanities, From bauhaus to our House, The Painted Word, etc

    • Replies: @donut
    Yeah , Bierce . When I read his definition of a debauchee Ted Kennedy's image popped into my mind .

    "Debauchee : one who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it".

    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal's Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn't entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film. His independent film roles sans his brothers weren't all that.

    Chico was, well, not much without his brothers. Did he even do a film on his own? No.

    A case could be made that Harpo, actually, was the funniest of the three. But then again his shtick was a second rate knockoff of Chaplin/Keaton, overdramatized and without the subtly of either.

    Groucho Marx's reputation was on the wane by the late 60's but was saved in large part due to his late life touring of college campuses doing standup, as well as ironically, admirers of his which included Bill Cosby.

    But for standup, few could touch or equal Bob Hope in his prime. And Bob Hope was funnier than Groucho Marx in doing standup comedy.

    Like Chaplin, Groucho created a character for himself that relied on cheap theatrics and superficial facial accoutrements. Even though Chaplin had the inner talent to back up the outward tricks with a wide range of emotions, Groucho, in contrast, was just a sarcastic bitter person and one who never understood why the girls didn't fall for him the way they seemed to for the goyim.

    During WW2 on a bond drive with other Alisters he appeared without his trademark disguise and went up to fans who had turned up for the bond drive. He began insulting the fans there who didn't much appreciate his attitude. Groucho then went into a bathroom and returned in his well familiar disguise of glasses and paper mustache, found the exact same fans he had previously insulted and began to insult them in the same manner. THIS time, the fans roared with laughter and appreciated his jokes.

    Bob Hope, by contrast, was instantly recognizable throughout America in his prime and needed no superficial outward disguises to help sell his material.

  124. @Harold
    How can it be that noone has linked to this Bob Hope joke yet?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a6YdNmK77k

    Who says his humor isn’t still topical today ?

  125. @syonredux

    Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American,
     
    You must be joking.

    On the other hand, if you are being serious, well, you're just plain wrong.The Best American comedy is quite outstanding:

    James Thurber: His brief comedy pieces are masterpieces."The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," for example, will endure forever.

    Mark Twain: Comedy with legs.It takes true genius to write comedy that still holds up a century after it was written: "The Awful German Language", Roughing It, "Extracts from Adam's Diary", etc

    The Marx Brothers: At their peak (Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, etc) some of the funniest stuff ever committed to celluloid.

    Buster Keaton: Far superior to Chaplin.Indeed, things like The General and Sherlock,JR are worth Chaplin's entire oeuvre

    Ambrose Bierce: The consummate master of hard, slashing comedy.They didn't call him "Bitter" Bierce for nothing.

    Tom Wolfe:Comedy built on brilliant social observation.No one is better at dissecting the human drive to feel socially superior: Bonfire of the Vanities, From bauhaus to our House, The Painted Word, etc

    Yeah , Bierce . When I read his definition of a debauchee Ted Kennedy’s image popped into my mind .

    “Debauchee : one who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it”.

  126. @Thursday
    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    Can’t comment on German Germans, but H.L. Mencken was extremely funny.The exception that proves the rule?

    • Replies: @Pincher Martin
    I'm glad someone mentioned Mencken. And since you also mentioned Bierce.
  127. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    No, from Fleetwood Mac, and his father was a film producer for Bob Hope, so an harmonic convergence of seemingly divergent threads.

  128. Here’s a brilliant little piece from Thurber:

    “The Catbird Seat”

    http://fullreads.com/literature/the-catbird-seat/

    It was turned into a Peter Sellers vehicle in 1959 (The Battle of the Sexes).Thurber was very popular in the UK in the ’40s and ’50s

  129. @Harold
    I wonder if how many of those American women who really like Dr House have ever seen Hugh Laurie on Blackadder.

    Hugh Laurie really has two major character types he is known for: the fop (his Blackadder characters, Bertie Wooster) and the jerk (his character in Sense and Sensibility, House).

  130. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "Hope’s 1940s movies were wildly innovative, post-modern avant la lettre, anticipating many of the stylistic flourishes of Woody Allen’s best 1980s films. Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope."

    Also, don't forget Allen's 1973 Sleeper. That especially was a tribute to Hope's films of the '4o's.


    On the other side, haven't there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld's dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Another possible reason that Bob Hope has fallen out of favor, and that would be at least partly due to his Republican politics. It's a well known fact that Bob Hope was no liberal Democrat but supported all the main GOP nominees.

    And of course, unlike most baby boomer standup comics, Bob Hope actually went to Vietnam to entertain the troops and supported the war.

    But as to who died richer, Crosby or Hope, the ruling consensus is in favor of Hope, especially since he lived longer, and, unlike Crosby, didn't have some wacky kids to help run Bob Hope Enterprises.

    On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Seinfeld is half Mizrahi. I wonder if the non-Ashkenazi portion of Seinfeld contributed to his lack of “borschtiness”).

    Speaking of which, I wonder how Mizrahi or Sephardic comedians generally fit into the humor world. Chris Kattan and Dan Hedaya immediately leap to mind.

    • Replies: @black sea
    The neurotic, paranoid, aggressive twist on Seinfeld's world was provided by Larry David's writing, and was brought to life in the character of George Costanza. George was not portrayed as Jewish, though the humor he embodied clearly was. His family were supposed to be of Italian descent, and his father invented that alternative to Christmas, Festivus, after having been frustrated during Christmas shopping, so apparently George's hyper Borscht-Belt parents were meant to pass as goys, though I don't think any dedicated viewer (people like me) ever bought the pretense.

    On a similar note, my wife read that the character of Sophia on the Golden Girls was originally intended to be the stereotypically wise-cracking, intrusive Jewish mother, but was changed to Italian American in order to avoid the stereotype.

    So apparently, if Woody Allen were coming along today, he'd be writing his characters as smart-assed, pissed off, alternately outraged and cringing navel-gazers named Mario and Rocco. I'm not so sure how that would work out.

    , @dcite
    "Seinfeld was ..[Mizrahi not Ashkenazi]".

    I've wondered about that too. There's something more "free" about him than about most Jewish comedians who seemed so locked into something...I can't put my finger on. Seinfeld never had that aura. I met Jews from Turkish background who don't really look any different from Jews of European background, but they have an entirely different ambiance, even those who are very ethnocentric.
  131. @Neutral
    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don't understand the American mind and I don't ever want to. Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don't think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.

    Woody Allen on the other is a neurotic a-hole, how anyone can find that excruciating princess on the pea character funny is beyond me.

    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to.

    Don’t feel bad, dear fellow.Top-grade American humor is too complex for the hoi-polloi.For them, there’s always Are You Being Served and the Carry On franchise

    Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.

    A third-rate Buster Keaton.

  132. @Dave Pinsen
    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.

    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.

    “I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery.”

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Right, that's what I had in mind.
  133. Steve often talks about who/whom. Nothing is more who/whom than humor.

  134. @Auntie Analogue
    A lot of people seem to regard comedy and comics as a zero-sum proposition: funny vs. not funny (this includes, embraces "dated vs. current, filthy vs. earthy, and so on).

    But comedies and comics are like anything else: each one has a genre, or niche.

    If I recall correctly, the thing I find gratuitous about Hitchens' scathing piece on Bob Hope is that Hitchens' tried to smear Hope as a "good clean fun" kind of comic, or as a "Communion breakfast comic," as if there was something odious about Hope's broadly appealing, genially ribbing brand of humor. Hitchens decided to dismiss or overlook that Hope's comedy is genial - it's not cutting, not cutting-edge, not "transgressive.'" Of course Hope's schtick was what you could call "family entertainment," yet Hitchens found that not just unfunny, but somehow offensive to the intelligent - to the intelligentsia and their pretension to know-it-all, including their pretension to know what is appropriate or desirable. And I think that's exactly why G.I.s loved Hope - because Hope didn't appeal to snobs, because instead Hope did bring them family entertainment, gave the G.I.'s a warm fuzzy family sense in the middle of their faraway, lonely, and too often harrowing, violent trials: the G.I.s didn't want acid humor or "transgressive" aggression because those boys pined for the security and tranquility of home, and Hope delivered home to them. Hope also paraded attractive young women for the boys as well, but the boys didn't go on to revere those cheesecake ladies, they went on to feel lifelong gratitude to Hope, despite almost none of those veterans being able to recall or recite a single one of the Hope gags they'd witnessed when they were in the service. But then Hitchens never wore the uniform, never had to be involuntarily stuck in one crummy or horrible place, bereft the entire time of privacy and of agency over his daily doings and of agency over his own mortal destiny - when someone's in that jam, they don't want the comedy of conflict, they want the comedy of Mom's unavailable prissy dinner table, they ache for the comedy of sleeping safe in your own bed of clean, sweet-smelling sheets at-home: in their overseas world of war's unrelenting, monumental monotonous obscenity, the G.I.'s craved the comedy of decency.

    Back to the genre, niche nature of comedy ( and granting that de gustibus non est disputandum), for example, I've found that most of the time I see the Three Stooges, I find them to be pathetic and boring because their schtick is juvenile slapstick, but every eighth or tenth time I see them, they crack me up. So even your mood - the niche that you're in - can influence how you respond to a comic act (and, indeed, to a dramatic act). Also, and this jives with my Dad's expression that "there's a time and a place for everything," there are times, or events, to which one kind of comedy is fitting, and other kinds aren't - when other kinds fall flat or, indeed, offend gratuitously. No one tells penis jokes at a Communion breakfast, and no one tells Communion breakfast jokes down at the Improv: a time and a place for everything, and that's how decent, civilized people arrange their lives and labor to form the world they have to live in. This is why comics whose entire schtick is monotonously "transgressive" have a niche audience, a niche market - their schtick is fitting for just one kind of time and one kind of place.

    For example, one of the funniest Borscht Belt comics was Myron Cohen, who told long-story jokes that gave deep insight into human foibles, and not just Jewish foibles. Buddy Hackett's Borscht Belt schtick was, on the other hand, often as blue as blue gets - way beyond risqué. But then there's a time for a Myron Cohen, and there's time for a Buddy Hackett. Same is true for gentile acts: there's a time for a Gallagher and there's a time for a George Carlin, a time for the articulateness of a Nipsey Russell and a time for the street-sense of a Richard Pryor. And I think the maturity of the audience has lot to do with dismissing, or with appreciating, that "time and a place for" sense of comedy.

    Mel Brooks' work veers drastically in quality and in theme as well. I just watched his High Anxiety and found it as dull as ditchwater, singularly unfunny...except for Brooks use of the movie as a vehicle for takes, gags on Alfred Hitchcock's style, but then you have to know Hitchcock's cinematic pedigree for you to get Brooks' gag-takes on Hitchcock. Blazing Saddles is, far and away, Brooks' best film, not least due to the opulent talent of Madeline Kahn, whose send-up of Marlene Dietrich is undyingly spot on, but this movie is also Brooks' most thematically consistent and possessed of perfect pacing and razor-sharp characterizations (as opposed to a series of hammy put-ons). Then there's Spaceballs, which is so juvenile that, as with the Three Stooges, I have to be in the right mood for it to make me laugh. To me The Producers has fine moments, but it suffers from too many spells that drag: its pacing discourages rapt viewing.

    Monty Python's BBC-TV schtick was conceptual, not situational, not topical, and that's why most people find it less than belly-laugh-grade. Yet, keeping in mind "a time and place for everything," the troupe also did brilliant situational work, as in A Fish Called Wanda and in Fawlty Towers. They proved themselves versatile beyond the repute of their brief BBC-TV series, which is the bit of their careers that most people focus on, often exclusively.

    Shifting now to my own taste, the one hugely, enduringly popular comic I never found even remotely amusing is...Lucille Ball. Her ponderous, exhaustively plodding set-pieces never came within light-years of my funny bone. And don't even get me started on the sheer anger and bile of Sam Kinison - there was something very hurt, very twisted, and relentlessly unforgiving in that poor man, so that to me nothing of his ever seemed to be comedy but was captured instead by what my Dad would say to someone like Kinison:

    Dad would pretend to halt, and pour a sudden look of intense sympathetic concern into the misanthrope's eyes and say, "Gee, it seems, maybe, your rectal nerve is crossed with your optic nerve...."

    "Really? Is that...is that bad?"

    "It gave you a shitty outlook on life."

    in their overseas world of war’s unrelenting, monumental monotonous obscenity, the G.I.’s craved the comedy of decency.

    I wonder if that’s still the case? I saw a Louis CK routine he performed for troops in Iraq and it was full of his scatological material. Louis usually does a mixture of social commentary and lowbrow stuff, but for the troops he went full lowbrow. I guess that’s an indication of what he thinks they like.

    Unlike others here, I find a lot of Louis CK’s stuff funny. I don’t understand the unequivocal assertions–“Monty Python is not funny!” “Annie Hall is not funny!”–when obviously other people disagree. It’s no use arguing about taste.

  135. @Glaivester
    On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Seinfeld is half Mizrahi. I wonder if the non-Ashkenazi portion of Seinfeld contributed to his lack of "borschtiness").

    Speaking of which, I wonder how Mizrahi or Sephardic comedians generally fit into the humor world. Chris Kattan and Dan Hedaya immediately leap to mind.

    The neurotic, paranoid, aggressive twist on Seinfeld’s world was provided by Larry David’s writing, and was brought to life in the character of George Costanza. George was not portrayed as Jewish, though the humor he embodied clearly was. His family were supposed to be of Italian descent, and his father invented that alternative to Christmas, Festivus, after having been frustrated during Christmas shopping, so apparently George’s hyper Borscht-Belt parents were meant to pass as goys, though I don’t think any dedicated viewer (people like me) ever bought the pretense.

    On a similar note, my wife read that the character of Sophia on the Golden Girls was originally intended to be the stereotypically wise-cracking, intrusive Jewish mother, but was changed to Italian American in order to avoid the stereotype.

    So apparently, if Woody Allen were coming along today, he’d be writing his characters as smart-assed, pissed off, alternately outraged and cringing navel-gazers named Mario and Rocco. I’m not so sure how that would work out.

  136. @Thursday
    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    The Simpsons actually has heavy German influence. Creator Matt Groening and important writers George Meyer and John Swartzwelder have German surnames. Of course with a German surname there is always the “ethnically German or Jewish?” question, but Groening (raised Protestant) and Meyer (raised Catholic) are not Jewish. I don’t know for sure about Swartzwelder, but his political views are said to be libertarian-bordering-on-survivalist, which certainly be unusual for a Jewish person.

    • Replies: @SFG
    I don't know about survivalist, but there have been an awful lot of Jewish libertarians--Ayn Rand, most famously, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman...you could count Barry Goldwater if you really wanted to (though he was raised Christian). Some decide to distrust the government instead of trying to turn it left, and Rand, whatever her deformations, had direct experience with Communism.
  137. Hans Hellmut Kirst who most people probably know for the book/movie ‘Night of the Generals” , wrote a series of satires about life in the army before , during , and after WW2 . It’s been years but I recall them as humorous . So the Germans aren’t completely destitute of humor .

  138. @Bert
    I really wish Steve would stop approving comments asking "Is so and so Jewish?" It's asinine.

    Better yet, lets go back to the Scots-Irish thing from Blogspot.

    Sorry, I was actually trying to argue that Teachout was probably not Jewish, since comments were already assuming that he was.

  139. @Bert
    I really wish Steve would stop approving comments asking "Is so and so Jewish?" It's asinine.

    Better yet, lets go back to the Scots-Irish thing from Blogspot.

    Sorry, I was actually trying to argue that Teachout was probably not Jewish, since comments were already assuming that he was.

  140. @Anonymous
    " Humor has to be contemporaneous. Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and even the officially adored Three Stooges wouldn’t amuse many people today. But neither would ... Joan Rivers or any other number of more recent Jewish comedians.

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.

    Joan Rivers was hysterical up until her recent death, and she had lots of fans of all ages.

    I think humor is very individual, that’s all I can say about this discussion. Because I remember turning to Lady Zippy and saying “was Joan Rivers ever funny”? And she says, “no.”

    But I thought Seinfeld was hilarious. And while I hate hate hate Sarah Silverman, I do think she can be funny.

  141. @Steve Sailer
    Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke. Humor depends a lot upon surprise, but there's both specific surprise and meta-surprise. After awhile people start getting bored with any individual personality's jokes. They can't necessarily anticipate the punchlines, but they can, post hoc, see where the punchline was coming from: "I see what you did there" is not a promising reaction.

    Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke.

    How about Coming to America? It had its moments. Music by: Nile Rodgers
    And Trading Places had good social commentary and HBD material
    Eddie net worth = 85 million. Not as much as Adam Sandler by a long shot and both specialize in movies for 10 year old boys

    Anyone who lives past 90 has lead a good life and Bob Hope made it to 100.

  142. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "Hope’s 1940s movies were wildly innovative, post-modern avant la lettre, anticipating many of the stylistic flourishes of Woody Allen’s best 1980s films. Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope."

    Also, don't forget Allen's 1973 Sleeper. That especially was a tribute to Hope's films of the '4o's.


    On the other side, haven't there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld's dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Another possible reason that Bob Hope has fallen out of favor, and that would be at least partly due to his Republican politics. It's a well known fact that Bob Hope was no liberal Democrat but supported all the main GOP nominees.

    And of course, unlike most baby boomer standup comics, Bob Hope actually went to Vietnam to entertain the troops and supported the war.

    But as to who died richer, Crosby or Hope, the ruling consensus is in favor of Hope, especially since he lived longer, and, unlike Crosby, didn't have some wacky kids to help run Bob Hope Enterprises.

    Abbott & Costello were among Seinfeld’s main inspirations according to what I’ve read. I think one of them was Jewish, but the act has never seemed “Jewish” to me. I only saw them as rerun on tv many years after their heyday and didn’t seem that funny.

    otoh, I have always laughed at Laurel & Hardy and W.C. Fields (maybe my favorite). It’s funny because I don’t like most slapstick, and a lot of their funniness was in that area. It was their expressions and vocal nuances that were hilarious. Same with Lucille Ball.

  143. @Glaivester
    On the other side, haven’t there also been some bland almost WASPish style Jewish comedians? Seinfeld’s dry observations were molded in part from his childhood hero, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld has a post war baby boomer suburban feel, not nearly as borscht belt ethnic as his earlier confreres.

    Seinfeld is half Mizrahi. I wonder if the non-Ashkenazi portion of Seinfeld contributed to his lack of "borschtiness").

    Speaking of which, I wonder how Mizrahi or Sephardic comedians generally fit into the humor world. Chris Kattan and Dan Hedaya immediately leap to mind.

    “Seinfeld was ..[Mizrahi not Ashkenazi]”.

    I’ve wondered about that too. There’s something more “free” about him than about most Jewish comedians who seemed so locked into something…I can’t put my finger on. Seinfeld never had that aura. I met Jews from Turkish background who don’t really look any different from Jews of European background, but they have an entirely different ambiance, even those who are very ethnocentric.

    • Replies: @Glaivester
    Technically, Seinfeld is Mizrahi AND Ashkenazi. Based on his name, I'd say the Ashkenazi is on the father's side.
  144. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    Steve, I believe you’re thinking of Bob Weir.

    Re: Monty Python. A good part of the fun for me when seeing the Python film The Life of Brian was the sullen reaction of my Jewish friends during the whole People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front riff. They seemed to take it as a personal affront. The film’s tweaking of the Chosen was lessened by the deletion of a few scenes during in the original theatrical release, driven by the distributor’s worries about Chosen-American sensibilities. I’ve read that the original PFJ kit had helmets sporting a Star of David.

    Funny then, funny now.

  145. @Peter Akuleyev
    To be funny you have to be an outsider, but not too far out. You have to able to mock yourself so that you can mock others without seeming arrogant. British are brilliant at humor because of the class system. The best British humor often comes from the upper middle class who have to be both deferent to the aristocracy, but also loathe them. This creates that tension between mocking others and mocking yourself that works. Canadian WASPs have a similar advantage because they are permanent underdogs to the US. People who want to climb up the social ladder, like educated middle class Brits or Jewish immigrants, tend to notice things more because they spend time trying to figure out how the system works. Jewish humor had this in spades as long as Jews were underdogs. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a funny Jew in modern America. While British right wing humor is generally hilarious, American right-wing humor tends to fail because American conservatives can't grasp the concept of being self-deprecating, they often just come off as mean and arrogant. Steve Sailer, btw, gets this and is one of the most consistently entertaining writers on the political Right because he is able to strike just the right tone of underdog nostalgia and self awareness of his own shortcomings. Most continental humor, whether based in left or right wing, tends to be awful, because most Europeans take themselves too seriously. German humor, I have noticed, tends to just be very mean, whether it is left wing elites mocking Bavarian rustics, or right wingers mocking Turks. Italian and French humor is rooted in clowning around and slapstick, the humor of the peasant marketplace. Unlike a British or Jewish comedian who make you think he is really mocking himself, the Italian or French comedian puts a real or symbolic mask on before he plays the fool.

    Masks are an integral part of Italian humor especially. Also, the French disguise themselves–Marcel Marceau.
    Masked traveling bands of comedians came from Italy to England in the early 1700s, each mask representing a different “type” and thus masked, they played for cleverly stupid.

  146. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    Bob Welch is also part of the reason Guns and Roses, the last true rock and roll band, imploded. IIRC correctly, it was at Welch’s house that their drummer, Steven Adler, first did heroin. He eventually got hooked, became unreliable in both showing up for rehearsal and in actual performance, and they fired him. Slash has said that Adler’s drumming style was a foundational element of GnR’s sound, and there was no one who could duplicate it, and his firing was the beginning of the end for the band. Of course, with Slash’s own drug problems down the road, and Axl Rose’s personality issues, GnR was never going to last for decades. But if it weren’t for Adler’s heroin problem, they probably would’ve lasted longer than they did.

  147. Neutral

    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to.

    Don’t feel bad, dear fellow.Top-grade American humor is too complex for the hoi-polloi.For them, there’s always Are You Being Served and the Carry On franchise

    Neutral

    Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.

    A third-rate Buster Keaton.

    • Replies: @syonredux
    Don't flatter yourself, there is nothing sophisticated about your aristocracy, they are as crass as all the other Americans.

    As for Buster Keaton, so I had look at some his stuff. I am sure he was funny for those born before 1920, and I am sure that this supposed to be some gospel truth in American lore and film studies about Keaton, but seriously, how is that crap funny ?
    , @Lurker
    Mr Bean was essentially a reboot of silent film comedy. I'm sure someone else will hit upon that idea again in the years to come.
  148. I never thought Hope was clever or funny, but his timing was flawless.

  149. @Cagey Beast
    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    You're very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He's always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.

    “You’re very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He’s always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.”

    That is true. I once talked with an English guy about my own age in the early 90s. This young man was very brilliant and not without humor, but our conversation was about a serious subject. Yet at some point I couldn’t resist a Python analogy. He blew up sort of. Got real annoyed and went on for some minutes about how he couldn’t discuss anything serious or consequential with fellow students back at school a few years earlier, because they’d always bring up some Python reference.

    Now I actually shared his angst about that. The surest way to shut down topics you don’t want to face, is to ridicule and mock. It’s done constantly in the media, on topics they want to shut down.

    U.S. Jewish comedians are particularly the thing nowadays, because the society that produced that genre doesn’t exist anymore. However, my favorite all time comedian was Peter Sellers. British Jewish comedians are still fantastic because they (at least the comedians) really never wanted to bring anything down. Not really.

  150. @education realist
    "Moonstruck was probably the best comedy of the ’80s, and its writer, John Patrick Shanley, wasn’t a comedian."

    One of the longest laughs I've ever experienced in the theater--just sheer howling joy--was when John Cleese galloped up the stairs, struck a pose, and said "Champagne!"--then screamed as the woman turned out to be his wife. Plus, the recurring gag of Kevin Kline saying Aaaasssssshoole! and "Don't call me stupid". Speaking of Monty Python. Maybe not a great comedy, but stupendously funny at its best.

    Then there's Spinal Tap and the great Princess Bride, speaking of Jewish and Sid Caesar via the next generation of Carl Reiner (who I always thought far funnier than both Mel and Sid).

    Ghostbusters is no small achievement, either.

    Wait. Airplane was made in the 80s. Game over.

    I think Moonstruck was by far the most prestigious great comedy made in the 80s, and certainly the most romantic. And very, very good. But "best" is a big word, even in the 80s, which was a notoriously weak decade for great films. I'd certainly put it in the top 10 but leave it at that.

    I also didn't know that about Annie Hall. Not sure what it says about me that I like Manhattan Murder Mystery much more than Woody's most famous film.

    The Princess Bride, while being very gently humorous, isn’t what I’d call a comedy.

    Now Spaceballs, that’s a comedy!

  151. “You had to be there.” I think that sums it up.

    John Cleese says the essence of British humor is their fear of embarrassment, and increasingly excruciating embarrassment and awkward situations are everywhere in modern comedy.

    The worst sort of humor is clappy humor, of the Jon Stewart/Colbert variety. The laughs are self-congratulatory, at getting the joke and not being some rube that actually believes those things you don’t agree with.

    Jon Stewart I think ran out of comically incredulous facial expressions to spark the clap laughs.

    • Replies: @Harry Baldwin
    The worst sort of humor is clappy humor, of the Jon Stewart/Colbert variety.

    True, I liked Colbert about 10 years ago but stopped watching him when I began despising him too much to find him funny. I disliked his treatment of Obama as sacrosanct; his appearance at a senate hearing where he made a mockery of concern about illegal immigration; and his compulsion to coyly refer in his jokes to the most disgusting activities of homosexuals as if it were a mark of hipness to be familiar and tolerant of them--Cleveland Steamers, the Dirty Sanchez, Tossing [someone's] Salad.
    , @John Mansfield
    After hearing for years how funny and insightful Jon Stewart is, I browsed segments to try one, and chose one poking fun at Newt Gingrich. I figured that couldn’t help but be funny considering Gingrich’s pompous style and pride in every thought that comes out his mouth. All Stewart did was play a couple clips of Gingrich saying something mildly self-regarding and tone deaf, and then Stewart would mug for the camera with his tongue literally in his cheek and say in a goofy voice “How about that, Newton?” That was all Stewart could do with a target as rich as Gingrich? Stewart had a look on his face like he had something going on his head that is going to be really funny, so funny that he had to struggle to kept from busting out laughing, but he was just acting; he never said anything funny, not even anything that was meant to be funny but fell flat. There was no comedy, no humor, no word play, no setting up for a punchline. It was just cheerleading and reminding everyone that Gingrich is a goof playing for the other team.
  152. One influence of Seinfeld not often cited was JFK (who was not Jewish to my knowledge). Seinfeld described how he and a friend used to pretend in the schoolyard, to be Pres. Kennedy and the press, or some interviewer. I think you can actually see this in some of his detached delivery. Of course this presidential influence would have been before he was 10 years old.
    It made me look up some of the press conferences from the early 60s, and despite the drama, what a laugh at times, yet you actually got the impression questions were being answered. Nothing like it since.

  153. Nobody is mentioning the originals. Comedy is a Greek word, and there several surviving plays. Best know: Aristophanes.

    Parts his plays still sound funny 2400 years later.

    Gilbert (wrote the lyrics) for Sullivan were influenced by Greek comedy. And Gilbert sounds funny yet.

    Of course some of the stuff is dated, but parts are about the human condition, and is unchanging.

    (Sullivan’s music of course contributed to the continuing interest in their work). They kicked off modern English comedy. Monty Python is part of this (which I find pretty funny).

  154. Teachout is not Jewish and Zoglin (the author of the book praising Hope that Teachout is criticizing) is Jewish so I’m not sure you can put this lack of appreciation on the Jews. Especially given that Woody Allen was always very clear about his debt to Hope.

  155. Then there’s Spinal Tap and the great Princess Bride, speaking of Jewish and Sid Caesar via the next generation of Carl Reiner (who I always thought far funnier than both Mel and Sid).

    Ghostbusters is no small achievement, either.

    Yeah, backstage comedy impressarios like Carl Reiner and Ivan Reitman (not just Ghostbusters and Caddyshack but the amazing Groundhog Day) deserve a lot more credit than they get. Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day still work and that’s rare for 30 year old comedy.

    • Replies: @HA
    "Ivan Reitman (not just Ghostbusters and Caddyshack but the amazing Groundhog Day)..."

    What did Reitman contribute to Groundhog Day? It was Harold Ramis who directed and co-wrote it.
  156. Obviously, Jews don’t have a monopoly on humor, but I think what Teachout was getting at was that Hope’s late humor, lacked the essential Jewish element of empathy. Humor without humanism is merely cruelty. Hope’s late humor was extremely condescending – he was the rich man who golfed with Presidents and made fun of hippies, gays, etc. This was a long way from Hope’ earlier character where he poked fun at himself as a selfish coward and even further from the days when Hope as a little boy pretended to be Charlie Chaplin, the quintessential underdog. At some point, Chaplin became a millionaire PLAYING a tramp, but it never felt phony – he had had once BEEN that tramp and he never forgot what it was like, and he played the tramp with love and not condescension.

    A lot of people here don’t understand why Jews , one of the most privileged groups in America today, continue to identify with immigrants, blacks, minorities, etc. But the alternative, which is to become cold and cruel like Hope and forget that you too were once a poor immigrant (in Hope’s case, it wasn’t even his great-grandfather like American Jews today, it was Hope personally) and pretend that you were ALWAYS a guy who hung out at the country club making cynical jokes about your inferiors, is even worse.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    At some point, Chaplin became a millionaire PLAYING a tramp, but it never felt phony – he had had once BEEN that tramp and he never forgot what it was like, and he played the tramp with love and not condescension.
     
    Actually, it felt phony every time he did it.Maudlin inauthenticity was Chaplin's hallmark.

    A lot of people here don’t understand why Jews , one of the most privileged groups in America today, continue to identify with immigrants, blacks, minorities, etc. But the alternative, which is to become cold and cruel like Hope and forget that you too were once a poor immigrant (in Hope’s case, it wasn’t even his great-grandfather like American Jews today, it was Hope personally) and pretend that you were ALWAYS a guy who hung out at the country club making cynical jokes about your inferiors, is even worse.
     
    Dear fellow, if you are being ironic, kudos.Swift would be proud.

    Now, if you are being serious....Well, let's just say that this celebrated Jewish ability to identify with the oppressed would be much more impressive if it were on display in the Gaza strip:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/israel-cheers-gaza-rockets-missiles-air-strikes_n_5597443.html


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjw8U0AcH4Q
    , @Priss Factor
    "A lot of people here don’t understand why Jews , one of the most privileged groups in America today, continue to identify with immigrants, blacks, minorities, etc."

    Their sympathy has done wonders for Ukrainians, Russians, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans, and esp. Palestinians.

    Btw, doesn't it ever to Jews that immigration per se was not the reason for Jewish success. After all, suppose Jews had immigrated to Maoist China, Castro's Cuba, Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Hoxha's Albania, Trujillo's Dominican Republic, etc.
    Could they have done much?

    Jews did best in America because they came to live in a socio-economic-political system created by Anglo-Americans. That's what they owe their success too. Given the roots of American success, don't you think Jews ought to be especially grateful to the founding race of Americans?

    After all, blacks, Mexicans, and later immigrant groups are not the ones who established the systems and rules that made Jewish success possible. Like Jews, they benefited from the order established by Anglo-Americans.
    If immigration is the key to success, maybe all American Jews should become immigrants in Malaysia or Peru. If Jews love immigration so much, why do they want to remain in America?

    It's because America developed the best system.
    Since that system is important and since it has certain racial-cultural roots, doesn't it make sense to maintain the kind of racial-cultural balance that will best facilitate the continuance of that system. One thing for sure, flooding this nation with the tide of color and then setting the peoples of that tide against white people via PC isn't gonna do much good for America.
  157. @Mr. Anon
    This sounds like some retroactive ethnic triumphalism. Given Hope's popularity, certainly a lot of people found him funny. I remember seeing one of his TV specials in the 70s where he did a monologue and thinking it was funny - not astoundingly, hilariously so - but workmanlike enough. Of course he had a stable of writers to provide him with material.

    You want to talk about unfunny - how about Mel Brooks. Other than "The Producers" (which was not only funny, but was deftly directed) and "The Twelve Chairs", his movies were juvenile crap - nothing but potty and sex jokes for the most part, and not even good ones.

    Comedy is mostly hit-and-miss. If one is not incredibly witty (like Fred Allen for example), the best tack is to just throw out a lot of jokes - a fraction of them are bound to hit home. Hope did that. So did George Carlin, Stephen Wright, and Jay Leno. In movies, that's also the approach of the Zucker/Abrams team.

    I thought that Young Frankenstein was his best movie. Notice that both “Producers” and “Young Frankenstein” had Gene Wilder in them. Maybe Wilder had a good influence on Brooks.

  158. @syonredux
    Neutral

    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to.
     
    Don’t feel bad, dear fellow.Top-grade American humor is too complex for the hoi-polloi.For them, there’s always Are You Being Served and the Carry On franchise

    Neutral

    Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.
     
    A third-rate Buster Keaton.

    Don’t flatter yourself, there is nothing sophisticated about your aristocracy, they are as crass as all the other Americans.

    As for Buster Keaton, so I had look at some his stuff. I am sure he was funny for those born before 1920, and I am sure that this supposed to be some gospel truth in American lore and film studies about Keaton, but seriously, how is that crap funny ?

    • Replies: @syonredux

    Don’t flatter yourself, there is nothing sophisticated about your aristocracy, they are as crass as all the other Americans.
     
    Dear fellow, there is nothing as refined as an elite American: Henry Adams, Thurber, Hawthorne, etc.

    As for Buster Keaton, so I had look at some his stuff. I am sure he was funny for those born before 1920, and I am sure that this supposed to be some gospel truth in American lore and film studies about Keaton, but seriously, how is that crap funny ?
     
    Caviar to the general.Ah, well, I suppose that Keaton is beyond the comprehension of the average foreigner


    Incidentally, dear fellow, it's not proper form to use someone else's name as your own.

  159. From a UK perspective, there’s something incredibly cheesy about US stand-up humour. Hammy. Even the kosher comedians are hammy. And the sit-coms are dreary learn-fests, which all seem to feature narcissists in NY or LA.

    Now, most UK comedy is poor too, but there are a few bright spots. Chris Morris, who some iSteve readers might know as the director of Four Lions, has done some pretty good stuff. My favourite is his radio collaboration with Peter Cook (who started out with Dudley Moore in the 60s) called ‘Why Bother?’ 10 minutes each. All five are on Youtube:

    Chris Morris’ “Nathan Barley” was skewering SWPL hipsters 10 years ago. It seems prophetic – http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/feb/10/nathan-barley-charlie-brooker-east-london-comedy . And unlike Portlandia, it’s funny.

  160. My old man was WWII vintage. Among his few “LPs” was a Bix Beiderbecke collection that included a few tunes with Bing Crosby recorded around 1927. Bix was probably the first tragic white pop star who’s cornet stylings still intrigue nearly a century later. Another interesting WASP character of that generation was Jimmy Stewart, who during the air war against Germany was XO of a squadron neighboring my dad’s. Pops said Stewart was well respected amongst the aviators serving there. The films of Hope and Stewart were standard fare in our B&W TV households of the 1960s.

    Here is Bix and Hope with Frankie Trumbauer in “Mississippi Mud” :

  161. I put in a vote for W.C. Fields.

  162. One hundred twenty eight posts on older American comedians and no one has mentioned George Burns?

    Also, why am I reminded of this? What’s lost in “Unclean Lips” is the thrill obscenity can create. It’s the sharp dangerous edge of anarchy and when used effectively, it can BLEEP up the most carefully planned cocktail party, smashing all propriety to BLEEP.

    • Replies: @Auntie Analogue
    George Burns was not an out-and-out comic, for most of his career he was the straight man for his wife Gracie Allen's fractured gags. When Burns did solo, his schtick was more in the Bill Cosby observer-humorist, as opposed to comic, vein.
  163. I found Hitchens tiresome mostly, but he wasn’t without wit. For example, I laughed pretty hard at this quote in a New Yorker profile some years ago:

    “The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics.”

    • Replies: @David R. Merridale
    I get a laugh out of the title of his book on the Clintons: "No One Left to Lie To"
    , @OsRazor
    I don't doubt Hitchens found anal sex a bit overrated, being a catcher and all.
  164. @Dave Pinsen
    Mel Brooks just did a one man show on HBO at age 88. He was funny.

    Also, History of the World Part 1 was funny.

    Young Frankenstein was funny.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    Yeah, the song & dance routine with the monster was classic.
  165. @slumber_j
    I found Hitchens tiresome mostly, but he wasn't without wit. For example, I laughed pretty hard at this quote in a New Yorker profile some years ago:

    "The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics."

    I get a laugh out of the title of his book on the Clintons: “No One Left to Lie To”

  166. When I was in junior high school in about 1981, the school paper did a class survey. One of the questions was, “Who is your favorite comedian?” Hope won by a large margin. Mind you this was 1981 — Carlin and Pryor were in their prime, and Hope was nearly eighty. The preferences of 300 Midwestern kids are no guide to quality, but people forget there was a time when “Bob Hope” and “comedian” were practically synonymous, like…well, like no example I can pull from the present day. Maybe like asking people today who their favorite Korean singer is. For the vast majority of people there is only one possible answer: the “Gangnam Style” guy, whatever his name was. For unsophisticated kids in 1981, there was only one possible answer: Bob Hope.

    • Replies: @Marty
    That truly blows me away. I guess "Let's Get Small" was banned between the coasts. My $.02:

    Funny: Benny, Burns, Newhart, Pryor, Dangerfield, Martin, DiPaolo, Shandling, Rock.

    Not: Hope, Kaye, Skelton, Ball, Bruce, Cosby, Gregory, Cambridge, Rivers, Steinberg, Klein.


    Mezza mezza: Carlin
  167. Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope. Love and Death is simply the Cowardly Bob Hope Character plugged into a pastiche of War and Peace and other 19th Century Russian novels.

    Woody Allen has noted his fondness for Bob Hope’s Monsieur Beaucaire

    Woody Allen has long expressed his affection for Monsieur Beaucaire, an affection made doubly obvious in “homage” fashion by Allen’s 1975 costume comedy Love and Death.

    http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/33142/Monsieur-Beaucaire/overview

    And here’s a list of Woody’s favorite comedies:

    Comedian’s films or broader sillier films that I always laugh at are:
    31. Duck Soup(Marx Brothers)
    32. Monkey Business (Howard Hawks)
    33. Horse Feathers (Marx Brothers)
    34. A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers)
    35. A Day at the Races (Marx Brothers)
    36. Monsieur Beaucaire (Bob Hope)
    37. You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (WC Fields)
    38. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (WC Fields)
    39. Casanova’s Big Night (Bob Hope)
    40. Airplane! (Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker)

    http://letterboxd.com/zevi/list/woody-allens-favorite-films/

    Interesting to see that the two Bob Hope movies (Monsieur Beaucaire and Casanova’s Big Night) are both costume pictures.Also quite interesting to note that Woody is quite a fan of the great W.C. Fields

    • Replies: @dcite
    According to some official tally, on TCM, the funniest film of all time was "Some Like it Hot." Marilyn Monroe's best film to say the least.
  168. Yes, what we found funny in our youth doesn’t always strike us the same way in old age. (The same could be said about fiction.) I just watched the first half-hour of The Producers and didn’t crack a smile. Woody Allen’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex also bombed with me. On the other hand, The Prince and the Showgirl I found deliciously funny. And what about Steve Allen (whom I haven’t listened to in years)? Most of the Bowery Boys were not Jewish if I am not mistaken, and I still enjoy that broad kind of humor.

  169. @Steve Sailer
    How long did Sid Caesar last on top?

    Roughly, for about 15 minutes.

  170. Steve: “Who can’t recall countless Christopher Hitchens zingers like … uh …”

    Wait I think I got one: he said on TV 15 years before he died of cancer that being a heavy smoker and drinker hadn’t done him any harm so far. That’s funny

  171. Hope did ok in a short boxing career, winning four fights before quitting in 1919, but came back in 1948 to knock out Jack Dempsey in a charity bout, although Dempsey was past his prime. Marciano apparently was a tougher opponent, the fight being calleda no contest due to cowardice.

    In my single afternoon with him, he was as pleasant and friendly a gentleman as you will ever meet.

    I have read astounding accounts of Mark Twain stand up, but it is said there was another man at that time and place who was even better, but no record exist of his work because stand up was all he did.

    • Replies: @Truth

    "Hope did ok in a short boxing career, winning four fights before quitting in 1919, but came back in 1948 to knock out Jack Dempsey in a charity bout"
     
    Just for kicks I watched the Hope - Dempsey boxing match on youtube. As much of a clown as he's being in the :60 clip it's readily apparent from his footwork, that Hope knew his way around a boxing ring.
  172. It’s amusing to see someone insist that so and so was hilarious, and then someone else say that no, so and so wasn’t remotely funny. And seeing it over and over on this thread just goes to show how wildly our sense of humor can vary from person to person. But it does seem pretty obvious that the average comedian these days isn’t nearly as funny as the average one used to be.

    I’ve heard people from my parents generation say that it used to be a big deal when a comedian came on Ed Sullivan or The Sonny and Cher Show – they’d call the whole family in with “Hey, there’s a comedian on TV!” and everyone would gather round to watch Rodney Dangerfield or Steve Martin or George Carlin. Now, it’s pretty much the exact opposite. When a comedian comes on a talk show these days, most people are like “Aw, sh*t, turn the channel!” And if you do stick around to watch them, it’s amazing how little laughter they get from the studio audience.

    Go to Youtube and watch some standups who have appeared on Letterman the last 15 years. People don’t laugh very much; instead, they applaud. Now it’s one thing if something is so riotously funny that people are applauding while they’re laughing, but that’s not what you see on these shows. People mildly chuckle at a few jokes, and applaud but don’t laugh at all at many of them. Which means it’s not funny. If something is funny, you laugh. You can’t help it; it’s an involuntary response. But if you’re in Letterman’s audience and the comedian’s jokes aren’t funny, you must be the problem, right? Letterman wouldn’t put on somebody who’s not funny, would he? So you figure you must be the problem, and you want to show that you’re not some kind of out of town hick who doesn’t get the joke, so you applaud. Either that or they’re applauding to cover up the embarrassing silence because they feel sorry for a guy bombing on national TV. Watch a few of those, and then go watch Sam Kinison’s debut on Letterman. Or an old Rodney Dangerfield special. Or some live video of a Steve Martin show. Comedy has gone way downhill.

    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    My thoughts exactly. This thread started out because Terry Teachout said the problem with Bob Hope was that he wasn't Jewish, which, on a meta level, was just Teachout giving his (assumed Jewish) audience what they wanted to hear. This is Commentary we are talking about, after all.

    I'm sure there was an article by some black guy on the Internet recently describing how Richard Pryor was the greatest comedian of all time. In fact, he usually polls towards the top. Myself, I don't get it, but there it is.

    The thing is that I think people took Teachout's rather blatant ethnic pandering as a truth worth arguing about. Actually, it wasn't.

    Since we are reprising comedians who made people laugh, however, my personal roll call would include: Twain, Leacock, and Benchley (as writers), Jack Benny and Bob Hope (as actors), Danny Kaye's "Court Jester", Bob Newhart (early '60's standups), and films like "Money Talks" (1997), "Bowfinger" (1999), also George Carlin (about 60% of the time for his whole career), Eddie Murphy (back in the early '80's). I also think "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is a great movie, but I have watched it with people who didn't think it was funny at all. Just goes to show ......

    I didn't think Richard Pryor was very funny and I think Lenny Bruce was only funny in the mid to early '50's, that is, the time of his early Fantasy albums. And those were funny mainly because he was "transgressive", i.e., talking about things no one else talked about, such as drug use, homosexuality, racism, and so on. His live concerts, even the Carnegie Hall appearance, are actually not very funny and the last few that he did in SF and Berkeley are almost painful.

    BTW, since Bruce died in 1966, how is he talking about Kubler-Ross?
    , @Harry Baldwin
    People mildly chuckle at a few jokes, and applaud but don’t laugh at all at many of them. Which means it’s not funny.

    I sat in the audience for the Letterman Show about 25 years ago. When I watched it on TV that night what I noticed different was that the laughter had really been "sweetened"--where I recall him getting a few chuckles, on TV it was uproarious laughter.
  173. @Steve Sailer
    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley's "Treasurer's Report" in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote "Jaws."

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley's bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

    @ Steve Sailer,

    “Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber.”

    Knowing of this connection between the two writers and loving The Thurber Carnival, I picked up a copy of Benchley’s A Chip Off the Old Benchley. I found it flat and painfully unfunny, couldn’t even get through it. I could imagine it working if Benchley had acted it out but not just as read.

    By contrast, you are consistently funny. Almost as funny as Henry James.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "Almost as funny as Henry James."

    Comedy Central here I come!

  174. @BehindTheLines
    Drama is good at crossing borders and temporal gaps. Comedy is much more specific to time and place. I've tried watching Chaplin movies, and they don't do anything for me.

    And I don't find Bob Hope to be the least bit funny.

    I find Laurel & Hardy hold up quite well.

  175. @A Jew
    I'm Jewish, with a Jewish brother who did standup that was more brilliant than funny, so he is now a computer programmer, and we're both more sympathetic to the Sailer perspective than the median Jew. On the other hand, I have mutual Facebook friends with Terry Teachout, know a number of Commentary writers, and have distant relatives who made a good living on 1970s tv schlock you've heard of.

    My brother and I think Monty Python is funny, even if we didn't immediately get the full gist of the Semprini joke and other humor tied to early 1970s Britain. So too Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, early Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Larry David, the Marx Brothers, Don Rickles, NBC-era David Letterman, Chris Elliott, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chris Rock standup, and Arrested Development. My brother loves Bob Hope, Lenny Bruce, and the Three Stooges; I don't. I like the Lenny Bruce Jewish/goyish routine, and very little else Bruce did. I can't stand The Big Bang Theory, though I'm probably its key nerdy Jewish demographic. Funny is funny, and I don't understand the anti-Semitism of some of the commenters here who criticize comedians as too Jewish or the philo-Semitism of some writers. On the other hand, I hated Top Five and loved Annie Hall, so who am I to dispute others' tastes for their own personal affinities?

    Hope had two comedy careers: the 1940s movie star, and the much longer career as a standup gag teller. I appreciate, but don't particularly like either: both are painfully dated to my sensibilities. The 1970s sketches seem particularly hackish get-off-my-lawn stuff (especially compared to, say, contemporaries like Carol Burnett); look up the YouTube video of his hippy sketch, which The Simpsons hilariously parodied. But I don't get Teachout's critique. As Sailer correctly points out, Woody Allen successfully translated the Bob Hope persona to his early movies; and surely a significant percentage of Hope's filing cabinet index cards of jokes were written by Jews, if not a majority. My favorite Hope joke is "Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it's known in my house, Passover." Hope hardly lacked for Jewish affinities. I think Teachout's real complaint is the now politically incorrect gay bashing in some of Hope's jokes, but that's less likely to sell to Commentary. (Separately, Hope told thousands of jokes. No matter how hackish he was, I'd be surprised if someone couldn't cull a couple of dozen of good ones from that. I appreciate what he did for the USO, but I don't see how anyone my age or younger can sit through one of his 90-minute tv specials.)

    Funny is funny, and I don’t understand the anti-Semitism of some of the commenters here who criticize comedians as too Jewish …

    Steve likes to bring up topics that can’t be broached in polite society (with the implicit question: why is that?); the commenters attracted to these topics are living answers that question.

  176. @Cagey Beast
    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he’s French-Canadian Catholic.

    You're thinking of Avril Lavigne. Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

    Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

    Wikipedia begs to differ:

    Early life
    James Eugene Carrey was born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, to Kathleen (née Oram), a homemaker, and Percy Carrey (1927–1994), a musician and accountant. He has three older siblings, John, Patricia, and Rita. He was raised Roman Catholic. His mother was of French, Irish, and Scottish descent and his father was of French-Canadian ancestry (the family’s original surname was Carré).

  177. @Thursday
    Best Bob Hope joke:

    “I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it mandatory.”

    I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it mandatory.

    That used to be a joke. But somewhere a social engineer is sketching out plans…

  178. @syonredux

    Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American,
     
    You must be joking.

    On the other hand, if you are being serious, well, you're just plain wrong.The Best American comedy is quite outstanding:

    James Thurber: His brief comedy pieces are masterpieces."The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," for example, will endure forever.

    Mark Twain: Comedy with legs.It takes true genius to write comedy that still holds up a century after it was written: "The Awful German Language", Roughing It, "Extracts from Adam's Diary", etc

    The Marx Brothers: At their peak (Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, etc) some of the funniest stuff ever committed to celluloid.

    Buster Keaton: Far superior to Chaplin.Indeed, things like The General and Sherlock,JR are worth Chaplin's entire oeuvre

    Ambrose Bierce: The consummate master of hard, slashing comedy.They didn't call him "Bitter" Bierce for nothing.

    Tom Wolfe:Comedy built on brilliant social observation.No one is better at dissecting the human drive to feel socially superior: Bonfire of the Vanities, From bauhaus to our House, The Painted Word, etc

    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal’s Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn’t entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film. His independent film roles sans his brothers weren’t all that.

    Chico was, well, not much without his brothers. Did he even do a film on his own? No.

    A case could be made that Harpo, actually, was the funniest of the three. But then again his shtick was a second rate knockoff of Chaplin/Keaton, overdramatized and without the subtly of either.

    Groucho Marx’s reputation was on the wane by the late 60’s but was saved in large part due to his late life touring of college campuses doing standup, as well as ironically, admirers of his which included Bill Cosby.

    But for standup, few could touch or equal Bob Hope in his prime. And Bob Hope was funnier than Groucho Marx in doing standup comedy.

    Like Chaplin, Groucho created a character for himself that relied on cheap theatrics and superficial facial accoutrements. Even though Chaplin had the inner talent to back up the outward tricks with a wide range of emotions, Groucho, in contrast, was just a sarcastic bitter person and one who never understood why the girls didn’t fall for him the way they seemed to for the goyim.

    During WW2 on a bond drive with other Alisters he appeared without his trademark disguise and went up to fans who had turned up for the bond drive. He began insulting the fans there who didn’t much appreciate his attitude. Groucho then went into a bathroom and returned in his well familiar disguise of glasses and paper mustache, found the exact same fans he had previously insulted and began to insult them in the same manner. THIS time, the fans roared with laughter and appreciated his jokes.

    Bob Hope, by contrast, was instantly recognizable throughout America in his prime and needed no superficial outward disguises to help sell his material.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn’t entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film.
     
    I don't think Harpo would have come across too well on the radio. ;-)
    , @syonredux

    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal’s Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.
     
    We'll have to agree to disagree on that one; I think that their best stuff still works.And I've got T.S. Eliot on my side (he was a great admirer of Groucho's).

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.
     
    Abbott and Costello are great.I grew up watching their stuff, and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of the truly great comedies.For that matter, it's also a fitting end to the Universal Horror cycle as well.Incidentally, David Thomson's rumination on "Who's on First" in his Biographical Dictionary of Film is maybe the finest thing ever written about Bud and Lou
  179. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    Bob Welch – Fleetwood Mac
    Bob Weir – Grateful Dead

    I’m not sure either was #2.

  180. @Cagey Beast
    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall's role in Tender Mercies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1rq9lsTp8

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I'd vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn't remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O'Toole did some really funny stuff.

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I’d vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn’t remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O’Toole did some really funny stuff.

    I recently saw The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and Herbert Lom. It’s a 1955 film that was remade in 2004 by the Coen Brothers with Tom Hanks in the Alec Guinness role. The movie is considered a classic comedy, but I didn’t laugh one time before I finally gave up on it halfway through. The setups for the particular scenes all seemed forced and unoriginal.

    I’m not old enough to have seen Sellers in his great Inspector Clouseau roles during those films’ theatrical runs, but I saw them more than a decade later when I watched them on TV. A Shot in the Dark, the early Pink Panther films are all considered classic comedies. And I thought they were funny when I was ten years old. But I recently saw a couple of those films again on TV and they didn’t seem the least bit funny. Whatever it was about them that I had liked was gone.

  181. @Cagey Beast
    Jim Carrey is not a WASP, he’s French-Canadian Catholic.

    You're thinking of Avril Lavigne. Jim Carrey was raised a Presbyterian in southern Ontario, as far as I can remember from an old interview.

    Hold the phone. At some point Jim Carrey became a Presbyterian.

    Is Jim Carrey a Presbyterian?

    Yes, he is. Though he was raised a Roman Catholic Christian. As of an interview he gave with Shane Peacock of Saturday Night magazine in June 1993 (published in Toronto), he was attending a Presbyterian church.

    Eh, with his French ancestry, and having been raised a Catholic, I still say he isn’t a WASP.

  182. @syonredux

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.
     
    Can't comment on German Germans, but H.L. Mencken was extremely funny.The exception that proves the rule?

    I’m glad someone mentioned Mencken. And since you also mentioned Bierce.

  183. A guy I worked with in Northern Ireland once said to me “you know you’ve become an adult when you no longer find Monty Python funny”. Around the same time BBC2 started running old episodes and sure enough they were just awful. When I was a teenager I thought they were funny. Monty Python had a couple of really good skits that everyone remembers fondly but most of their stuff was utter dreck. I do find it interesting though that of all the great British humour it is really only Monty Python that Americans have taken to. Weird.

    Incidentally, the comedy on British TV today is pathetic. It’s at the same level as cheesy American sitcoms. I don’t know what happened.

    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed)

    Good point. I noticed that after 7/7. Oh look at us ‘aving a larf about the absurdity of it all unlike those wacko Americans after 9/11.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "Around the same time BBC2 started running old episodes and sure enough they were just awful. When I was a teenager I thought they were funny. Monty Python had a couple of really good skits that everyone remembers fondly but most of their stuff was utter dreck."

    MP was very funny, but the underlying theme was almost always the same: stiff upper lip while the pants are being pulled down.
    It was funnier when British society still had stiff upper lips. Today, when Brits have pierced lips and nose rings, the relevant context as to why the jokes had been especially funny is no longer there.

    But there's something special about British comic sensibility that simply cannot be touched when done right. World's End is unbelievable. No other people can pull that off.
  184. “Dave Pinsen says:

    Mel Brooks just did a one man show on HBO at age 88. He was funny.

    Also, History of the World Part 1 was funny.”

    Define “funny”. When does a fart joke rise to truly epic proportions?

    Your opinion tells me more about you than it does about Brooks.

  185. I am 68 and never found Bob Hope more than mildly humorless and not written by himself(frequent mentions of his “writers)”. Bob Hope’s biggest contribution to comedy was his support of Phyllis Diller–now that lady was funny.

  186. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Steve, Commentary used to be owned by the American Jewish Committee but has been independent for several years now. As you might have noticed if you paid attention to debates within the American Jewish community (which you obviously don’t – not a criticism, since there are more interesting things in the world, except for the fact that you insist on inaccurately positing a united American Jewish position on most things), the political positions generally advocated in Commentary diverge rather sharply from the views of most of the kind of wealthy American Jews who support the AJC.

  187. Blazing Saddles was written by Andrew Bergman, with some of the funniest bits added by Richard Pryor. Personally, I prefer Young Frankenstein. That was written by Gene Wilder. Brooks was only brought in to direct. Although not up to the standard of these two, I find Silent Movie entertaining, a movie noted for its single word of dialogue.

    My observation is that the less writing Brooks does in a Brooks movie, the more likely it is to actually be funny.

  188. “Anonymous says:

    Monty Python isn’t funny.

    Most of the people – Americans, anyway – who say they like Monty Python will admit that it’s not funny if you interrogate them about it.”

    Have you talked to most Americans who say they like Monty Python? I rather think not.

    I liked it. And it was some of the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen, bar none.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "Monty Python isn’t funny."

    I first got to see MP on PBS as a kid in the 1970s. My dad said I should watch PBS since it was educational and stuff. So, one day I'm watching PBS and there's this naked guy sitting on a piano. Educational? As a child, I didn't get MP humor and I missed a lot of the words cuz it was British.

    But I kept watching and got hooked because it was so crazy and unlike anything else on TV. My idea of funny stuff was Three's Company, Three Stooges reruns, Bugs Bunny, Happy Days, Lavergne and Shirly, Sanford and Son, Flinstones reruns, Brady Bunch, and etc. I got that stuff, more or less.
    But MP was just really strange. Saturday Night Live was a bit crazy too but not like MP which seemed like some Alice in Wonderland weirdville comedy.

    I couldn't make head or tails out of this stuff, but they cracked me up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp-R1o753pM

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w9aNqF-3vs

    And if most American comedy didn't reference or allude to much outside its own cultural bubble, MP was alluding to history, culture, philosophy, and stuff I had no idea about(until much later). To really appreciate MP, you have to know the references. It's like Rutles is pretty funny even if you don't know anything about the Beatles but much funnier if you do. It's like the "Dennis Moore" skit is funnier if you know something about economic theory.

    And the Peckinpah skit is funny on its own but much funnier if you know if you know about the films of Peckinpah:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1-NpyaOWV0

    When I first saw MP, I had no idea who Peckinpah was or anything. So, it just seemed totally strange and wacky. But then, even if you do know the references, there's still something about MP that is really off the wall. They were going for pomo self-reflexive stuff while making fun of it at the same time. They were like Godard making fun of himself.

    They were 'liberal' in the sense that they were 'avant-garde', but also 'conservative' in that they were making fun of the 'avant-garde' even as they indulged in it. In this, I suppose they were forerunners of the anarchism of South Park and libertarianism of Beavis and Butthead.

    MP and HOLY GRAIL is crazy, and it's much funnier if you know some 'intellectual' history.

    There's Karl Marx showing up as god.
    And there's anarcho-syndicalism in the dark ages:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAaWvVFERVA
  189. @rod1963
    But I can't think of many funny Jewish comedians. Seinfeld was and is a pathetic dud and the same with all those on his show. They weren't funny, they were desperate and annoying.

    Don Rickles was merely desperate. He's like the ugly, fat kid in school desperate for people to like him and ends up with everyone wanting to stuff him in a trash can.

    Adam Sandler is talentless and needs a good script and director to make him to appear even remotely funny.

    Now the Marx Brothers and the stooges were funny.

    Though they don't compare to George Carlin, Jonathan Winters or Johnny Carson.

    Neil Simon, I just don't get why he's considered funny. I prefer The Munsters and Adams Family over his work.

    Seinfeld was and is a pathetic dud and the same with all those on his show.

    Perhaps Seinfeld is pathetic but not compared to the others on Seinfeld. From Kramer to Elaine and thru George’s parents, Seinfeld’s parents and culminating in George who is painful to watch.

  190. @Steve Sailer
    "Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US."

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?

    “But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?”

    The Flying Circus (TV) is hit and miss, the hits being very funny and even the misses a bit unsettling, but I’ll grant that the misses far outweigh the hits. I’d say 25%/75% ration, which is ok for comedy. Some of the best skits from Flying Circus are redone nicely in the compilation movie Completely Different.

    The movies? Still hold up wonderfully. Little dates them. The first time I saw them, I was laughing uncontrollably. To get into the specifics would be to write for pages. Even now I watch them and smile. And they hold up nicely. I’ve introduced kids who’ve grown up on South Park and John Stewart to Monty Python and almost all of them find the movies hilarious. There’s nothing small or smug about Monty Python.

    In very broad strokes (ignoring the creative brilliance and collaboration of the Cambridge and Oxford educated members) two reasons why Monty Python is funny, why for that matter someone like George Frazier’s Flashman stuff is funny. They’re about something, beautiful fables of absurdity. There’s nothing navel gazing about it, the self-references are handled very deftly. Second, mechanics and execution. The British are fantastic impersonators, no one does it better, whether it’s accent, attitude, you name it. I think it has everything to do with traversing the stark class markers the British grow up with. It’s very important to know with whom you’re dealing and how to detect the genuine article from a fake. This capacity to be mentally quick on your feet–we Americans are hopeless. Just consider how awful our Congressional performances are compared to the British Parliament.

  191. “Dave Pinsen says:

    The only time I remember laughing during Monty Python’s The Flying Circus was their killer joke bit. Most of it wasn’t funny. Same with their movies. Even the clever bits weren’t “ha!” funny.”

    And yet you think that Mel Brooks later stuff was funny. Again – this says more about you than it does about the topic at hand.

    “And comparing British TV to American TV is like comparing a sprinter to a middle distance runner. The Brits only produce a handful of episodes of any of their shows.”

    Yes, it is certainly better to drag a concept out long past its sell-by date rather than simply tell your story and then stop.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen

    And yet you think that Mel Brooks later stuff was funny. Again – this says more about you than it does about the topic at hand.
     
    Everyone's comments and opinions say something about them - that's a point so obvious I wonder why you'd make it. As for Mel Brooks's "later stuff", if you're alluding to his recent one man show, yes, I thought that was funny. History of the World Part 1, which I also mentioned, goes back to the early '80s.

    Yes, it is certainly better to drag a concept out long past its sell-by date rather than simply tell your story and then stop.
     
    Maybe you prefer short stories to novels. To each his own, but I'd reject a blanket assertion that novels are somehow inferior because they are longer. Good TV series often have some of their best episodes in later seasons.
  192. Hope gets a lot of flak because he stayed on the stage too long. He was 60 in 1963, and very few comedians are that funny after 60, especially the ones rely on physical comedy or playing the coward or overconfident wolf.

    A young guy being cowardly and making sex jokes is funny, an old guy doing that isn’t. Not only that Hope’s movies really declined in quality after 1960. He not only kept doing the same thing, the quality of the scripts was terrible. And of course, his humor, during the 60s and 70s was aimed at middle Americans over the age of 40 so the boomers hated him and thought he was square, just like kids today roll their eyes at Letterman or Leno.

    Rickles insult humor, and Newhart’s subversive WASP persona, OTOH, has lasted a long time because its not based on physical humor or making sex jokes.

    And I’m still trying to figure out why Lenny bruce was so funny or “Brilliant”. Mel Brooks is 100x smarter and funnier and so is Richard Pryor.

  193. @Cagey Beast
    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    You're very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He's always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.

    Its not just an English thing, it’s British & Irish thing too not to mention Aussie & Kiwi. Refusing to take important matters seriously. Many Americans and Canadians seem much too earnest by comparison.

    It’s also infuriating at times.

    • Replies: @Cagey Beast
    No, I had that specifically English absurdist humour in mind, not humour generally. Humour that's on topic and makes a point doesn't fit into the absurd category. That sort of humour is doubly funny because the topic is serious and the joke makes a good point.
  194. @syonredux
    Neutral

    American humour does not do it for me, probably because I don’t understand the American mind and I don’t ever want to.
     
    Don’t feel bad, dear fellow.Top-grade American humor is too complex for the hoi-polloi.For them, there’s always Are You Being Served and the Carry On franchise

    Neutral

    Some say that humour is based on the underlying societal structures, but I don’t think all of it has to be. Take Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) for example, his humour is truly universal, if you look at the view count on Youtube of his videos they go over the million, in the comments section you will see comments from all over the world, he is a true comedian he can connect to everyone.
     
    A third-rate Buster Keaton.

    Mr Bean was essentially a reboot of silent film comedy. I’m sure someone else will hit upon that idea again in the years to come.

  195. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @juswonderinaboutbaseball
    Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope's greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. That is what set him apart from everyone else because you cannot teach those things and most people don't pick up on it consciously because it occurs so quickly. He would sometimes use flat material just to purposely mug. But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously.

    I think MacDonald is right. MacDonald does it but it doesn't look natural. With Macdonald, I cannot tell if MacDonald is exaggerating and mugging to bring it out and highlight it or it is just so unnatural that it comes off as a bad Hope impression. Woody Allen was pretty quick and good at it. Maybe that's why he has such a thing for Hope; maybe like with singers, you gravitate to people who are easier for you to imitate.

    Chevy Chase was just as quick as Hope, but was doing the reverse Hope where his reaction would usually be contemptuous or smug and it is off-putting to most people. I bet half of Chase's infamous prickliness is just others subconsciously picking up on his dumb faces and attributing a lot more malice and dislike to Chase than intended.

    My grandmother worked with Hope when he was on the rise, and she and her husband ran for a while in his social circle- sometime in the late 20s or early 30s- and she described him as the most unbelievably confident and driven man she had ever met. The only performer she ever saw who could get on stage with nothing and win over an audience.

    “Norm Macdonald, who has cited Bob Hope as his greatest influence, has discussed several times that Hope’s greatest skill was his physical reactions; especially his eye-darts. … But the man never needed great material because his whole act was in the reaction and self-conscious detachment in the medias he was entertaining in. His audience would sit through mediocre stuff but still come away feeling entertained and liking Hope subconsciously.”

    This is how I remember David Letterman from when he was first on TV in the 1980s. It seemed like he could make anything funny. His show always seemed extremely low-budget, like something filmed in someone’s a segment, but it was incredibly funny. In fact, the cheesier or more low budget the routine, the funnier it almost seemed. And his motley crew of oddball sidekicks just added to the show’s entertainment value.

  196. Continental humour? Basic stuff like a man slipping on a banana skin has Germans in stitches. Belgians are funny but not intentionally (ask any Frenchman). I knew a couple of Serbs who got British humour better than most Americans. Novak Djokovic has a good sense of humour. Some of the Russian government trolling has been pretty funny – like this.

  197. @SFg
    The one thing that's obvious to me from this whole discussion is that comedy is very culturally specific. What's funny in 1970s America might not be funny in 2010s America, and forget bringing other countries into the mix.

    I found myself laughing pretty hard at (subtitled) 'Bernd das Brot', a German kids' show about a depressed loaf of bread who just wants to sit in his room and look at the wall, but his crazy friends keep dragging him into adventures.

    I found myself laughing pretty hard at (subtitled) ‘Bernd das Brot’, a German kids’ show about a depressed loaf of bread who just wants to sit in his room and look at the wall, but his crazy friends keep dragging him into adventures.

    I have to thank you for that! I saw that about ten years ago in a hotel room in France. It was German with French subtitles and I couldnt understand a word of it. Ive often wondered wtf I was watching – now I know!

  198. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/laugh-factory

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/woody-allen-wants-to-make-a-movie-about-bob-hope-but-doesnt-think-anybody-would-go-see-it-20140801

    I think Hope was more snap than bite. Same with Bill Buckley, which is why no one reads his books anymore. There was no depth to Buckley, just like there was no depth to Hope. It was what-you-see-and-hear-is-what-you-get. But certain kinds of comedy leave you with a sense of weirdness. They suggest at different perspectives on reality in the way that Kafka’s stories do. You can’t merely dismiss them jokes. They constitute a kind of world-view. Hope in his movies traveled all over the world, but the world-view was always just Hope acting goofy or smug.
    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you’ve been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don’t just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality… sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.

    I think Allen’s interest in Hope is not unlike his interest in Wasps and Ingmar Bergman in general. We are living in the post-Wasp age, but Allen grew up in a time when he and many Jews still looked up to Wasps as the cultural, economic, political, social, and intellectual elites of the West. The prominent authors of the first half of the 20th century were Wasps or white gentiles: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Lewis, and etc. Though Hollywood was dominated by Jews, many writers and directors were Wasps.

    And there was a time when European cinema defined art cinema, and Ingmar Bergman was the king of the hill in the 1950s and even during some of 1960s. Even the great Kubrick once sent a letter to Bergman calling him the greatest.

    http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/stanley-kubrick-to-ingmar-bergman-you-are-the-greatest-filmmaker-at-work-today-1960.html

    Allen the Jewish outsider had a love/hate thing with Wasps. For him, Hope represented the INSIDE of the country club with its privilege, pretty girls, and etc. Back when Allen was young, many Jews were still living like the family in RADIO DAYS. Ethnic outsiders who were happy to be in America but still far from elite power.
    I think Allen felt estranged from Jewishness too somewhat paradoxically because he was so Jewish in everything: looks, sensibility, and etc. Since he was so Jewish and couldn’t get away from it, he gravitated to things that were un-Jewish with fascination, love, and envy. But also contempt and hatred. (The ‘we have a sale on Wagner’ joke in Annie Hall, and the joke where Alvy walks into a good looking wasp couple with nothing on their minds. In Husbands and Wives, Sydney Pollack dates a good-looking blonde woman who doesn’t know King Leo from King Lear. Shakespeare is an Anglo, but Jews know more about him than wasps today.)
    Also, Allen was conflicted because he was both goofy/funny & loved low culture AND intellectual & into prestige art. A part of him wanted to be funny guy, another part of him wanted to be a serious artist. No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
    Many Jews have taken ‘lowbrow’ stuff and turned them into ‘high art’. Shining by Kubrick is one.
    Kael was a serious critic who wrote in populist mode.

    There was a time when Jews used to be sort of into ‘don’t rock the boat, and we have to be a credit to our race’. So, older Jews were more admiring of figures like Bergman and Hope.
    But we are now living a very different world. Wasp privilege no longer holds the kind of cultural cachet it once did.
    If anything, all this ‘my grandpa didn’t get into country club’ sounds more and more like a stale joke.

    One crucial change in culture: the nature of humor went from subversive and confrontational to subordinate and cautious. When Wasps and community norms(of white majority) controlled America, many Jewish intellectuals and humorists were hellbent on subverting norms and values. But with Jews now on top, humor is being corralled not to offend the sensibilities of certain groups, especially Jews and homos. And other groups are griping about un-PC humor as well.
    Some Jews are conflicted about this. As political Libs, they side with PC. But as wild humorists, they don’t like to be told what is and isn’t funny. Larry David is in this situation.

    • Replies: @SFG
    I suspect a lot of guys like Larry David, David Zucker, and Jerry Seinfeld of 'who cares if all my fans are white?' fame are closet conservatives and take swings at the left when they can. Not blood-and-soil conservatives, sure, but center-right.
    , @syonredux

    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you’ve been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don’t just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality… sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.
     
    "This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews."

    And yet:

    The Far Side : Gary Larson (not Jewish)

    Calvin and Hobbes: Bill Watterson (not Jewish)

    Steve Wright: Not Jewish

    So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that "This kind of psychological comedy is done best by" Gentiles.
    , @syonredux

    No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
     
    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho's:

    Yet one day in 1961 Groucho received in the mail a note from none other than Eliot himself. Expressing his admiration for the comedian, Eliot asked him for an autographed portrait. A shocked Groucho sent back a studio photograph of himself, only to receive a second note from the icon of modern poetry requesting instead a picture of the iconic Groucho, sporting a moustache and holding a cigar. A second photograph was sent out and a happy Eliot wrote to thank Groucho: “This is to let you know that your portrait has arrived and has given me great joy and will soon appear in its frame on my wall with other famous friends such as W.B. Yeats and Paul Valery.” Groucho had asked for a portrait of Eliot in return, and the latter happily enclosed one. Then the famously morose poet, characterised by Siefgried Sassoon as having “cold-storaged humanity” and by Ottoline Morrell as “the undertaker”, finished with a joke. “P.S.” he wrote. “I like cigars too but there isn’t any cigar in my portrait either.” Well, sort of a joke.

    Eliot’s attraction to Groucho might come as a surprise—it certainly did to Groucho—but there had always been signs of his own buried antic disposition. For one thing, in his early expatriate days in London, he grew fond of wearing pale green powder on his face, occasionally accompanied by lipstick. For another, he expressed great enthusiasm for the defecation scene in “Ulysses” that had appalled Virginia Woolf. V.S. Pritchett described Eliot as “a company of actors inside one suit, each one twitting the others.” One thinks of the twitting Marx Brothers packed into that small stateroom in “A Night at the Opera”.
     
    http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/arts/lee-siegel/unexpected-alliance?page=full
  199. @Kylie
    @ Steve Sailer,

    "Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber."

    Knowing of this connection between the two writers and loving The Thurber Carnival, I picked up a copy of Benchley's A Chip Off the Old Benchley. I found it flat and painfully unfunny, couldn't even get through it. I could imagine it working if Benchley had acted it out but not just as read.

    By contrast, you are consistently funny. Almost as funny as Henry James.

    “Almost as funny as Henry James.”

    Comedy Central here I come!

  200. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    I did not know that (said a la Johnny Carson). I’ve always thought of him as a Fleetwood Mac guy.

  201. This Bob Hope clip still holds up extremely well!

    http://youtu.be/CQWmMfjaXlc

  202. @Days of Broken Arrows
    Funny you should draw the comparison between Woody Allen and Bob Hope. On the old SCTV comedy show, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas made this same connection in their own way in a skit that's still very funny:

    http://youtu.be/yjYVyyTBdh4

    Great post. If you search on woody allen bob hope you can find Tonight Show episodes where Allen guest hosts and Hope is a guest. I think SCTV got their inspiration from that interview.

    • Replies: @Days of Broken Arrows
    Found it -- thanks, great call.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16d2e9_woody-allen-bob-hope-tonight-show-1971_fun
  203. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Cagey Beast
    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed).

    You're very right about this. The English especially have mastered this dark art of using absurdist humour to smother any real conversation. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson is the current champion at this, He's always doing physical comedy stunts or saying he rides a bicycle made of sausages or some other Monty Python-esque idiocy.

    Some Jewish men also seem to do this. They turn everything in a conversation into a joke, and often at someone else’s expense. A man who lived down the street from my family when I was growing up frequently did this, as did my father’s second cousin’s husband. My mother, who’s quite good-natured and swears very little, has always had very little patience for men who behave in such a manner. She usually describes them as asses.

  204. @James Kabala
    Is Teachout Jewish? He is from rural Missouri or Arkansas, I believe, and his distinctive last name (which sounds like two English words but I would guess has nothing to do with them) gives no clear ethnic indicator. Before he wrote for Commentary he used to appear frequently in the defunct (but since revived online) Catholic magazine Crisis.

    Terry Teachout is simply the Lindsey Graham of entertainment commentary.
    I knew him when he was the out-of-work epicene adviser for the student Illini Review in the early 80s.

  205. @slumber_j
    I found Hitchens tiresome mostly, but he wasn't without wit. For example, I laughed pretty hard at this quote in a New Yorker profile some years ago:

    "The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics."

    I don’t doubt Hitchens found anal sex a bit overrated, being a catcher and all.

  206. @Thursday
    Actual White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, from England, are pretty darn funny. Canadian WASPs are pretty funny too. Even if American WASPs are underperforming, there is still nothing about their WASPiness that is necessarily to blame.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    Personally, if anything, I would make the wild guess that the large amount of German ancestry in the U.S. is what holds back comedy among white Americans. The Germans are not exactly known for their sparkling comedy tradition.

    David Letterman?

  207. @Trayvon Zimmerman
    It's amusing to see someone insist that so and so was hilarious, and then someone else say that no, so and so wasn't remotely funny. And seeing it over and over on this thread just goes to show how wildly our sense of humor can vary from person to person. But it does seem pretty obvious that the average comedian these days isn't nearly as funny as the average one used to be.

    I've heard people from my parents generation say that it used to be a big deal when a comedian came on Ed Sullivan or The Sonny and Cher Show - they'd call the whole family in with "Hey, there's a comedian on TV!" and everyone would gather round to watch Rodney Dangerfield or Steve Martin or George Carlin. Now, it's pretty much the exact opposite. When a comedian comes on a talk show these days, most people are like "Aw, sh*t, turn the channel!" And if you do stick around to watch them, it's amazing how little laughter they get from the studio audience.

    Go to Youtube and watch some standups who have appeared on Letterman the last 15 years. People don't laugh very much; instead, they applaud. Now it's one thing if something is so riotously funny that people are applauding while they're laughing, but that's not what you see on these shows. People mildly chuckle at a few jokes, and applaud but don't laugh at all at many of them. Which means it's not funny. If something is funny, you laugh. You can't help it; it's an involuntary response. But if you're in Letterman's audience and the comedian's jokes aren't funny, you must be the problem, right? Letterman wouldn't put on somebody who's not funny, would he? So you figure you must be the problem, and you want to show that you're not some kind of out of town hick who doesn't get the joke, so you applaud. Either that or they're applauding to cover up the embarrassing silence because they feel sorry for a guy bombing on national TV. Watch a few of those, and then go watch Sam Kinison's debut on Letterman. Or an old Rodney Dangerfield special. Or some live video of a Steve Martin show. Comedy has gone way downhill.

    My thoughts exactly. This thread started out because Terry Teachout said the problem with Bob Hope was that he wasn’t Jewish, which, on a meta level, was just Teachout giving his (assumed Jewish) audience what they wanted to hear. This is Commentary we are talking about, after all.

    I’m sure there was an article by some black guy on the Internet recently describing how Richard Pryor was the greatest comedian of all time. In fact, he usually polls towards the top. Myself, I don’t get it, but there it is.

    The thing is that I think people took Teachout’s rather blatant ethnic pandering as a truth worth arguing about. Actually, it wasn’t.

    Since we are reprising comedians who made people laugh, however, my personal roll call would include: Twain, Leacock, and Benchley (as writers), Jack Benny and Bob Hope (as actors), Danny Kaye’s “Court Jester”, Bob Newhart (early ’60’s standups), and films like “Money Talks” (1997), “Bowfinger” (1999), also George Carlin (about 60% of the time for his whole career), Eddie Murphy (back in the early ’80’s). I also think “Kind Hearts and Coronets” is a great movie, but I have watched it with people who didn’t think it was funny at all. Just goes to show ……

    I didn’t think Richard Pryor was very funny and I think Lenny Bruce was only funny in the mid to early ’50’s, that is, the time of his early Fantasy albums. And those were funny mainly because he was “transgressive”, i.e., talking about things no one else talked about, such as drug use, homosexuality, racism, and so on. His live concerts, even the Carnegie Hall appearance, are actually not very funny and the last few that he did in SF and Berkeley are almost painful.

    BTW, since Bruce died in 1966, how is he talking about Kubler-Ross?

  208. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal's Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn't entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film. His independent film roles sans his brothers weren't all that.

    Chico was, well, not much without his brothers. Did he even do a film on his own? No.

    A case could be made that Harpo, actually, was the funniest of the three. But then again his shtick was a second rate knockoff of Chaplin/Keaton, overdramatized and without the subtly of either.

    Groucho Marx's reputation was on the wane by the late 60's but was saved in large part due to his late life touring of college campuses doing standup, as well as ironically, admirers of his which included Bill Cosby.

    But for standup, few could touch or equal Bob Hope in his prime. And Bob Hope was funnier than Groucho Marx in doing standup comedy.

    Like Chaplin, Groucho created a character for himself that relied on cheap theatrics and superficial facial accoutrements. Even though Chaplin had the inner talent to back up the outward tricks with a wide range of emotions, Groucho, in contrast, was just a sarcastic bitter person and one who never understood why the girls didn't fall for him the way they seemed to for the goyim.

    During WW2 on a bond drive with other Alisters he appeared without his trademark disguise and went up to fans who had turned up for the bond drive. He began insulting the fans there who didn't much appreciate his attitude. Groucho then went into a bathroom and returned in his well familiar disguise of glasses and paper mustache, found the exact same fans he had previously insulted and began to insult them in the same manner. THIS time, the fans roared with laughter and appreciated his jokes.

    Bob Hope, by contrast, was instantly recognizable throughout America in his prime and needed no superficial outward disguises to help sell his material.

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn’t entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film.

    I don’t think Harpo would have come across too well on the radio. 😉

    • Replies: @Cloud of Probable Matricide
    But ventiloquy was big on the radio!
  209. The National Lampoon was run by a bunch of Wasps and Catholics.

  210. @Lurker
    Its not just an English thing, it's British & Irish thing too not to mention Aussie & Kiwi. Refusing to take important matters seriously. Many Americans and Canadians seem much too earnest by comparison.

    It's also infuriating at times.

    No, I had that specifically English absurdist humour in mind, not humour generally. Humour that’s on topic and makes a point doesn’t fit into the absurd category. That sort of humour is doubly funny because the topic is serious and the joke makes a good point.

  211. @Sam Haysom
    What's weird is that Teachout spent a lot of the late nineties in a series of fights with black chauvinist jazz critics who wanted to excise or at least minimize all white contributions to the development of jazz. He was also one of the first critics to really rip into academic Aftocentricism so it's not like he's some super PC wallflower.

    Terry is what a flower becomes after having been pollinated.

  212. Not to take anything away from Hope, of whom I’m a fan, but while he was an early and revolutionary stand-up comic, the very first was probably Frank Fay, who was a distinctly unpleasant, hardcore racist, anti-Semite, and fascist. And I’m not using those terms lightly. It sounds like something from an alternative world science fiction novel, but in January 1946 allies of Franco, members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party organized a rally at Madison Square Garden in January 1946 called “The Friends of Frank Fay.”

    It’s also incredible to think that someone who hated Jews could have been so big in show biz in the ’20s and ’30s.

    • Replies: @fwood1
    So Frank Fay was an unheralded victim of blacklisting.
    , @fnn
    From the linked article:

    In response to the censure, allies of Franco, members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party organized a rally at Madison Square Garden in January 1946 called "The Friends of Frank Fay.” Speakers included Klan ally Joseph Scott, Nazi Laura Ingalls, publisher of anti-Semitic pamphlets John Geis, and the prolific Joseph P. Kamp, who had used the KKK's mailing list to distribute his work about “Jewish influence” and America’s “Communist President” Franklin D. Roosevelt.
     
    Not sure what it means, but the Joseph Kamp mentioned above was Jon Voight's uncle:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kamp
  213. One thing that’s always struck me is that there seemed to be so few truly funny lines, or comedies going back even earlier than the nineteenth century.

    Really, who actually laughs at a Shakespeare comedy, or, worse, a Greek or Roman comedy, or any line from any of them?

    You may say, well, what’s funny is topical, and there’s some truth to that of course. But I do think that’s not really the basic problem. A lot of jokes and lines from more modern comedies seem pretty timeless in their wit.

    I remember reading a joke from an ancient source, Plutarch as I recollect, and thinking to myself, my God, this is a joke that’s both funny and timeless — and I couldn’t think of another such example from those times.

    Anyway the joke was about Diogenes, who was the original Cynic, and went something like this:

    Diogenes was moping around the marketplace with his usual complaint: “Life is so miserable, there’s no difference between living and being dead!” So an old woman comes up to him and says, “OK, Mr. Diogenes, you think life is the same as death? Why don’t you just go ahead and kill yourself?” To which Diogenes responded: “Ah, because there’s no difference!”

    This appears to me to be the only truly funny joke told in all of ancient times, and maybe up until the Enlightenment.

  214. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @Matra
    A guy I worked with in Northern Ireland once said to me "you know you've become an adult when you no longer find Monty Python funny". Around the same time BBC2 started running old episodes and sure enough they were just awful. When I was a teenager I thought they were funny. Monty Python had a couple of really good skits that everyone remembers fondly but most of their stuff was utter dreck. I do find it interesting though that of all the great British humour it is really only Monty Python that Americans have taken to. Weird.

    Incidentally, the comedy on British TV today is pathetic. It's at the same level as cheesy American sitcoms. I don't know what happened.

    Comedy wise though, I wouldn’t praise Britain too hard at all at the moment – we have too many people who’ve learned to use comedy and jokes as a substitute to real analysis of life and politics, rather than a balancing epithet to such (see the try hards leaping in with their little jokes whenever any issue is discussed)

    Good point. I noticed that after 7/7. Oh look at us 'aving a larf about the absurdity of it all unlike those wacko Americans after 9/11.

    “Around the same time BBC2 started running old episodes and sure enough they were just awful. When I was a teenager I thought they were funny. Monty Python had a couple of really good skits that everyone remembers fondly but most of their stuff was utter dreck.”

    MP was very funny, but the underlying theme was almost always the same: stiff upper lip while the pants are being pulled down.
    It was funnier when British society still had stiff upper lips. Today, when Brits have pierced lips and nose rings, the relevant context as to why the jokes had been especially funny is no longer there.

    But there’s something special about British comic sensibility that simply cannot be touched when done right. World’s End is unbelievable. No other people can pull that off.

  215. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:

    The fading of Hope is interesting when compared to others of his era.

    Among most young people today, older culture might as well not even have existed.
    How many young people care about Sinatra or even Elvis?
    How many young people wanna see movies of John Ford or Howard Hawks?
    I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and most of my friends couldn’t stand that stuff. They were all into Star Wars, Halloween, or new stuff.

    That said, some prominent figures of the past have become figures of cult worship. So, even if most young people don’t watch John Ford movies, there is still a cinephile community that reveres him. And there’s been a school of music appreciation that have long admired Sinatra. And such folks will always exist. And Elvis is still the object of a personality cult and fandom.
    And even though most people don’t know Cole Porter, there’s a homo community that is zealously into old music culture.

    Cultism keeps things alive. Everything popular ‘today’ will eventually fade away and replaced by new fashions and new popular things.
    So, why do some things last while others don’t? They have cult appeal.
    If something has cult appeal, even after its popularity fades it will be revived and remembered by new generations of cultists. And even if it wasn’t popular in its day, it may be revived and remembered by new generations of cultists. Two famous examples are Harold and Maude and Blade Runner. Both were critical and commercial flops. But Harold and Maude had a zealous cultist fandom, and there’s always a new generation of Harold-and-Mauders. And even though a film like Blade Runner can never be a superhit like a Transformer movie, it is admired by a minority of zealous cultists generation after generation.

    Bob Hope was likable and funny in his heyday. But there wasn’t much about him that was appealing in a cultist way to cinephiles, homos, oddballs and eccentrics, scholars and academics, maverick types, social rebel types, obsessive types, and etc who usually keep cultism alive. Nothing about him fascinates. He’s like the Lawrence Welk of comedy. Same goes for Mickey Rooney. Though Rooney’s ‘Jap’ stereotype in BREAKFAST has been attacked, I think that’s the only thing he will really be remembered for. Offensive or not, it is truly inspired… unlike his most other roles.

    Stanley Kramer the do-goody Jewish director isn’t remembered because he was so dull, dull, dull and preachy. His movies were admired and respected in their day, but no one gives a crap about them. Nothing there for cult appeal.

    Three Stooges, on the other hand, were hardly witty, but there was something so zany and nutty about them that they had cult appeal. Especially Curly whom I love.
    Bob Hope’s act was as if he was running away from his own personality, indeed as if he was afraid that personality would stick to him. And he looked too comfortable in that tux whereas Groucho looked weird and eccentric in his.

    To be sure, this cult appeal thing isn’t always fair, and good stuff falls through the cracks. Among cinephiles, Victor Fleming was always disregarded as lacking ‘personality’. Though cinephiles have acknowledged the importance of Gone with Wind and Wizard of Oz, they always credited the studio and producer than Fleming who was disregarded as a personality-less professional. But not long ago, I checked some of Fleming’s other works, and some of them are excellent, some magnificent. So, this ‘auteurist’ cultism could be blind as a bat to real virtue.

    PS. In the case of Hope, he wasn’t in a single movie that could be called great. It’s the ONE film that really makes a reputation. It’s like BREAKFAST really made Hepburn. Most of her other films are forgotten.
    Fred Astaire was a fine dancer, but it’s really Band Wagon that made him for posterity, like Singing did it for Gene Kelly. Otherwise, they might have been forgotten.

  216. @James Kabala
    The Simpsons actually has heavy German influence. Creator Matt Groening and important writers George Meyer and John Swartzwelder have German surnames. Of course with a German surname there is always the "ethnically German or Jewish?" question, but Groening (raised Protestant) and Meyer (raised Catholic) are not Jewish. I don't know for sure about Swartzwelder, but his political views are said to be libertarian-bordering-on-survivalist, which certainly be unusual for a Jewish person.

    I don’t know about survivalist, but there have been an awful lot of Jewish libertarians–Ayn Rand, most famously, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman…you could count Barry Goldwater if you really wanted to (though he was raised Christian). Some decide to distrust the government instead of trying to turn it left, and Rand, whatever her deformations, had direct experience with Communism.

    • Replies: @James Kabala
    Fair enough.

    Information on John Swartzwelder's ethnicity/religion seems to be completely lacking on the Internet. Maybe he is a distant relative of the guy who directed this movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Fashioned_%28film%29
  217. @Priss Factor
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/laugh-factory

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/woody-allen-wants-to-make-a-movie-about-bob-hope-but-doesnt-think-anybody-would-go-see-it-20140801

    I think Hope was more snap than bite. Same with Bill Buckley, which is why no one reads his books anymore. There was no depth to Buckley, just like there was no depth to Hope. It was what-you-see-and-hear-is-what-you-get. But certain kinds of comedy leave you with a sense of weirdness. They suggest at different perspectives on reality in the way that Kafka's stories do. You can't merely dismiss them jokes. They constitute a kind of world-view. Hope in his movies traveled all over the world, but the world-view was always just Hope acting goofy or smug.
    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you've been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don't just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality... sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.

    I think Allen's interest in Hope is not unlike his interest in Wasps and Ingmar Bergman in general. We are living in the post-Wasp age, but Allen grew up in a time when he and many Jews still looked up to Wasps as the cultural, economic, political, social, and intellectual elites of the West. The prominent authors of the first half of the 20th century were Wasps or white gentiles: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Lewis, and etc. Though Hollywood was dominated by Jews, many writers and directors were Wasps.

    And there was a time when European cinema defined art cinema, and Ingmar Bergman was the king of the hill in the 1950s and even during some of 1960s. Even the great Kubrick once sent a letter to Bergman calling him the greatest.

    http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/stanley-kubrick-to-ingmar-bergman-you-are-the-greatest-filmmaker-at-work-today-1960.html

    Allen the Jewish outsider had a love/hate thing with Wasps. For him, Hope represented the INSIDE of the country club with its privilege, pretty girls, and etc. Back when Allen was young, many Jews were still living like the family in RADIO DAYS. Ethnic outsiders who were happy to be in America but still far from elite power.
    I think Allen felt estranged from Jewishness too somewhat paradoxically because he was so Jewish in everything: looks, sensibility, and etc. Since he was so Jewish and couldn't get away from it, he gravitated to things that were un-Jewish with fascination, love, and envy. But also contempt and hatred. (The 'we have a sale on Wagner' joke in Annie Hall, and the joke where Alvy walks into a good looking wasp couple with nothing on their minds. In Husbands and Wives, Sydney Pollack dates a good-looking blonde woman who doesn't know King Leo from King Lear. Shakespeare is an Anglo, but Jews know more about him than wasps today.)
    Also, Allen was conflicted because he was both goofy/funny & loved low culture AND intellectual & into prestige art. A part of him wanted to be funny guy, another part of him wanted to be a serious artist. No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
    Many Jews have taken 'lowbrow' stuff and turned them into 'high art'. Shining by Kubrick is one.
    Kael was a serious critic who wrote in populist mode.

    There was a time when Jews used to be sort of into 'don't rock the boat, and we have to be a credit to our race'. So, older Jews were more admiring of figures like Bergman and Hope.
    But we are now living a very different world. Wasp privilege no longer holds the kind of cultural cachet it once did.
    If anything, all this 'my grandpa didn't get into country club' sounds more and more like a stale joke.

    One crucial change in culture: the nature of humor went from subversive and confrontational to subordinate and cautious. When Wasps and community norms(of white majority) controlled America, many Jewish intellectuals and humorists were hellbent on subverting norms and values. But with Jews now on top, humor is being corralled not to offend the sensibilities of certain groups, especially Jews and homos. And other groups are griping about un-PC humor as well.
    Some Jews are conflicted about this. As political Libs, they side with PC. But as wild humorists, they don't like to be told what is and isn't funny. Larry David is in this situation.

    I suspect a lot of guys like Larry David, David Zucker, and Jerry Seinfeld of ‘who cares if all my fans are white?’ fame are closet conservatives and take swings at the left when they can. Not blood-and-soil conservatives, sure, but center-right.

    • Replies: @Glaivester
    It's interesting you say that. The late Lawrence Auster suggested that at its root, the humor of Seinfeld was about rules. How do you learn the new rules of behavior and how to navigate them in an era where all of the old rules have been thrown out?
  218. @Sunbeam
    '“Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US.”

    But, as brilliant as Monty Python was, how funny was it?'

    The Holy Grail of comedy actually. Literally it was like a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to the whole field.

    Some things about English comedy don't translate here though. There is some gag they did a couple of times, like some serious person such as a newscaster is reading the news, and stands up at the end wearing a tutu.

    Just doesn't translate.

    I'm sure it works the other way though too.

    Geez. Monty Python. That "None Shall Pass" skit is legendary. If there were a top ten comic skits thing, that one would be in it.

    Or is this some kind of understated sarcasm, or a point that went over my head?

    I’m sure it works the other way though too.

    Yep. A recurrent feature of my English childhood was sitting listening/watching some Christmas Special featuring Bob Hope, the adults all grumbling: “Why do the Yanks think he’s funny? He’s not funny.”

    For the record, I didn’t find Hope that funny; but then, his jokes were mainly for adults.

    I L-O-V-E-D Abbott and Costello, though.

  219. @Hunsdon
    One hundred twenty eight posts on older American comedians and no one has mentioned George Burns?

    Also, why am I reminded of this? What’s lost in “Unclean Lips” is the thrill obscenity can create. It’s the sharp dangerous edge of anarchy and when used effectively, it can BLEEP up the most carefully planned cocktail party, smashing all propriety to BLEEP.

    George Burns was not an out-and-out comic, for most of his career he was the straight man for his wife Gracie Allen’s fractured gags. When Burns did solo, his schtick was more in the Bill Cosby observer-humorist, as opposed to comic, vein.

  220. @Steve Sailer
    "Annie Hall" was made by its editor in postproduction. It was originally a 2 hour and 20 minute murder mystery, but then the editor convinced Allen to drop the entire crime part (which resurfaced years later as Manhattan Murder Mystery) and make it into a very short romantic comedy by adding some voiceovers.

    I would guess that being a playwright is harder than being a screenwriter in that just getting characters on and off stage and the like is an ordeal in the theater because you can't cut. The word is spelled "playwright" like "wheelwright," which rightly reflects the high degree of craftsmanship required, whereas screenwriters (notice the different spelling) can rely upon editing to get them in and out fast.

    They're maybe going to give the Best Picture Oscar to "Birdman" for being a movie with few cuts, even though plays are like that all the time.

    Interesting. I had no idea about that regarding Annie Hall. You would never know just from the movie.

    I wonder if it would have been like Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I liked but which seemed disjointed and like two different movies in one.

  221. @Priss Factor
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/laugh-factory

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/woody-allen-wants-to-make-a-movie-about-bob-hope-but-doesnt-think-anybody-would-go-see-it-20140801

    I think Hope was more snap than bite. Same with Bill Buckley, which is why no one reads his books anymore. There was no depth to Buckley, just like there was no depth to Hope. It was what-you-see-and-hear-is-what-you-get. But certain kinds of comedy leave you with a sense of weirdness. They suggest at different perspectives on reality in the way that Kafka's stories do. You can't merely dismiss them jokes. They constitute a kind of world-view. Hope in his movies traveled all over the world, but the world-view was always just Hope acting goofy or smug.
    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you've been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don't just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality... sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.

    I think Allen's interest in Hope is not unlike his interest in Wasps and Ingmar Bergman in general. We are living in the post-Wasp age, but Allen grew up in a time when he and many Jews still looked up to Wasps as the cultural, economic, political, social, and intellectual elites of the West. The prominent authors of the first half of the 20th century were Wasps or white gentiles: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Lewis, and etc. Though Hollywood was dominated by Jews, many writers and directors were Wasps.

    And there was a time when European cinema defined art cinema, and Ingmar Bergman was the king of the hill in the 1950s and even during some of 1960s. Even the great Kubrick once sent a letter to Bergman calling him the greatest.

    http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/stanley-kubrick-to-ingmar-bergman-you-are-the-greatest-filmmaker-at-work-today-1960.html

    Allen the Jewish outsider had a love/hate thing with Wasps. For him, Hope represented the INSIDE of the country club with its privilege, pretty girls, and etc. Back when Allen was young, many Jews were still living like the family in RADIO DAYS. Ethnic outsiders who were happy to be in America but still far from elite power.
    I think Allen felt estranged from Jewishness too somewhat paradoxically because he was so Jewish in everything: looks, sensibility, and etc. Since he was so Jewish and couldn't get away from it, he gravitated to things that were un-Jewish with fascination, love, and envy. But also contempt and hatred. (The 'we have a sale on Wagner' joke in Annie Hall, and the joke where Alvy walks into a good looking wasp couple with nothing on their minds. In Husbands and Wives, Sydney Pollack dates a good-looking blonde woman who doesn't know King Leo from King Lear. Shakespeare is an Anglo, but Jews know more about him than wasps today.)
    Also, Allen was conflicted because he was both goofy/funny & loved low culture AND intellectual & into prestige art. A part of him wanted to be funny guy, another part of him wanted to be a serious artist. No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
    Many Jews have taken 'lowbrow' stuff and turned them into 'high art'. Shining by Kubrick is one.
    Kael was a serious critic who wrote in populist mode.

    There was a time when Jews used to be sort of into 'don't rock the boat, and we have to be a credit to our race'. So, older Jews were more admiring of figures like Bergman and Hope.
    But we are now living a very different world. Wasp privilege no longer holds the kind of cultural cachet it once did.
    If anything, all this 'my grandpa didn't get into country club' sounds more and more like a stale joke.

    One crucial change in culture: the nature of humor went from subversive and confrontational to subordinate and cautious. When Wasps and community norms(of white majority) controlled America, many Jewish intellectuals and humorists were hellbent on subverting norms and values. But with Jews now on top, humor is being corralled not to offend the sensibilities of certain groups, especially Jews and homos. And other groups are griping about un-PC humor as well.
    Some Jews are conflicted about this. As political Libs, they side with PC. But as wild humorists, they don't like to be told what is and isn't funny. Larry David is in this situation.

    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you’ve been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don’t just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality… sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.

    “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.”

    And yet:

    The Far Side : Gary Larson (not Jewish)

    Calvin and Hobbes: Bill Watterson (not Jewish)

    Steve Wright: Not Jewish

    So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by” Gentiles.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by” Gentiles."

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.

    It's like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic... like many non-black musicians are blackistic.

  222. @Paul Walker Most beautiful man ever...
    On the subject of unfunny comics - what's with Don Rickles? He made a career out of mugging like a kid out of Special Ed class.
    BTW - Love the "poor bastard" line - made me laugh.

    A)I begin to read the comments and get hit with this? Don Rickles KILLED! As a mere youf,I would beg me mudder to let me stay up to catch Carson if Rickles was going to be on. Same with Rodney Dangerfield. Was brilliant til all the baby boomer assholes mad ehim hip then he wasn’t any more. He told an interesting tale of how some guy had him sit in his lap when he was a kid and touched him in bad ways. Art from pain? C) I DK if this has been discussed per Steves comment but Lenny Bruce sucked donkey d*ck!!! A lowlife unfunny piece of sh*t.

  223. I really wish Steve would stop approving comments asking “Is so and so Jewish?” It’s asinine.

    Better yet, lets go back to the Scots-Irish thing from Blogspot.

    No one even approaches Jews in violating your rule. You don’t think the practically religious obsession Wikipedia has with this comes from the rest of us, do you? G**gle “is x Jewish?” and watch the hits come pouring in.

  224. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:

    Cavett and Allen. Wasp and Jewish.

    Cavett was very funny, sharp, and witty.
    But his waspy style of comedy was snip-snip. It worked like a pair of scissors. It kept things neat and trimmed.
    Allen’s Jewish humor works more like a rope. It goes around and round ties different strands together and Allen puts himself in an impossible knot… and then he squirms out if it with zany-brilliant dexterity, like how Houdini roped or chained himself and then freed himself.

    So, I think wasp humor tends to work in sparks and spurts whereas Jewish humor is more like a theory, worldview, or narrative. It’s fifty shades of humor than just a rib in the chest. So, the Jewish style of comedy tends to be memorable.

  225. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @syonredux

    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you’ve been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don’t just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality… sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.
     
    "This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews."

    And yet:

    The Far Side : Gary Larson (not Jewish)

    Calvin and Hobbes: Bill Watterson (not Jewish)

    Steve Wright: Not Jewish

    So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that "This kind of psychological comedy is done best by" Gentiles.

    “So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by” Gentiles.”

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.

    It’s like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic… like many non-black musicians are blackistic.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.
     
    Or maybe they were just informed by modernity? We are all swimming in the same sea, after all.

    It’s like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.
     
    And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I'm still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic… like many non-black musicians are blackistic.
     
    MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences....
  226. @Days of Broken Arrows
    Funny you should draw the comparison between Woody Allen and Bob Hope. On the old SCTV comedy show, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas made this same connection in their own way in a skit that's still very funny:

    http://youtu.be/yjYVyyTBdh4

    It’s scary how much better this is than SNL the last 35 years.

  227. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal's Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.

    The Marx bros. were mostly a vaudevillian/broadway type of act, and never really made the transition to film, because, film is a VISUAL medium and one that doesn't entirely rely on words.

    Groucho was much funnier on the radio than ever on film. His independent film roles sans his brothers weren't all that.

    Chico was, well, not much without his brothers. Did he even do a film on his own? No.

    A case could be made that Harpo, actually, was the funniest of the three. But then again his shtick was a second rate knockoff of Chaplin/Keaton, overdramatized and without the subtly of either.

    Groucho Marx's reputation was on the wane by the late 60's but was saved in large part due to his late life touring of college campuses doing standup, as well as ironically, admirers of his which included Bill Cosby.

    But for standup, few could touch or equal Bob Hope in his prime. And Bob Hope was funnier than Groucho Marx in doing standup comedy.

    Like Chaplin, Groucho created a character for himself that relied on cheap theatrics and superficial facial accoutrements. Even though Chaplin had the inner talent to back up the outward tricks with a wide range of emotions, Groucho, in contrast, was just a sarcastic bitter person and one who never understood why the girls didn't fall for him the way they seemed to for the goyim.

    During WW2 on a bond drive with other Alisters he appeared without his trademark disguise and went up to fans who had turned up for the bond drive. He began insulting the fans there who didn't much appreciate his attitude. Groucho then went into a bathroom and returned in his well familiar disguise of glasses and paper mustache, found the exact same fans he had previously insulted and began to insult them in the same manner. THIS time, the fans roared with laughter and appreciated his jokes.

    Bob Hope, by contrast, was instantly recognizable throughout America in his prime and needed no superficial outward disguises to help sell his material.

    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal’s Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one; I think that their best stuff still works.And I’ve got T.S. Eliot on my side (he was a great admirer of Groucho’s).

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.

    Abbott and Costello are great.I grew up watching their stuff, and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of the truly great comedies.For that matter, it’s also a fitting end to the Universal Horror cycle as well.Incidentally, David Thomson’s rumination on “Who’s on First” in his Biographical Dictionary of Film is maybe the finest thing ever written about Bud and Lou

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That's kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 "Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?" In other words, it really doesn't matter a hill o' beans what ol' T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated. Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein. Most of their films by that time were second rate crappola. In point of fact, most of Abbott-Costello's films (not their exceptional radio work since they were verbal comics first and foremost), most of their films closely resemble Norman Taurog's 60's films made with Elvis Presley: Antiseptic, and totally lacking in any substance whatsoever, including the soundtrack.

    The Chinese have a saying, "A picture is worth a 1,000 words". Aside from Harpo, (again, a second rate Chaplin or a third rate Keaton) both Groucho and Chico's verbal bantering borscht belt schtick is long time past dated. And after all, when people say "The Marx Bros." let's be honest. They really mean 90% Groucho and perhaps 10% Harpo. Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought and Zeppo was,….what, exactly?

    But if its Groucho vs. Bob Hope, in terms of direct cultural impact on US at large for over a longer period of time, then Hope wins hands down. As Hope lived longer and had a more successful run on TV for much longer, its a safe bet that most people under the age of 40 have heard of Bob Hope (As he did attend the USO's '90-91 tour show in Iraq). In 2015, modern audiences may faintly recall the Velasic Pickle Cartoon, which is loosely based on Groucho's public persona.

    But of course when people mention the Marx Bros they really mean Groucho himself for the most part. There are no rabid Zeppo Marx fans, nor any present stand ups on the comedy circuit stating in interviews "You know, I was always enthralled by Chico's ethnic zingers. They really encouraged me to become a comedian. The way Chico wowed and zinged his brother with "why a duck" instead of viaduct" That's pure gold! Gold I tell you!!"

    Come, come now.

    I will agree to one thing: The 3 Stooges staying power throughout the yrs (in some ways they are mor instantly remembered and recalled than the Marx Bros, certainly the sum total of their films made more money in their time than the Bros.) and this is directly due to the visual nature of their comedy. You don't need a very high IQ to understand the humor. Comedia Buffa has an established history going back to at least the Middle Ages if not into Greco-Roman. Unlike the Marx Brothers, the Stooges were nearly 90% visual in their presentation, which of course always tends to work in film.

    You could easily do a remake of a few 3 Stooges films (fleshed out for modern audiences) and they would easily do big box office. Casting, however, would be the utmost importance. Who would be the three actors/comedians who could adequately play the roles of the 3 Stooges, just in 2015 form? That remains the question.
    , @Auntie Analogue
    The Marx Brothers' comedy is timeless, because it nails the send-up of the pompous, privileged authority figure. Groucho, who had little formal schooling, became an erudite autodidact who read voluminously. Chico was an inveterate - and inept - gambler and skirt-chaser whom Groucho wearied of bailing out. Harpo I know less about, but his pantomime is timeless and much funnier than anything Marcel Marceau performed (one anecdote, told by a fellow golfer whose identity I can't recall, recalled three members of a foursome losing sight of Harpo, whom they finally were amazed to see with his pants down and suspended by the crooks of his knees from an overhead branch as Harpo - upside down, mind you - urinated a copious stream downward in their direction). On-screen the team got a huge boost from Margaret Dumont's straight woman brilliance - most comics attest that the straight man is the hardest role in comedy.

    Abbott & Costello were brilliant, not least because they did top notch slapstick and sight gags, but also because they shone at rapid-fire give-&-take wordplay. Their prewar work is timeless (my personal favorites are Keep 'Em Flying, which includes a lovely twins act from Martha Raye, and In The Navy), and so are some of their postwar offerings, at least until they'd begun to wear out their increasingly reduced-budget monster movie takeoffs. Their TV series suffered unfortunately from hackneyed set-ups and agonizingly slow pacing.

  228. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Peter Akuleyev
    To be funny you have to be an outsider, but not too far out. You have to able to mock yourself so that you can mock others without seeming arrogant. British are brilliant at humor because of the class system. The best British humor often comes from the upper middle class who have to be both deferent to the aristocracy, but also loathe them. This creates that tension between mocking others and mocking yourself that works. Canadian WASPs have a similar advantage because they are permanent underdogs to the US. People who want to climb up the social ladder, like educated middle class Brits or Jewish immigrants, tend to notice things more because they spend time trying to figure out how the system works. Jewish humor had this in spades as long as Jews were underdogs. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a funny Jew in modern America. While British right wing humor is generally hilarious, American right-wing humor tends to fail because American conservatives can't grasp the concept of being self-deprecating, they often just come off as mean and arrogant. Steve Sailer, btw, gets this and is one of the most consistently entertaining writers on the political Right because he is able to strike just the right tone of underdog nostalgia and self awareness of his own shortcomings. Most continental humor, whether based in left or right wing, tends to be awful, because most Europeans take themselves too seriously. German humor, I have noticed, tends to just be very mean, whether it is left wing elites mocking Bavarian rustics, or right wingers mocking Turks. Italian and French humor is rooted in clowning around and slapstick, the humor of the peasant marketplace. Unlike a British or Jewish comedian who make you think he is really mocking himself, the Italian or French comedian puts a real or symbolic mask on before he plays the fool.

    The best British humor is ultra dry. Jewish humor can be very dry but it’s never quite as dry as British humor. Jews tend to be too expressive and extroverted in their comedy to be as dry as the Brits. They’ll be doing very dry stuff but there’s always a giveaway with loud exclamations, certain gestures and mannerism – it’s like a big wink to the audience. Larry David for example will be doing very dry comedy but will have that smart aleck look on his face the whole time acknowledging that it’s dry stuff. While the Brits seem to revel in maintaining the stiff upper lip.

    German humor is not really humor as we understand it. Germans have no sense of irony and the idea of ordinary people or ordinary situations being funny is alien to them. To them, being funny means wearing a funny hat and saying silly things. It’s like you have to wear a funny hat or costume and behave and speak in exaggerated ways to be funny. That and screaming insults or falling down the stairs gives you an idea of what German humor is like.

  229. “ccc says:

    I thought that Young Frankenstein was his best movie. Notice that both “Producers” and “Young Frankenstein” had Gene Wilder in them. Maybe Wilder had a good influence on Brooks.”

    “Young Frankenstein” was co-written by Wilder. Perhaps Brooks benefitted by collaborating with others, as he did with Buck Henry on “Get Smart”. Although I thought the original “The Producers” was pretty good, and that was mostly his show. I’m not saying that Brooks didn’t have some talent, but he seems to have lost it sometime in the 70s.

  230. @SFG
    I don't know about survivalist, but there have been an awful lot of Jewish libertarians--Ayn Rand, most famously, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman...you could count Barry Goldwater if you really wanted to (though he was raised Christian). Some decide to distrust the government instead of trying to turn it left, and Rand, whatever her deformations, had direct experience with Communism.

    Fair enough.

    Information on John Swartzwelder’s ethnicity/religion seems to be completely lacking on the Internet. Maybe he is a distant relative of the guy who directed this movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Fashioned_%28film%29

  231. “SFG says:

    I suspect a lot of guys like Larry David, David Zucker, and Jerry Seinfeld of ‘who cares if all my fans are white?’ fame are closet conservatives and take swings at the left when they can. Not blood-and-soil conservatives, sure, but center-right.””

    I agree. None of those guys’ work suggests that they are doctrinaire Hollywood liberal types. If they were, they wouldn’t have been as funny as they were.

  232. Elmer: James Stewart was not a WASP. He was of Scottish (i.e. Celtic) ancestry.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    Elmer: James Stewart was not a WASP. He was of Scottish (i.e. Celtic) ancestry.
     
    In America, that's a distinction without a difference
    , @The Undiscovered Jew
    Elmer: James Stewart was not a WASP. He was of Scottish (i.e. Celtic) ancestry.

    The whole thread and entry are lost at sea because few if any of these comedians are WASPs.

    The term WASP refers to a narrow segment of white Americans, specifically, wealthy, Yankee Mainline Protestants. It has nothing whatsoever to do with working class Anglo Americans like Hope and Carson, or Southerners such as Twain.

    In my own experience it's true WASPs are fairly boring, unlike lower class Anglos who can be absolutely hysterical whether they're from America or the British Isles.

    That paleocons are obsessed with WASPs and yet seemingly have no idea who qualifies as WASP, or that their adulation of WASPs is totally incompatible with any sort of Confederate apologetics, doesn't bode well at all for a viable 'Alternative Right'. Of course, Commentary doesn't understand what a WASP is either, but being better informed than that rag should be a laughably easy hurdle to jump. That the 'dissident right' can't even meet that low a standard suggests it's time for them to fold shop. Or at least bother to get their terminology right.
  233. You know what was genuinely funny back before we gave much thought to “funny”? Cartoons. Warner Brothers cartoons from the 40s and 50s are still hilarious. Old Popeye cartoons, too. And Tom & Jerry. Great stuff. Still makes me laugh.

  234. @Priss Factor
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/laugh-factory

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/woody-allen-wants-to-make-a-movie-about-bob-hope-but-doesnt-think-anybody-would-go-see-it-20140801

    I think Hope was more snap than bite. Same with Bill Buckley, which is why no one reads his books anymore. There was no depth to Buckley, just like there was no depth to Hope. It was what-you-see-and-hear-is-what-you-get. But certain kinds of comedy leave you with a sense of weirdness. They suggest at different perspectives on reality in the way that Kafka's stories do. You can't merely dismiss them jokes. They constitute a kind of world-view. Hope in his movies traveled all over the world, but the world-view was always just Hope acting goofy or smug.
    The truly great comedians use humor like a kind of warped philosophy of life. After the laughter, something still lingers. You feel you've been led to see reality and feel things a bit differently. Even radically differently. The masters of this kind of humor are Steve Wright, the guy who did Far Side, the guy who did Calvin and Hobbes, and Woody Allen. They don't just make you laugh. They really warp and twist the way you see reality... sort of in the way that Einstein made us see the universe differently. This kind of psychological comedy is done best by Jews.

    I think Allen's interest in Hope is not unlike his interest in Wasps and Ingmar Bergman in general. We are living in the post-Wasp age, but Allen grew up in a time when he and many Jews still looked up to Wasps as the cultural, economic, political, social, and intellectual elites of the West. The prominent authors of the first half of the 20th century were Wasps or white gentiles: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Lewis, and etc. Though Hollywood was dominated by Jews, many writers and directors were Wasps.

    And there was a time when European cinema defined art cinema, and Ingmar Bergman was the king of the hill in the 1950s and even during some of 1960s. Even the great Kubrick once sent a letter to Bergman calling him the greatest.

    http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/stanley-kubrick-to-ingmar-bergman-you-are-the-greatest-filmmaker-at-work-today-1960.html

    Allen the Jewish outsider had a love/hate thing with Wasps. For him, Hope represented the INSIDE of the country club with its privilege, pretty girls, and etc. Back when Allen was young, many Jews were still living like the family in RADIO DAYS. Ethnic outsiders who were happy to be in America but still far from elite power.
    I think Allen felt estranged from Jewishness too somewhat paradoxically because he was so Jewish in everything: looks, sensibility, and etc. Since he was so Jewish and couldn't get away from it, he gravitated to things that were un-Jewish with fascination, love, and envy. But also contempt and hatred. (The 'we have a sale on Wagner' joke in Annie Hall, and the joke where Alvy walks into a good looking wasp couple with nothing on their minds. In Husbands and Wives, Sydney Pollack dates a good-looking blonde woman who doesn't know King Leo from King Lear. Shakespeare is an Anglo, but Jews know more about him than wasps today.)
    Also, Allen was conflicted because he was both goofy/funny & loved low culture AND intellectual & into prestige art. A part of him wanted to be funny guy, another part of him wanted to be a serious artist. No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
    Many Jews have taken 'lowbrow' stuff and turned them into 'high art'. Shining by Kubrick is one.
    Kael was a serious critic who wrote in populist mode.

    There was a time when Jews used to be sort of into 'don't rock the boat, and we have to be a credit to our race'. So, older Jews were more admiring of figures like Bergman and Hope.
    But we are now living a very different world. Wasp privilege no longer holds the kind of cultural cachet it once did.
    If anything, all this 'my grandpa didn't get into country club' sounds more and more like a stale joke.

    One crucial change in culture: the nature of humor went from subversive and confrontational to subordinate and cautious. When Wasps and community norms(of white majority) controlled America, many Jewish intellectuals and humorists were hellbent on subverting norms and values. But with Jews now on top, humor is being corralled not to offend the sensibilities of certain groups, especially Jews and homos. And other groups are griping about un-PC humor as well.
    Some Jews are conflicted about this. As political Libs, they side with PC. But as wild humorists, they don't like to be told what is and isn't funny. Larry David is in this situation.

    No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.

    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s:

    Yet one day in 1961 Groucho received in the mail a note from none other than Eliot himself. Expressing his admiration for the comedian, Eliot asked him for an autographed portrait. A shocked Groucho sent back a studio photograph of himself, only to receive a second note from the icon of modern poetry requesting instead a picture of the iconic Groucho, sporting a moustache and holding a cigar. A second photograph was sent out and a happy Eliot wrote to thank Groucho: “This is to let you know that your portrait has arrived and has given me great joy and will soon appear in its frame on my wall with other famous friends such as W.B. Yeats and Paul Valery.” Groucho had asked for a portrait of Eliot in return, and the latter happily enclosed one. Then the famously morose poet, characterised by Siefgried Sassoon as having “cold-storaged humanity” and by Ottoline Morrell as “the undertaker”, finished with a joke. “P.S.” he wrote. “I like cigars too but there isn’t any cigar in my portrait either.” Well, sort of a joke.

    Eliot’s attraction to Groucho might come as a surprise—it certainly did to Groucho—but there had always been signs of his own buried antic disposition. For one thing, in his early expatriate days in London, he grew fond of wearing pale green powder on his face, occasionally accompanied by lipstick. For another, he expressed great enthusiasm for the defecation scene in “Ulysses” that had appalled Virginia Woolf. V.S. Pritchett described Eliot as “a company of actors inside one suit, each one twitting the others.” One thinks of the twitting Marx Brothers packed into that small stateroom in “A Night at the Opera”.

    http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/arts/lee-siegel/unexpected-alliance?page=full

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s"

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273
    , @Hibernian
    Maybe he was trying to atone for "Blitzstein with a Badeker."
    , @Malcolm X-Lax
    In re Eliot's sense of humor (or lack thereof), upon hearing of his old friend's death Ezra Pound asked, *who is there left to share a joke with?" Or something like that. But then Pound was never known for his sense of humor either.
  235. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:

    Didn’t Kevin Macdonald say that guru-ism is a bigger thing among Jews than among wasps and whites?

    Guru-ism is about loyal admiration and worship of a great man of learning and spirituality in Jewish tradition. The man is seen as superior to others around him. Indeed, he is so great and amazing that he expects devotion from those around him.

    Guru-ism is a form of super-individualism that works against democratic individualism. It says there is this great prophet, seer, genius, or whatever whose individual worth is so superior that others cannot equal him. Never. So, they must suppress their own inferior individualism in honor of the great individualist. There was some of this in Marxism where Marx was not to be questioned. There is some of this in Ayn Rand philosophy where some individuals are deemed to be so great that they should never compromise whereas others should submit to the great man’s will. Though some people think Rand was for the common individual, she was only for the super-individual. At the end of FOUNTAINHEAD(the movie), the the rich guy submits his will to that of Howard Roark. He gives his woman and money to Roark so that the tallest skyscraper will be built exactly as Roark envisions it. And Rand certainly didn’t see others as equals. She saw herself as a great prophet and expected those around her to agree with her. And Freud was the same way with his followers. Though Susan Sontag didn’t have acolytes and devotees, she was also a very difficult person who acted like she knew everything, and she had no time to disagree with those less brilliant than her.

    Thus, the cult of ultra-individualism(of the great guru) is anti-democratic-individualist and anti-middle-individualist. It simply won’t recognize other individuals as equal or equally worthy.
    Jewish individualism is a blend of both ancient tribalism and radical modernism. There is the element of the devotion to the Great Prophets. It also has the element of the cult of the towering visionary genius who sees farther than others and plays the role of Prometheus.

    In contrast, the most prevalent kind of American individualism was middle-individualism if not mass-individualism. It tended to be suspicious of ‘great thinkers’ who seemed to know everything and ‘great artists’ whose vision and passion were so great that they had every right to violate all social and communal norms.
    So, American individualism was said to be conformist, philistine, and anti-intellectual. But it was democratic in the sense that every person’s individualism was respected as equally valid and worthy as anyone else’s. For all individualisms to count as equal, a culture must be wary of ultra-individualism that says a certain guru is so very great that others should suppress their ‘lame and square individual’ and look to him for answers and guidance.

    For American middle-individualism to sustain itself, it had to rely on manners(though this was bigger in UK) and community standards. Manners and social values are something that can bind everyone from rich to poor, smart to dumb. And Bob Hope represented this kind of middle-individualism. He could be goofy but he was always mindful not to offend or go against the prevailing stands of what was considered tasteful and decent.

    But with the rise of Jewish influence, guru-individualism took over. It claimed to present new views, new visions, and new concepts that were so startling that they simply could not conform to the common standards of white-gentile-dominant society. The new expressions could be intellectually bolder than anything that came before, sensually more erotic than any that came before, humorously more outrageous and funny than anything that came before, and etc.

    As much as people pretend to love ‘equality’, they also want to worship something that is deemed super-astounding and great. Cinephiles prefer to study Kubrick than John Sayles. Rock fans find Dylan more fascinating than Gordon Lightfoot.
    In a way, Jews and homos have come to monopolize a kind of group-guru-ism whereby they are seen as so great that the rest of us should get on our knees and worship at their feet.

    There was some of this guru-ism in German culture too, what with the cult of Beethoven, Wagner, and Nietzsche, later leading to worship of Hitler.

    Ironically, though Jewish-ism and German-ism went head to head in a bad way in the 20th century(USSR was influenced by Marxism), both tended to indulge in guru-ism that was so much at odds with the more moderate middle-individualism of Anglos and Anglo-America.

    Guru-ism can be useful in supporting geniuses, but it can also foster mindless cultist worship of individuals as gods. And that is always dangerous.

  236. Most of the SNL skits done by the original Not Ready for Primate Time Players have held up pretty well. I think the John Belushi “Olympia Restaurant” skits would still be considered funny today, nearly 40 years after originally airing.

    A few have mentioned Rodney Dangerfield. His 1983 movie “Easy Money,” where he plays the role of Monty Capuletti, a boorish Italian American prole who lives on Staten Island, is a favorite of mine. P.J. O’Rourke was one of the writers.

  237. @Steve Sailer
    Right, Monty Python v. Fawlty Towers: brilliant v. funny.

    The first time I ever saw MP,they were doing the election skit. The Sensible Party vs the Silly party vs the Very Silly party. I thought it was very funny.I was hooked instantly. The funniest thing they did may have been simple physical comedy,John Cleese as the Minister of Silly Walks. Brilliant? Eric Idle in some weird make up that made him look like a moldering,3/4 dead ancient old hunched up man,as the obsequious Hollywood type MC. “No one could be more honored than I…” Funny? Funny as a mutha*****!

  238. @syonredux

    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal’s Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.
     
    We'll have to agree to disagree on that one; I think that their best stuff still works.And I've got T.S. Eliot on my side (he was a great admirer of Groucho's).

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.
     
    Abbott and Costello are great.I grew up watching their stuff, and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of the truly great comedies.For that matter, it's also a fitting end to the Universal Horror cycle as well.Incidentally, David Thomson's rumination on "Who's on First" in his Biographical Dictionary of Film is maybe the finest thing ever written about Bud and Lou

    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That’s kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 “Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?” In other words, it really doesn’t matter a hill o’ beans what ol’ T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated. Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein. Most of their films by that time were second rate crappola. In point of fact, most of Abbott-Costello’s films (not their exceptional radio work since they were verbal comics first and foremost), most of their films closely resemble Norman Taurog’s 60’s films made with Elvis Presley: Antiseptic, and totally lacking in any substance whatsoever, including the soundtrack.

    The Chinese have a saying, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words”. Aside from Harpo, (again, a second rate Chaplin or a third rate Keaton) both Groucho and Chico’s verbal bantering borscht belt schtick is long time past dated. And after all, when people say “The Marx Bros.” let’s be honest. They really mean 90% Groucho and perhaps 10% Harpo. Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought and Zeppo was,….what, exactly?

    But if its Groucho vs. Bob Hope, in terms of direct cultural impact on US at large for over a longer period of time, then Hope wins hands down. As Hope lived longer and had a more successful run on TV for much longer, its a safe bet that most people under the age of 40 have heard of Bob Hope (As he did attend the USO’s ’90-91 tour show in Iraq). In 2015, modern audiences may faintly recall the Velasic Pickle Cartoon, which is loosely based on Groucho’s public persona.

    But of course when people mention the Marx Bros they really mean Groucho himself for the most part. There are no rabid Zeppo Marx fans, nor any present stand ups on the comedy circuit stating in interviews “You know, I was always enthralled by Chico’s ethnic zingers. They really encouraged me to become a comedian. The way Chico wowed and zinged his brother with “why a duck” instead of viaduct” That’s pure gold! Gold I tell you!!”

    Come, come now.

    I will agree to one thing: The 3 Stooges staying power throughout the yrs (in some ways they are mor instantly remembered and recalled than the Marx Bros, certainly the sum total of their films made more money in their time than the Bros.) and this is directly due to the visual nature of their comedy. You don’t need a very high IQ to understand the humor. Comedia Buffa has an established history going back to at least the Middle Ages if not into Greco-Roman. Unlike the Marx Brothers, the Stooges were nearly 90% visual in their presentation, which of course always tends to work in film.

    You could easily do a remake of a few 3 Stooges films (fleshed out for modern audiences) and they would easily do big box office. Casting, however, would be the utmost importance. Who would be the three actors/comedians who could adequately play the roles of the 3 Stooges, just in 2015 form? That remains the question.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That’s kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 “Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?” In other words, it really doesn’t matter a hill o’ beans what ol’ T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.
     
    Wit and word play are outside Eliot's realm of expertise?

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated.
     
    Not as much as you might think.I have a schoolteacher friend who showed the "Who's on First" bit to a bunch of 12 year olds.They thought that it was hysterical.And I've shown Duck Soup to undergraduates, and they've howled with laughter.

    Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein.
     
    Which goes to show that creators are often poor judges of their own work.
    , @fwood1
    "Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought"

    Actually, my favorite line from a Marx Bros. movie was said by Chico. After Groucho mentions a sanity clause, Chico says "You no a foola me. Everybody knows deres a no Sanity Claws."
  239. ” . . . it would seem that “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by” Gentiles.”

    We have met the enemy and he is us.

  240. @syonredux

    Now, hold it, hold it. The Marx Brothers are vastly overrated and dated. Their MGM films are mostly garbage, even below that of Universal’s Abbott-Costello. Their most critically acclaimed film, Duck Soup, has the advantage of being well directed by double Oscar winner Leo McCarey which helped lend it a visual style that the films mostly lacked.
     
    We'll have to agree to disagree on that one; I think that their best stuff still works.And I've got T.S. Eliot on my side (he was a great admirer of Groucho's).

    How come no one mentions Abbott-Costello as being among the funniest comedy teams? They too started out on vaudeville-broadway. In fact, their banter is similar to Groucho-Chico, except of course, unlike Chico, Costello is an authentic (half) Italian.
     
    Abbott and Costello are great.I grew up watching their stuff, and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of the truly great comedies.For that matter, it's also a fitting end to the Universal Horror cycle as well.Incidentally, David Thomson's rumination on "Who's on First" in his Biographical Dictionary of Film is maybe the finest thing ever written about Bud and Lou

    The Marx Brothers’ comedy is timeless, because it nails the send-up of the pompous, privileged authority figure. Groucho, who had little formal schooling, became an erudite autodidact who read voluminously. Chico was an inveterate – and inept – gambler and skirt-chaser whom Groucho wearied of bailing out. Harpo I know less about, but his pantomime is timeless and much funnier than anything Marcel Marceau performed (one anecdote, told by a fellow golfer whose identity I can’t recall, recalled three members of a foursome losing sight of Harpo, whom they finally were amazed to see with his pants down and suspended by the crooks of his knees from an overhead branch as Harpo – upside down, mind you – urinated a copious stream downward in their direction). On-screen the team got a huge boost from Margaret Dumont’s straight woman brilliance – most comics attest that the straight man is the hardest role in comedy.

    Abbott & Costello were brilliant, not least because they did top notch slapstick and sight gags, but also because they shone at rapid-fire give-&-take wordplay. Their prewar work is timeless (my personal favorites are Keep ‘Em Flying, which includes a lovely twins act from Martha Raye, and In The Navy), and so are some of their postwar offerings, at least until they’d begun to wear out their increasingly reduced-budget monster movie takeoffs. Their TV series suffered unfortunately from hackneyed set-ups and agonizingly slow pacing.

    • Replies: @Mike Zwick
    Some people, including Moe Howard, have said that Abbott and Costello were just the Three Stooges without Larry.
  241. A measure of how funny Monty Python was is how much the guys from South Park copy them. A typical Monty Python sketch will start out “ordinary” (a meeting of a club … for putting things on top of other things, “This year we have put more things on top of other things than ever before!”) and then veer off into ridiculous stuff. “Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that we are surrounded by film!” Ending up with a ridiculous ending “If we are on film, someone must be filming us.”

    The Njorl’s saga (where a commercial for business in North Malden keeps cropping up) and Tudor Jobs agency are classic, and form the basis for most South Park episodes, structurally. Something seems ordinary and just gets stupider and stupider in the most ridiculous fashion.

    But comedy is hard work. It has basically, zero barriers to entry. It is the most darwninian of fields, and most Jews from the middle and upper class won’t go into Comedy unless they have basically failed at everything else or have a driving need to be funny. Comedy requires churning out joke after joke, or doing something weird (like the original South Park episode that took months to film and was a cult video tape passed around by Hollywood elites until the guys got their Comedy Central gig) and risky, or doing standup all around the country flying coach.

    Compared to a nice safe, renumerative gig at some law firm or government office, comedy sucks. So as Jews move up to the Middle/Upper class, far fewer are going into comedy. Think, what was the last funny Jewish guy you ever saw? Seinfeld, maybe?

    The meta joke about the Pythons is that they all turned into the characters they made fun of in their youth.

  242. @Malcolm X-Lax
    A recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher featured a predictably fawning Maher interviewing Mel Brooks. The centerpiece of the interview was an extended anecdote/joke the punchline of which was that WASP icon Cary Grant was a dope and a bore. It's the Jew's world, the rest of us goyim are just living in it.

    Cary Grant was Jewish.

    • Replies: @The most deplorable one
    Wikipedia does not mention this and there is considerable speculation about it.

    It seems that one of the myths is that his claimed mother was not his real mother.

    On balance it does not seem likely.

    Do you have a good source for the claim? Especially since he became an independent actor.
  243. @Auntie Analogue
    The Marx Brothers' comedy is timeless, because it nails the send-up of the pompous, privileged authority figure. Groucho, who had little formal schooling, became an erudite autodidact who read voluminously. Chico was an inveterate - and inept - gambler and skirt-chaser whom Groucho wearied of bailing out. Harpo I know less about, but his pantomime is timeless and much funnier than anything Marcel Marceau performed (one anecdote, told by a fellow golfer whose identity I can't recall, recalled three members of a foursome losing sight of Harpo, whom they finally were amazed to see with his pants down and suspended by the crooks of his knees from an overhead branch as Harpo - upside down, mind you - urinated a copious stream downward in their direction). On-screen the team got a huge boost from Margaret Dumont's straight woman brilliance - most comics attest that the straight man is the hardest role in comedy.

    Abbott & Costello were brilliant, not least because they did top notch slapstick and sight gags, but also because they shone at rapid-fire give-&-take wordplay. Their prewar work is timeless (my personal favorites are Keep 'Em Flying, which includes a lovely twins act from Martha Raye, and In The Navy), and so are some of their postwar offerings, at least until they'd begun to wear out their increasingly reduced-budget monster movie takeoffs. Their TV series suffered unfortunately from hackneyed set-ups and agonizingly slow pacing.

    Some people, including Moe Howard, have said that Abbott and Costello were just the Three Stooges without Larry.

  244. @Ghost of Bull Moose
    "You had to be there." I think that sums it up.

    John Cleese says the essence of British humor is their fear of embarrassment, and increasingly excruciating embarrassment and awkward situations are everywhere in modern comedy.

    The worst sort of humor is clappy humor, of the Jon Stewart/Colbert variety. The laughs are self-congratulatory, at getting the joke and not being some rube that actually believes those things you don't agree with.

    Jon Stewart I think ran out of comically incredulous facial expressions to spark the clap laughs.

    The worst sort of humor is clappy humor, of the Jon Stewart/Colbert variety.

    True, I liked Colbert about 10 years ago but stopped watching him when I began despising him too much to find him funny. I disliked his treatment of Obama as sacrosanct; his appearance at a senate hearing where he made a mockery of concern about illegal immigration; and his compulsion to coyly refer in his jokes to the most disgusting activities of homosexuals as if it were a mark of hipness to be familiar and tolerant of them–Cleveland Steamers, the Dirty Sanchez, Tossing [someone’s] Salad.

  245. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That's kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 "Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?" In other words, it really doesn't matter a hill o' beans what ol' T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated. Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein. Most of their films by that time were second rate crappola. In point of fact, most of Abbott-Costello's films (not their exceptional radio work since they were verbal comics first and foremost), most of their films closely resemble Norman Taurog's 60's films made with Elvis Presley: Antiseptic, and totally lacking in any substance whatsoever, including the soundtrack.

    The Chinese have a saying, "A picture is worth a 1,000 words". Aside from Harpo, (again, a second rate Chaplin or a third rate Keaton) both Groucho and Chico's verbal bantering borscht belt schtick is long time past dated. And after all, when people say "The Marx Bros." let's be honest. They really mean 90% Groucho and perhaps 10% Harpo. Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought and Zeppo was,….what, exactly?

    But if its Groucho vs. Bob Hope, in terms of direct cultural impact on US at large for over a longer period of time, then Hope wins hands down. As Hope lived longer and had a more successful run on TV for much longer, its a safe bet that most people under the age of 40 have heard of Bob Hope (As he did attend the USO's '90-91 tour show in Iraq). In 2015, modern audiences may faintly recall the Velasic Pickle Cartoon, which is loosely based on Groucho's public persona.

    But of course when people mention the Marx Bros they really mean Groucho himself for the most part. There are no rabid Zeppo Marx fans, nor any present stand ups on the comedy circuit stating in interviews "You know, I was always enthralled by Chico's ethnic zingers. They really encouraged me to become a comedian. The way Chico wowed and zinged his brother with "why a duck" instead of viaduct" That's pure gold! Gold I tell you!!"

    Come, come now.

    I will agree to one thing: The 3 Stooges staying power throughout the yrs (in some ways they are mor instantly remembered and recalled than the Marx Bros, certainly the sum total of their films made more money in their time than the Bros.) and this is directly due to the visual nature of their comedy. You don't need a very high IQ to understand the humor. Comedia Buffa has an established history going back to at least the Middle Ages if not into Greco-Roman. Unlike the Marx Brothers, the Stooges were nearly 90% visual in their presentation, which of course always tends to work in film.

    You could easily do a remake of a few 3 Stooges films (fleshed out for modern audiences) and they would easily do big box office. Casting, however, would be the utmost importance. Who would be the three actors/comedians who could adequately play the roles of the 3 Stooges, just in 2015 form? That remains the question.

    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That’s kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 “Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?” In other words, it really doesn’t matter a hill o’ beans what ol’ T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.

    Wit and word play are outside Eliot’s realm of expertise?

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated.

    Not as much as you might think.I have a schoolteacher friend who showed the “Who’s on First” bit to a bunch of 12 year olds.They thought that it was hysterical.And I’ve shown Duck Soup to undergraduates, and they’ve howled with laughter.

    Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein.

    Which goes to show that creators are often poor judges of their own work.

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    T.S. Eliot was excellent at VERBAL wit/word play, absolutely. Did he work…in…hollywood? No.

    But the contradiction is that Abbott/Costello who actually, you know, were a comic team for well over 30yrs and knew their own material and what their stage personas were capable of, etc. but they "couldn't" tell that oh, about 99% of the films were junk then and crappolla today? Balderdash.

    Abbott/Costello were excellent verbal, as they came out of vaudeville. They were excellent on the radio as well. Their movies by and large stink and are second rate. No, it didn't help them any to be associated with "Poverty Row" studio Universal, but them's the breaks.

    Actually, in the real world, the opposite is true. Creators generally do know which of their own work is the best. Michelangelo? DaVinci? They had absolutely no idea whatsoever which works among those that they created were their best? Come come now. That's asinine as to be almost ridiculous.

    Yes, the mirror scene is amazing and timeless where all ages and generations can follow. The verbal jokes are long since dated. Although to be fair, it was indeed Zeppo's finest hr.

    Duck Soup is generally acknowledged as the Marx Bros best film, including by Groucho himself because it is given a visual styling that is so lacking in most of their films. Leo McCarey, double Oscar winning director was an excellent director during the classic Hollywood age and one can make a case that Duck Soup owes a large part to McCarey's direction as to being the Marx bros best visual film. If Leo Kalmar or Norman Taroug, (Paramount's studio directions of the period) had directed Duck Soup, it would have been half the film it is. In this case, the bros got lucky by actually having an amazing comic director film their work. Norman Taurog was a hack of the worst kind. And he directed Crosby, Sinatra, Martin-Lewis, and ended with Elvis. And his work is dreck, absolutely pure dreck.

    As a teacher you should know that Who's On First was originally performed on radio and then was placed in the Abbott-Costello '45 film the 90's (1890's). It is purely 100% VERBAL. Kids today learn to do the routine for talent shows, sometimes as young as 12 yrs old. That is an amazing piece of verbal comedy, but it is dated, especially as the NFL is now the US's national pastime.

    But the idea that great artists have no idea what their best work is is beyond comprehension and simply, just ain't so. They DO know what their best work is, as….they're the ones that created it in the first place.

    Oftentimes, the creators favorite work (sometimes work that he considers his personal best) is not necessarily his fans' favorite work, but that's a side issue. The point being, that yes, a great artist will generally know which work(s) among his personal library are his best ever.

    But Abbott-Costello's films today are just garbage, junk. Cheap sets, second rate actors, it's similar to Elvis's 60's films. They stink. Their real comedic brilliance was with the radio, and there they had few equals during their time.

    As Steve pointed out in this post, Bob Hope remains virtually alone to have had universal success in all forms of comedy, plus he helped pioneer the modern standup comedy still in use today.

    That's why today's generation, while they may not like or get Hope's comedy they certainly will instantly recognize his style. Both Letterman and Leno clearly were influenced in style, presentation, timing, etc by Bob Hope.

    One thing that tends to stand out in Hope's best films, the early Road pictures among them, is his sense of timing. You can see it (visual).

    In comedy, timing is everything and in that sense, Bob Hope definitely had it. And as the consensus of the US box office, TV ratings, etc or whatever measure of commercial appeal over a career that spanned well over a half century is in complete agreement. Something that he had was ahead of most everyone else in that matter, else he wouldn't have found the universal acclaim and vast commercial success that he did.

    Plus he had a pretty good handicap! A seven or an eight, if memory serves on this point.
  246. You can find a lot of old Bob Hope radio show recordings at many different old time radio sites like this one where Jack Benny is the guest star: https://archive.org/details/BobHope530107GuestJackBenny

  247. @syonredux

    No wonder he loved the Marx Brothers where childish goofiness and brilliance are meshed together. There was something similar in Dylan, the man who was into Blues/Country and T.S. Eliot and Rimbaud. Zelig is like Marx Brothers mixed with Art Film.
     
    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho's:

    Yet one day in 1961 Groucho received in the mail a note from none other than Eliot himself. Expressing his admiration for the comedian, Eliot asked him for an autographed portrait. A shocked Groucho sent back a studio photograph of himself, only to receive a second note from the icon of modern poetry requesting instead a picture of the iconic Groucho, sporting a moustache and holding a cigar. A second photograph was sent out and a happy Eliot wrote to thank Groucho: “This is to let you know that your portrait has arrived and has given me great joy and will soon appear in its frame on my wall with other famous friends such as W.B. Yeats and Paul Valery.” Groucho had asked for a portrait of Eliot in return, and the latter happily enclosed one. Then the famously morose poet, characterised by Siefgried Sassoon as having “cold-storaged humanity” and by Ottoline Morrell as “the undertaker”, finished with a joke. “P.S.” he wrote. “I like cigars too but there isn’t any cigar in my portrait either.” Well, sort of a joke.

    Eliot’s attraction to Groucho might come as a surprise—it certainly did to Groucho—but there had always been signs of his own buried antic disposition. For one thing, in his early expatriate days in London, he grew fond of wearing pale green powder on his face, occasionally accompanied by lipstick. For another, he expressed great enthusiasm for the defecation scene in “Ulysses” that had appalled Virginia Woolf. V.S. Pritchett described Eliot as “a company of actors inside one suit, each one twitting the others.” One thinks of the twitting Marx Brothers packed into that small stateroom in “A Night at the Opera”.
     
    http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/arts/lee-siegel/unexpected-alliance?page=full

    “And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s”

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273

    • Replies: @syonredux

    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s”

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273
     
    I wouldn't be surprised; a lot of my Early Modern colleagues think that it is the best Macbeth adaptation out there

    As much as people pretend to love ‘equality’, they also want to worship something that is deemed super-astounding and great. Cinephiles prefer to study Kubrick than John Sayles. Rock fans find Dylan more fascinating than Gordon Lightfoot.
     
    Probably not the best examples.Kubrick, after all, is a better film maker than Sayles, and Dylan is more fascinating than Lightfoot.

    And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.

    Frankly, I have no problem with people venerating great art.One of the problems with teaching literature these days is that people want art to be an affirmative action affair.Who cares if Hispanic Americans haven't produced novels that equal those of Faulkner or Melville? Students need to read books written by people who look like them, etc.

    Didn’t Kevin Macdonald say that guru-ism is a bigger thing among Jews than among wasps and whites?
     
    A highly problematic assertion.You yourself pointed out the German tendency to venerate great figures: Goethe, Beethoven, Wagner, Hegel, etc. To this one might add the cults that surrounded the founders of philosophical schools in Antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, etc

    Frankly, the Anglos seem to be the only fairly level-headed people in a world filled with hysterics.That cold, Anglo-Saxon blood, I suppose
  248. @Priss Factor
    "So, of the four names that you listed, only one (Woody Allen) is Jewish.Going by the numbers, it would seem that “This kind of psychological comedy is done best by” Gentiles."

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.

    It's like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic... like many non-black musicians are blackistic.

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.

    Or maybe they were just informed by modernity? We are all swimming in the same sea, after all.

    It’s like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.

    And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I’m still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic… like many non-black musicians are blackistic.

    MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences….

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences…."

    He tried but got over the fetish.

    No one's going to remember films like INTERIORS, SEPTEMBER, ANOTHER WOMEN, and etc. Not really even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. Or the Bergmanesque parts of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, which is best when Allen is just having fun. One exception may be CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, but it's about troubled Jews than 'cold Wasps' thankfully.

    Allen also went for Cassavetes-ism with HUSBANDS AND WIVES. Dreadful.

    Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of 'art'. BLUE JASMINE is also very good.

    'Art film' never came naturally to Allen. He should have left it to Bresson, Tarkovsky, and etc.
    Ya gotta do what comes naturally.

    BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is another near-perfect one from Allen. Just the right blend of pathos and comedy and no pretentious stuff.

  249. @Shibes Meadow
    Elmer: James Stewart was not a WASP. He was of Scottish (i.e. Celtic) ancestry.

    Elmer: James Stewart was not a WASP. He was of Scottish (i.e. Celtic) ancestry.

    In America, that’s a distinction without a difference

  250. @Steve Sailer
    Bob Welch was the #2 guy in the Grateful Dead.

    You must be joking. Bob Weir was #2 in the Grateful Dead, Bob Welch was in Fleetwood Mac prior to Buckingham & Nicks.

  251. @David R. Merridale
    Young Frankenstein was funny.

    Yeah, the song & dance routine with the monster was classic.

  252. Why is it that it seems to me that all those people who make so definite statements about “German humour” have never met any actual Germans?

    • Replies: @dcite
    Because they tend to deal with stereotypes around here, in the conviction that these are underwritten by truth. Some are, if you are familiar with their cultural context. But when it comes to "others" you may really be dealing with prejudice. There is such a thing.
  253. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:

    “And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I’m still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making.”

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa’s films are not really like Ford’s in style and emotion. He owes more to Russian and German masters. And more to Capra than to Ford. So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it’s a kind of cover. Since Ford’s style was more ‘plain’, Kurosawa’s works seem more striking and dynamic in comparison. It is in his favor. But if Kurosawa singled out early Soviet and German masters as his main inspiration, the contrasts wouldn’t be so striking.

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE. Again, it’s in Welles’ favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    The NY Times used to have a feature where they watched (someone else's) movie with a filmmaker. When they did that with Woody Allen ( http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/03/movies/watching-movies-with-woody-allen-coming-back-to-shane.html?pagewanted=1 ), he mentioned Kurosawa's Rashomon as one of his favorites, but the movie he picked for the screening was Shane.
    , @syonredux

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa’s films are not really like Ford’s in style and emotion.
     
    I disgree; Kurasawa's emotional stance in his films (the reverence for the past, the love of ritual, the feeling for hierarchy) is quite akin to Ford's.

    He owes more to Russian and German masters.
     
    So, following your theory, does that make him a Russainistic or Germanistic director?

    And more to Capra than to Ford.

    Or maybe it makes him a Capracornistic director?

    So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it’s a kind of cover.
     
    Cf Bloom's "Anxiety of Influence" theory, eh? Or maybe he just felt that he was more sympatico with Ford's work?

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE.
     
    Why not? It's a great film.Scorsese watches The Searchers twice a year.

    Again, it’s in Welles’ favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.
     
    Or maybe he learned more from Ford's elegant simplicity.Joyce, after all, was very fond of Defoe, and Borges revered Kipling's early work.
  254. @Priss Factor
    "And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s"

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273

    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s”

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273

    I wouldn’t be surprised; a lot of my Early Modern colleagues think that it is the best Macbeth adaptation out there

    As much as people pretend to love ‘equality’, they also want to worship something that is deemed super-astounding and great. Cinephiles prefer to study Kubrick than John Sayles. Rock fans find Dylan more fascinating than Gordon Lightfoot.

    Probably not the best examples.Kubrick, after all, is a better film maker than Sayles, and Dylan is more fascinating than Lightfoot.

    And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.

    Frankly, I have no problem with people venerating great art.One of the problems with teaching literature these days is that people want art to be an affirmative action affair.Who cares if Hispanic Americans haven’t produced novels that equal those of Faulkner or Melville? Students need to read books written by people who look like them, etc.

    Didn’t Kevin Macdonald say that guru-ism is a bigger thing among Jews than among wasps and whites?

    A highly problematic assertion.You yourself pointed out the German tendency to venerate great figures: Goethe, Beethoven, Wagner, Hegel, etc. To this one might add the cults that surrounded the founders of philosophical schools in Antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, etc

    Frankly, the Anglos seem to be the only fairly level-headed people in a world filled with hysterics.That cold, Anglo-Saxon blood, I suppose

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies."

    He aint just a darling. There's almost like cult worship around him. I mean no one worships Ford or Hawks; cinephiles just admire them two.

    Okay, Hitchcock maybe. Big cult around him. Maybe the great white gentile artist of the 20th century if indeed cinema is THE artform of the 20th century? Popular in his day, endlessly fascinating to new generations of film lovers. Speak softly and carry a big camera.
  255. @PapayaSF
    Not to take anything away from Hope, of whom I'm a fan, but while he was an early and revolutionary stand-up comic, the very first was probably Frank Fay, who was a distinctly unpleasant, hardcore racist, anti-Semite, and fascist. And I'm not using those terms lightly. It sounds like something from an alternative world science fiction novel, but in January 1946 allies of Franco, members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party organized a rally at Madison Square Garden in January 1946 called "The Friends of Frank Fay.”

    It's also incredible to think that someone who hated Jews could have been so big in show biz in the '20s and '30s.

    So Frank Fay was an unheralded victim of blacklisting.

  256. @Mr. Anon
    "Dave Pinsen says:

    The only time I remember laughing during Monty Python’s The Flying Circus was their killer joke bit. Most of it wasn’t funny. Same with their movies. Even the clever bits weren’t “ha!” funny."

    And yet you think that Mel Brooks later stuff was funny. Again - this says more about you than it does about the topic at hand.

    "And comparing British TV to American TV is like comparing a sprinter to a middle distance runner. The Brits only produce a handful of episodes of any of their shows."

    Yes, it is certainly better to drag a concept out long past its sell-by date rather than simply tell your story and then stop.

    And yet you think that Mel Brooks later stuff was funny. Again – this says more about you than it does about the topic at hand.

    Everyone’s comments and opinions say something about them – that’s a point so obvious I wonder why you’d make it. As for Mel Brooks’s “later stuff”, if you’re alluding to his recent one man show, yes, I thought that was funny. History of the World Part 1, which I also mentioned, goes back to the early ’80s.

    Yes, it is certainly better to drag a concept out long past its sell-by date rather than simply tell your story and then stop.

    Maybe you prefer short stories to novels. To each his own, but I’d reject a blanket assertion that novels are somehow inferior because they are longer. Good TV series often have some of their best episodes in later seasons.

  257. @george
    Great post. If you search on woody allen bob hope you can find Tonight Show episodes where Allen guest hosts and Hope is a guest. I think SCTV got their inspiration from that interview.
  258. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @syonredux

    But I think they were informed by Jewish modernity.
     
    Or maybe they were just informed by modernity? We are all swimming in the same sea, after all.

    It’s like Kobo Abe was Japanese but profoundly influenced by Kafka.
     
    And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I'm still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making.

    Maybe we should make a distinction between Jewish and Jewishistic, like the difference between Hellenic(Greek) and Hellenistic(influenced by Greek culture).

    Even many non-Jewish artists and entertainers are Jewishistic… like many non-black musicians are blackistic.
     
    MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences....

    “MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences….”

    He tried but got over the fetish.

    No one’s going to remember films like INTERIORS, SEPTEMBER, ANOTHER WOMEN, and etc. Not really even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. Or the Bergmanesque parts of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, which is best when Allen is just having fun. One exception may be CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, but it’s about troubled Jews than ‘cold Wasps’ thankfully.

    Allen also went for Cassavetes-ism with HUSBANDS AND WIVES. Dreadful.

    Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of ‘art’. BLUE JASMINE is also very good.

    ‘Art film’ never came naturally to Allen. He should have left it to Bresson, Tarkovsky, and etc.
    Ya gotta do what comes naturally.

    BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is another near-perfect one from Allen. Just the right blend of pathos and comedy and no pretentious stuff.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    “And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.”

    He aint just a darling. There’s almost like cult worship around him. I mean no one worships Ford or Hawks; cinephiles just admire them two.

    Okay, Hitchcock maybe. Big cult around him. Maybe the great white gentile artist of the 20th century if indeed cinema is THE artform of the 20th century? Popular in his day, endlessly fascinating to new generations of film lovers. Speak softly and carry a big camera.
     
    Dear fellow, I don't what film schools you hang around, but the Hawks cult is legendary .It's been going strong for decades.Tarantino's films are just Hawks with a Gallic dash from the Nouvelle Vague.

    Then, of course, as you said, there is the Hitchcock cult, which still seems to be gathering strength.Cf how Vertigo finally overtook Citizen Kane at the Sight and Sound poll.However, the Welles cult still burns bright in the forests of the night, although they seem to dote more on Touch of Evil. Our age seems to favor its mixing of high and low.And Ozu continues to gather strength.So little known in the West 50 years ago, he's now overtaken Kurasawa as the Great Man of Japanese film.

    So, yes, Kubrick must share Asgard with his fellow immortals.More than that, the poor fellow isn't even Primus inter pares.He's a just another contender for a vacant throne.

    He tried but got over the fetish.
     
    One never gets over fetishes.I'm sure that Allen, late at night, when the demons come, wishes that he could conjure the Scandinavian gloom in his work, raise the spectre of Kierkegaard, hear the howling of the wolf etc.

    Not really even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN.
     
    just saw those again last month; they will endure.

    Or the Bergmanesque parts of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, which is best when Allen is just having fun.
     
    The fun only works in opposition to the Bergmanesque gloom.Light needs dark.

    One exception may be CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, but it’s about troubled Jews than ‘cold Wasps’ thankfully.

     

    Ice-cold Jews.And the death/blindness of God.Frankly, it's too Bergmanesque for my blood.

    Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of ‘art’.
     
    I enjoyed it mostly for Keaton
  259. @Jean Cocteausten
    When I was in junior high school in about 1981, the school paper did a class survey. One of the questions was, "Who is your favorite comedian?" Hope won by a large margin. Mind you this was 1981 -- Carlin and Pryor were in their prime, and Hope was nearly eighty. The preferences of 300 Midwestern kids are no guide to quality, but people forget there was a time when "Bob Hope" and "comedian" were practically synonymous, like...well, like no example I can pull from the present day. Maybe like asking people today who their favorite Korean singer is. For the vast majority of people there is only one possible answer: the "Gangnam Style" guy, whatever his name was. For unsophisticated kids in 1981, there was only one possible answer: Bob Hope.

    That truly blows me away. I guess “Let’s Get Small” was banned between the coasts. My $.02:

    Funny: Benny, Burns, Newhart, Pryor, Dangerfield, Martin, DiPaolo, Shandling, Rock.

    Not: Hope, Kaye, Skelton, Ball, Bruce, Cosby, Gregory, Cambridge, Rivers, Steinberg, Klein.

    Mezza mezza: Carlin

  260. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Cagey Beast
    Martin Short is brilliant. Here he is as Jerry Lewis doing Robert Duvall's role in Tender Mercies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1rq9lsTp8

    As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I'd vote for Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Jacques Tati and Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness isn't remembered as primarily a comic actor but both he and Peter O'Toole did some really funny stuff.

    “As for great comedians who got started in the black & white era, I’d vote for Terry-Thomas”

    Apologies if I don’t post the link properly, but Terry Thomas’ commentary on American women in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was hysterically funny, at least to me. The sheer contempt with which he says “Mother’s Day…” makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

  261. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @syonredux

    And, of course, T.S.Eliot was a great admirer of Groucho’s”

    He liked Throne of Blood too.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/throne-of-blood/Film?oid=1843273
     
    I wouldn't be surprised; a lot of my Early Modern colleagues think that it is the best Macbeth adaptation out there

    As much as people pretend to love ‘equality’, they also want to worship something that is deemed super-astounding and great. Cinephiles prefer to study Kubrick than John Sayles. Rock fans find Dylan more fascinating than Gordon Lightfoot.
     
    Probably not the best examples.Kubrick, after all, is a better film maker than Sayles, and Dylan is more fascinating than Lightfoot.

    And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.

    Frankly, I have no problem with people venerating great art.One of the problems with teaching literature these days is that people want art to be an affirmative action affair.Who cares if Hispanic Americans haven't produced novels that equal those of Faulkner or Melville? Students need to read books written by people who look like them, etc.

    Didn’t Kevin Macdonald say that guru-ism is a bigger thing among Jews than among wasps and whites?
     
    A highly problematic assertion.You yourself pointed out the German tendency to venerate great figures: Goethe, Beethoven, Wagner, Hegel, etc. To this one might add the cults that surrounded the founders of philosophical schools in Antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, etc

    Frankly, the Anglos seem to be the only fairly level-headed people in a world filled with hysterics.That cold, Anglo-Saxon blood, I suppose

    “And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.”

    He aint just a darling. There’s almost like cult worship around him. I mean no one worships Ford or Hawks; cinephiles just admire them two.

    Okay, Hitchcock maybe. Big cult around him. Maybe the great white gentile artist of the 20th century if indeed cinema is THE artform of the 20th century? Popular in his day, endlessly fascinating to new generations of film lovers. Speak softly and carry a big camera.

  262. @Priss Factor
    "And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I’m still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making."

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa's films are not really like Ford's in style and emotion. He owes more to Russian and German masters. And more to Capra than to Ford. So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it's a kind of cover. Since Ford's style was more 'plain', Kurosawa's works seem more striking and dynamic in comparison. It is in his favor. But if Kurosawa singled out early Soviet and German masters as his main inspiration, the contrasts wouldn't be so striking.

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE. Again, it's in Welles' favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.

    The NY Times used to have a feature where they watched (someone else’s) movie with a filmmaker. When they did that with Woody Allen ( http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/03/movies/watching-movies-with-woody-allen-coming-back-to-shane.html?pagewanted=1 ), he mentioned Kurosawa’s Rashomon as one of his favorites, but the movie he picked for the screening was Shane.

  263. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    And of course, T.S. Elliot was a superb working comic in America during that time, and…..oh. Wait a second.

    That's kind of akin to George Bernard Shaw asking in 1926 "Who exactly is this Babe Ruth, and what does she do?" In other words, it really doesn't matter a hill o' beans what ol' T.S. thought about things outside his realm of expertise.

    I threw out the Abbott-Costello analogy for a reason. Its 2015, not 1915, and both they and the Marx bros are dated. Both Abbott and particularly Costello hated, absolutely hated Meet Frankenstein. Most of their films by that time were second rate crappola. In point of fact, most of Abbott-Costello's films (not their exceptional radio work since they were verbal comics first and foremost), most of their films closely resemble Norman Taurog's 60's films made with Elvis Presley: Antiseptic, and totally lacking in any substance whatsoever, including the soundtrack.

    The Chinese have a saying, "A picture is worth a 1,000 words". Aside from Harpo, (again, a second rate Chaplin or a third rate Keaton) both Groucho and Chico's verbal bantering borscht belt schtick is long time past dated. And after all, when people say "The Marx Bros." let's be honest. They really mean 90% Groucho and perhaps 10% Harpo. Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought and Zeppo was,….what, exactly?

    But if its Groucho vs. Bob Hope, in terms of direct cultural impact on US at large for over a longer period of time, then Hope wins hands down. As Hope lived longer and had a more successful run on TV for much longer, its a safe bet that most people under the age of 40 have heard of Bob Hope (As he did attend the USO's '90-91 tour show in Iraq). In 2015, modern audiences may faintly recall the Velasic Pickle Cartoon, which is loosely based on Groucho's public persona.

    But of course when people mention the Marx Bros they really mean Groucho himself for the most part. There are no rabid Zeppo Marx fans, nor any present stand ups on the comedy circuit stating in interviews "You know, I was always enthralled by Chico's ethnic zingers. They really encouraged me to become a comedian. The way Chico wowed and zinged his brother with "why a duck" instead of viaduct" That's pure gold! Gold I tell you!!"

    Come, come now.

    I will agree to one thing: The 3 Stooges staying power throughout the yrs (in some ways they are mor instantly remembered and recalled than the Marx Bros, certainly the sum total of their films made more money in their time than the Bros.) and this is directly due to the visual nature of their comedy. You don't need a very high IQ to understand the humor. Comedia Buffa has an established history going back to at least the Middle Ages if not into Greco-Roman. Unlike the Marx Brothers, the Stooges were nearly 90% visual in their presentation, which of course always tends to work in film.

    You could easily do a remake of a few 3 Stooges films (fleshed out for modern audiences) and they would easily do big box office. Casting, however, would be the utmost importance. Who would be the three actors/comedians who could adequately play the roles of the 3 Stooges, just in 2015 form? That remains the question.

    “Chico is a 2nd rate afterthought”

    Actually, my favorite line from a Marx Bros. movie was said by Chico. After Groucho mentions a sanity clause, Chico says “You no a foola me. Everybody knows deres a no Sanity Claws.”

  264. @Trayvon Zimmerman
    It's amusing to see someone insist that so and so was hilarious, and then someone else say that no, so and so wasn't remotely funny. And seeing it over and over on this thread just goes to show how wildly our sense of humor can vary from person to person. But it does seem pretty obvious that the average comedian these days isn't nearly as funny as the average one used to be.

    I've heard people from my parents generation say that it used to be a big deal when a comedian came on Ed Sullivan or The Sonny and Cher Show - they'd call the whole family in with "Hey, there's a comedian on TV!" and everyone would gather round to watch Rodney Dangerfield or Steve Martin or George Carlin. Now, it's pretty much the exact opposite. When a comedian comes on a talk show these days, most people are like "Aw, sh*t, turn the channel!" And if you do stick around to watch them, it's amazing how little laughter they get from the studio audience.

    Go to Youtube and watch some standups who have appeared on Letterman the last 15 years. People don't laugh very much; instead, they applaud. Now it's one thing if something is so riotously funny that people are applauding while they're laughing, but that's not what you see on these shows. People mildly chuckle at a few jokes, and applaud but don't laugh at all at many of them. Which means it's not funny. If something is funny, you laugh. You can't help it; it's an involuntary response. But if you're in Letterman's audience and the comedian's jokes aren't funny, you must be the problem, right? Letterman wouldn't put on somebody who's not funny, would he? So you figure you must be the problem, and you want to show that you're not some kind of out of town hick who doesn't get the joke, so you applaud. Either that or they're applauding to cover up the embarrassing silence because they feel sorry for a guy bombing on national TV. Watch a few of those, and then go watch Sam Kinison's debut on Letterman. Or an old Rodney Dangerfield special. Or some live video of a Steve Martin show. Comedy has gone way downhill.

    People mildly chuckle at a few jokes, and applaud but don’t laugh at all at many of them. Which means it’s not funny.

    I sat in the audience for the Letterman Show about 25 years ago. When I watched it on TV that night what I noticed different was that the laughter had really been “sweetened”–where I recall him getting a few chuckles, on TV it was uproarious laughter.

  265. @Steve Sailer
    Benchley was a New Yorker humor writer in the 1920s with James Thurber. He was one of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table wits along with Dorothy Parker. He was a theater critic and a leading figure in cafe society. When sound movies came along when he was about 40, he started filming shorts and eventually became a movie star of sorts, with his shorts being dropped into movies like this 1943 Fred Astaire musical.

    I recall practicing to perform Benchley's "Treasurer's Report" in class around 8th grade.

    His grandson Peter Benchley wrote "Jaws."

    Dave Barry is highly influenced by Benchley's bumbling WASP middle manager persona.

    Benchley was a wonderful writer. When I was a little kid in the late 1950’s I ransacked the local libraries trying to track down every one of his published works. I still remember being on the phone to the circulation desk at the Ohio State University trying to learn if they had “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield” on their shelves. I couldn’t seem to make myself understood – I still can’t imagine why.

  266. The most deplorable one [AKA "Fourth doorman of the apocalypse"] says:
    @Mike Zwick
    Cary Grant was Jewish.

    Wikipedia does not mention this and there is considerable speculation about it.

    It seems that one of the myths is that his claimed mother was not his real mother.

    On balance it does not seem likely.

    Do you have a good source for the claim? Especially since he became an independent actor.

    • Replies: @Mike Zwick
    I stand corrected! I did read an article a few years back that documented his Jewish heritage but I cannot find it today. I did find a lot of articles though stating exactly what you said, that it is just speculation and it wasn't really settled whether he was Jewish. I guess the first article that I read was convincing and clouded my judgment. Here is a good synopsis on this: http://www.jewornotjew.com/profile.jsp?ID=373
  267. @Priss Factor
    "And Akira Kurasawa was profoundly influenced by John Ford; I’m still not going to cite Kurasawa as an example of American film-making."

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa's films are not really like Ford's in style and emotion. He owes more to Russian and German masters. And more to Capra than to Ford. So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it's a kind of cover. Since Ford's style was more 'plain', Kurosawa's works seem more striking and dynamic in comparison. It is in his favor. But if Kurosawa singled out early Soviet and German masters as his main inspiration, the contrasts wouldn't be so striking.

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE. Again, it's in Welles' favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa’s films are not really like Ford’s in style and emotion.

    I disgree; Kurasawa’s emotional stance in his films (the reverence for the past, the love of ritual, the feeling for hierarchy) is quite akin to Ford’s.

    He owes more to Russian and German masters.

    So, following your theory, does that make him a Russainistic or Germanistic director?

    And more to Capra than to Ford.

    Or maybe it makes him a Capracornistic director?

    So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it’s a kind of cover.

    Cf Bloom’s “Anxiety of Influence” theory, eh? Or maybe he just felt that he was more sympatico with Ford’s work?

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE.

    Why not? It’s a great film.Scorsese watches The Searchers twice a year.

    Again, it’s in Welles’ favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.

    Or maybe he learned more from Ford’s elegant simplicity.Joyce, after all, was very fond of Defoe, and Borges revered Kipling’s early work.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    "He owes more to Russian and German masters."

    "So, following your theory, does that make him a Russainistic or Germanistic director?"

    I don't think Kurosawa mentioned Lang much, but there's much about Kurosawa's cinema looks surprisingly like the silent masterpieces of Lang, especially Nibelungen and Kriemhild's Revenge(parts of which may have inspired moments in RAN). But maybe it's coincidental, so I'm not too sure about Kurosawa's German connection.

    http://youtu.be/9jhb2mjjx-E?t=2h21s

    But he was definitely Russianistic. Even by ancestry, Kurosawa speculated that his height(at 6 ft, tall for a Japanese) and prevalence of blue eyes in his family suggests part Russian-background.
    But more importantly, he said the artist he admired most in any medium was Dostoevsky, and he made a film adaptation of THE IDIOT, though none-too-successfully. He did Dostoevsky-ism better when adopting the themes than adapting stories, which may be why he didn't directly adapt another Dostoevsky story. But the nihilistic kidnapper is clearly a Dostoevskyian character, someone like Raskolnikov in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT but without chance at redemption.
    Kurosawa's IKIRU is a loose adaptation of Tolstoy's LIFE AND DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH. Kurosawa also adapted Gorki's LOWER DEPTHS. Some of the music used in SEVEN SAMURAI was inspired by Russian choir singing. Kurosawa later made a film for Russia with DERSU UZALA.
    Kurosawa also had sympathies with the Russian revolution though he wasn't anything like a communist or Marxist.

    And the sheer down-to-earthiness of Kurosawa's vision owes as much to Russian sensibility as much as to the Japanese. So, the stuff about Kurosawa being the 'most American' Japanese director, I think, is false. His cultural affinity was closer to Russia, not least because Russian literature had a huge influence on Japanese intellectuals and artists in the early part of 20th century. Maybe Japanese took to it because Russianess was so strangely different from Japaneseness. It was too-much-ness vs minimal-ness. More-is-more in contrast to less-is-more. Opposites often repel but also sometimes attract.

    The Yojimbo character is like someone out of Gorky dropped in the middle of feudal Japan. His rough bearish manners are more in keeping with Russian culture than the Japanese that emphasize one's place in the order of things. Yojimbo is unlike the Western cowboy who's trying to create order out of disorder. Like a Russian semi-barbarian, Yojimbo naturally feels at home in a world of chaos. A masterless samurai without shame. He likes being masterless and nomadic. Cowboy moved westward to ready it for civilization. Russians often moved around Siberia just to find some place to plunk down stuff and live. They didn't care much about notions such as 'civilization' and manifest destiny. And in this, the Yojimbo character is more Russian-like than American-like.
  268. The fact that Jews engage in pro-Jewish cheerleading of this sort doesn’t bother me, much. It’s different in degree but not in kind from books such as “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”, or “How the Irish Saved Civilization”. I’m quite willing to give every group of people license to think well of themselves.

    What is disturbing in the case of Jews is now many non-Jews are willing to go along with and even to actively engage in pro-Jewish cheerleading. In fact some of the most fervent Jewish supremacists are non-Jews. Perhaps one day we can get a thread going analyzing that oddity.

    • Replies: @rustbeltreader
    "And yet . . . Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment--in some ways, a Third World country with, as John Betjeman claimed, a Stone Age culture had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of western literature--everything they could lay their hands on. These scribes then served as conduits through which the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruined vineyards of the civilization they had overwhelmed. Without this Service of the Scribes, everything that happened subsequently would have been unthinkable. Without the Mission of the Irish Monks, who single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent in the bays and valleys of their exile, the world that came after them would have been an entirely different one--a world without books. And our own world would never have come to be."
    http://www.randomhouse.com/book/22708/how-the-irish-saved-civilization-by-thomas-cahill

    1500 year old grape seeds excavated by the Jews. New hope in the old vintage and new books. It could of been a world without wine too. It can always be worse. We plays for keeps!
  269. @dcite
    "Seinfeld was ..[Mizrahi not Ashkenazi]".

    I've wondered about that too. There's something more "free" about him than about most Jewish comedians who seemed so locked into something...I can't put my finger on. Seinfeld never had that aura. I met Jews from Turkish background who don't really look any different from Jews of European background, but they have an entirely different ambiance, even those who are very ethnocentric.

    Technically, Seinfeld is Mizrahi AND Ashkenazi. Based on his name, I’d say the Ashkenazi is on the father’s side.

  270. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @Mr. Anon
    "Anonymous says:

    @OsRazor

    Monty Python isn’t funny.

    Most of the people – Americans, anyway – who say they like Monty Python will admit that it’s not funny if you interrogate them about it."

    Have you talked to most Americans who say they like Monty Python? I rather think not.

    I liked it. And it was some of the funniest comedy I've ever seen, bar none.

    “Monty Python isn’t funny.”

    I first got to see MP on PBS as a kid in the 1970s. My dad said I should watch PBS since it was educational and stuff. So, one day I’m watching PBS and there’s this naked guy sitting on a piano. Educational? As a child, I didn’t get MP humor and I missed a lot of the words cuz it was British.

    But I kept watching and got hooked because it was so crazy and unlike anything else on TV. My idea of funny stuff was Three’s Company, Three Stooges reruns, Bugs Bunny, Happy Days, Lavergne and Shirly, Sanford and Son, Flinstones reruns, Brady Bunch, and etc. I got that stuff, more or less.
    But MP was just really strange. Saturday Night Live was a bit crazy too but not like MP which seemed like some Alice in Wonderland weirdville comedy.

    I couldn’t make head or tails out of this stuff, but they cracked me up.

    And if most American comedy didn’t reference or allude to much outside its own cultural bubble, MP was alluding to history, culture, philosophy, and stuff I had no idea about(until much later). To really appreciate MP, you have to know the references. It’s like Rutles is pretty funny even if you don’t know anything about the Beatles but much funnier if you do. It’s like the “Dennis Moore” skit is funnier if you know something about economic theory.

    And the Peckinpah skit is funny on its own but much funnier if you know if you know about the films of Peckinpah:

    When I first saw MP, I had no idea who Peckinpah was or anything. So, it just seemed totally strange and wacky. But then, even if you do know the references, there’s still something about MP that is really off the wall. They were going for pomo self-reflexive stuff while making fun of it at the same time. They were like Godard making fun of himself.

    They were ‘liberal’ in the sense that they were ‘avant-garde’, but also ‘conservative’ in that they were making fun of the ‘avant-garde’ even as they indulged in it. In this, I suppose they were forerunners of the anarchism of South Park and libertarianism of Beavis and Butthead.

    MP and HOLY GRAIL is crazy, and it’s much funnier if you know some ‘intellectual’ history.

    There’s Karl Marx showing up as god.
    And there’s anarcho-syndicalism in the dark ages:

  271. I recently decided it would be funny to have a character on a show who is explicitly Mizrahi (perhaps an immigrant from Israel), who is extremely prejudiced against Ashkenazis (in an Archie Bunker way, not in a violent way). I thought a great idea for a B plot to an episode in a show featuring said character would be he is putting on a production of Merchant of Venice, but he changes all of the dialogue and characters so that “Shylockstein” is the evil moneylender oppressing the virtuous Mizrahi and Sephardic heroes.

    Much of the humor would be in how everyone else (pretty much all Gentiles) are reacting, especially to the “hath not a vuz-vuz eyes?” speech, when they aren’t sure how to deal with the situation.

  272. Come on, even people who don’t like MP gotta admit this is hilarious.

    • Replies: @silviosilver

    Come on, even people who don’t like MP gotta admit this [The French Waiter] is hilarious.
     
    lolwhat? If people are going to be unfunny I wish they'd be quick about it.
  273. “Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of ‘art’.”

    You and me are in the minority, but this remains my simple favorite of his films. “My god, I’m in an elevator with a dead body. A neurotic’s jackpot.” And the lights go off.

    But then, I’m an atypical Allen fan. His late 80s/early 90s comedies I largely enjoy: Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets over Broadway. Despise all of his dramas save Hannah (unless that counts as a comedy). From the 70s, Sleeper, and that’s mostly it.

    Harpo Marx was a member of the Algonquin Circle, too. Wikipedia recounts one of my favorite stories of him:

    Harpo Marx in his book Harpo Speaks described a version of this game at the home of Alexander Woollcott, called “Murder”. Lots are drawn to choose a District Attorney, then drawn a second time to choose (known only to him- or herself) a Murderer. The D.A. leaves the house and the social evening proceeds as normal. As soon as the Murderer is alone with someone, he says to that person “You are dead”. The victim must immediately feign death until discovered, then the D.A. is summoned and questions the suspects (everyone) as to where they were, what they were doing, and with whom. The D.A. then uses deductive reasoning to solve the case. Marx said he played the Murderer once, and wrote the deadly phrase on a piece of toilet paper. His victim, Alice Duer Miller, pulled it down and properly “died” on the toilet, but grade-school dropout Marx was immediately identified when she was found; he had written “You are ded”.

    Alice Duer Miller was a good sport and sat in the toilet for a very long time before someone decided to look for her.

    Harpo was my favorite Marx brother, and apparently the one that all the brothers actually loved. Wrote (or narrated) a good autobiography, too.

  274. @Jonathan Silber
    Woody Allen also mocked Commentary in Annie Hall.

    "I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery."

    Right, that’s what I had in mind.

  275. @Priss Factor
    "MMM, well, if you want to go that route, does that make Woody Allen Scandinavianistic? You know, all those Ingmar Bergman influences…."

    He tried but got over the fetish.

    No one's going to remember films like INTERIORS, SEPTEMBER, ANOTHER WOMEN, and etc. Not really even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN. Or the Bergmanesque parts of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, which is best when Allen is just having fun. One exception may be CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, but it's about troubled Jews than 'cold Wasps' thankfully.

    Allen also went for Cassavetes-ism with HUSBANDS AND WIVES. Dreadful.

    Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of 'art'. BLUE JASMINE is also very good.

    'Art film' never came naturally to Allen. He should have left it to Bresson, Tarkovsky, and etc.
    Ya gotta do what comes naturally.

    BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is another near-perfect one from Allen. Just the right blend of pathos and comedy and no pretentious stuff.

    “And Kubrick is hardly the solitary darling of Film Schools.Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Scorsese, Lynch, Michael Powell, Yasujirō Ozu: these are all big names in cinema studies.”

    He aint just a darling. There’s almost like cult worship around him. I mean no one worships Ford or Hawks; cinephiles just admire them two.

    Okay, Hitchcock maybe. Big cult around him. Maybe the great white gentile artist of the 20th century if indeed cinema is THE artform of the 20th century? Popular in his day, endlessly fascinating to new generations of film lovers. Speak softly and carry a big camera.

    Dear fellow, I don’t what film schools you hang around, but the Hawks cult is legendary .It’s been going strong for decades.Tarantino’s films are just Hawks with a Gallic dash from the Nouvelle Vague.

    Then, of course, as you said, there is the Hitchcock cult, which still seems to be gathering strength.Cf how Vertigo finally overtook Citizen Kane at the Sight and Sound poll.However, the Welles cult still burns bright in the forests of the night, although they seem to dote more on Touch of Evil. Our age seems to favor its mixing of high and low.And Ozu continues to gather strength.So little known in the West 50 years ago, he’s now overtaken Kurasawa as the Great Man of Japanese film.

    So, yes, Kubrick must share Asgard with his fellow immortals.More than that, the poor fellow isn’t even Primus inter pares.He’s a just another contender for a vacant throne.

    He tried but got over the fetish.

    One never gets over fetishes.I’m sure that Allen, late at night, when the demons come, wishes that he could conjure the Scandinavian gloom in his work, raise the spectre of Kierkegaard, hear the howling of the wolf etc.

    Not really even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN.

    just saw those again last month; they will endure.

    Or the Bergmanesque parts of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, which is best when Allen is just having fun.

    The fun only works in opposition to the Bergmanesque gloom.Light needs dark.

    One exception may be CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, but it’s about troubled Jews than ‘cold Wasps’ thankfully.

    Ice-cold Jews.And the death/blindness of God.Frankly, it’s too Bergmanesque for my blood.

    Allen really hit his stride with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a perfect blend of comedy and drama without heavy pretension of ‘art’.

    I enjoyed it mostly for Keaton

  276. @SFG
    I suspect a lot of guys like Larry David, David Zucker, and Jerry Seinfeld of 'who cares if all my fans are white?' fame are closet conservatives and take swings at the left when they can. Not blood-and-soil conservatives, sure, but center-right.

    It’s interesting you say that. The late Lawrence Auster suggested that at its root, the humor of Seinfeld was about rules. How do you learn the new rules of behavior and how to navigate them in an era where all of the old rules have been thrown out?

    • Replies: @SFG
    Ah, Glaivester! What happened to the comics? You should have teamed up with Baloo!

    Anyway...yeah, I don't know. (You may be right!) I don't know if I'd call Seinfeld a conservative show, just pointing out the guy's had some tendency toward crimethink.

    There is something important in that if you throw out explicit rules for behavior, implicit ones still hang around and befuddle the socially unskilled, who now have no idea how to learn the rules everyone still expects them to know. But that was sort of a tangential point as far as the show goes.

    I did like the 'Not that there's anything wrong with that' episode, in that it showed both the disdain for homosexuality and the disdain for disdain for homosexuality. But I can't believe a conservative would make an episode centering around masturbation.
    , @dcite
    Which was why it was once compared to Jane Austen, which mystified me at first. But then, after watching some episodes with Pride and Prejudice in mind, I got it.
  277. I saw the Jewish comedian Jackie Mason twice in theater performances. From the moment he stepped on stage to the end tears of laughter were streaming down my face. He was great. The Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman said in a performance (to wild applause), “Good! I hope the Jews did kill Christ, I’d do it again. I’d fucking do it again in a second!” Not so great.

  278. The Russians do absurdist humour better than Monty Python without even trying. Check out the last video at the bottom of this story from RT:

    Chelyabinsk mystery zone: Blue snow, three Suns, meteorite explosion (VIDEOS)
    http://rt.com/news/234599-meteorite-russia-chelyabinsk-mystery/

  279. “I drink to make other people more interesting.” -Christopher Hitchens. I quite like that one.

  280. Priss Factor [AKA "K. Arujo"] says:
    @syonredux

    I always wondered about this. True, Kurosawa learned a good deal from Ford. But Kurosawa’s films are not really like Ford’s in style and emotion.
     
    I disgree; Kurasawa's emotional stance in his films (the reverence for the past, the love of ritual, the feeling for hierarchy) is quite akin to Ford's.

    He owes more to Russian and German masters.
     
    So, following your theory, does that make him a Russainistic or Germanistic director?

    And more to Capra than to Ford.

    Or maybe it makes him a Capracornistic director?

    So, why did Kurosawa single out Ford? Maybe it’s a kind of cover.
     
    Cf Bloom's "Anxiety of Influence" theory, eh? Or maybe he just felt that he was more sympatico with Ford's work?

    Welles said he watched Stagecoach 27 times before CITIZEN KANE.
     
    Why not? It's a great film.Scorsese watches The Searchers twice a year.

    Again, it’s in Welles’ favor since CK is so much more visually inventive than the hammer-and-nails(very good hammer and nails) grammar of Ford. But I suspect Welles learned a lot more from other films with more elaborate style. But more flattering to him to have CK compared with Stagecoach.
     
    Or maybe he learned more from Ford's elegant simplicity.Joyce, after all, was very fond of Defoe, and Borges revered Kipling's early work.

    “He owes more to Russian and German masters.”

    “So, following your theory, does that make him a Russainistic or Germanistic director?”

    I don’t think Kurosawa mentioned Lang much, but there’s much about Kurosawa’s cinema looks surprisingly like the silent masterpieces of Lang, especially Nibelungen and Kriemhild’s Revenge(parts of which may have inspired moments in RAN). But maybe it’s coincidental, so I’m not too sure about Kurosawa’s German connection.

    http://youtu.be/9jhb2mjjx-E?t=2h21s

    But he was definitely Russianistic. Even by ancestry, Kurosawa speculated that his height(at 6 ft, tall for a Japanese) and prevalence of blue eyes in his family suggests part Russian-background.
    But more importantly, he said the artist he admired most in any medium was Dostoevsky, and he made a film adaptation of THE IDIOT, though none-too-successfully. He did Dostoevsky-ism better when adopting the themes than adapting stories, which may be why he didn’t directly adapt another Dostoevsky story. But the nihilistic kidnapper is clearly a Dostoevskyian character, someone like Raskolnikov in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT but without chance at redemption.
    Kurosawa’s IKIRU is a loose adaptation of Tolstoy’s LIFE AND DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH. Kurosawa also adapted Gorki’s LOWER DEPTHS. Some of the music used in SEVEN SAMURAI was inspired by Russian choir singing. Kurosawa later made a film for Russia with DERSU UZALA.
    Kurosawa also had sympathies with the Russian revolution though he wasn’t anything like a communist or Marxist.

    And the sheer down-to-earthiness of Kurosawa’s vision owes as much to Russian sensibility as much as to the Japanese. So, the stuff about Kurosawa being the ‘most American’ Japanese director, I think, is false. His cultural affinity was closer to Russia, not least because Russian literature had a huge influence on Japanese intellectuals and artists in the early part of 20th century. Maybe Japanese took to it because Russianess was so strangely different from Japaneseness. It was too-much-ness vs minimal-ness. More-is-more in contrast to less-is-more. Opposites often repel but also sometimes attract.

    The Yojimbo character is like someone out of Gorky dropped in the middle of feudal Japan. His rough bearish manners are more in keeping with Russian culture than the Japanese that emphasize one’s place in the order of things. Yojimbo is unlike the Western cowboy who’s trying to create order out of disorder. Like a Russian semi-barbarian, Yojimbo naturally feels at home in a world of chaos. A masterless samurai without shame. He likes being masterless and nomadic. Cowboy moved westward to ready it for civilization. Russians often moved around Siberia just to find some place to plunk down stuff and live. They didn’t care much about notions such as ‘civilization’ and manifest destiny. And in this, the Yojimbo character is more Russian-like than American-like.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    But more importantly, he said the artist he admired most in any medium was Dostoevsky, and he made a film adaptation of THE IDIOT, though none-too-successfully. He did Dostoevsky-ism better when adopting the themes than adapting stories, which may be why he didn’t directly adapt another Dostoevsky story. But the nihilistic kidnapper is clearly a Dostoevskyian character, someone like Raskolnikov in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT but without chance at redemption.
     
    I always loses a little respect for people when I find out that they are devotees of Dostoevsky.He's the ultimate undergrad author, the icon of the pseudo-serious.Or maybe I'm just too Anglo to appreciate a Russian epileptic....

    And the sheer down-to-earthiness of Kurosawa’s vision owes as much to Russian sensibility as much as to the Japanese. So, the stuff about Kurosawa being the ‘most American’ Japanese director, I think, is false. His cultural affinity was closer to Russia, not least because Russian literature had a huge influence on Japanese intellectuals and artists in the early part of 20th century. Maybe Japanese took to it because Russianess was so strangely different from Japaneseness. It was too-much-ness vs minimal-ness. More-is-more in contrast to less-is-more. Opposites often repel but also sometimes attract.
     
    The Japanese are a deeply immature people in many ways, and shallow calls unto shallow.That explains Ford's appeal to Kurasawa.He saw in him the Anglo (Yes, I know that Ford was Irish) adult that he needed.

    The Yojimbo character is like someone out of Gorky dropped in the middle of feudal Japan.
     
    More like Dashiell Hammett in Samurai drag
  281. @Glaivester
    It's interesting you say that. The late Lawrence Auster suggested that at its root, the humor of Seinfeld was about rules. How do you learn the new rules of behavior and how to navigate them in an era where all of the old rules have been thrown out?

    Ah, Glaivester! What happened to the comics? You should have teamed up with Baloo!

    Anyway…yeah, I don’t know. (You may be right!) I don’t know if I’d call Seinfeld a conservative show, just pointing out the guy’s had some tendency toward crimethink.

    There is something important in that if you throw out explicit rules for behavior, implicit ones still hang around and befuddle the socially unskilled, who now have no idea how to learn the rules everyone still expects them to know. But that was sort of a tangential point as far as the show goes.

    I did like the ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’ episode, in that it showed both the disdain for homosexuality and the disdain for disdain for homosexuality. But I can’t believe a conservative would make an episode centering around masturbation.

    • Replies: @Glaivester
    There's another cartoon at my blog that's only a few days old! (Unless you mean Augustawell, but I only did that for two months or so seven years ago).

    If I seem less prolific over the last two weeks or so, it's because RL work has been very busy.
  282. @Glaivester
    It's interesting you say that. The late Lawrence Auster suggested that at its root, the humor of Seinfeld was about rules. How do you learn the new rules of behavior and how to navigate them in an era where all of the old rules have been thrown out?

    Which was why it was once compared to Jane Austen, which mystified me at first. But then, after watching some episodes with Pride and Prejudice in mind, I got it.

  283. @Anonymous
    Why is it that it seems to me that all those people who make so definite statements about "German humour" have never met any actual Germans?

    Because they tend to deal with stereotypes around here, in the conviction that these are underwritten by truth. Some are, if you are familiar with their cultural context. But when it comes to “others” you may really be dealing with prejudice. There is such a thing.

  284. @Jeff W.
    Jews are often talk about how great Lenny Bruce was or how great Sid Caesar was, but they don't often talk about how great the Three Stooges were.

    Why is that, do you suppose?

    Seinfeld does talk about Stooges. A Romanian gymnast made him promise to tell her more about Stooges someday.

  285. @James Kabala
    Is Teachout Jewish? He is from rural Missouri or Arkansas, I believe, and his distinctive last name (which sounds like two English words but I would guess has nothing to do with them) gives no clear ethnic indicator. Before he wrote for Commentary he used to appear frequently in the defunct (but since revived online) Catholic magazine Crisis.

    I used to write for Crisis in the mid ’90s–under my real name of course. The original title of the magazine was Crisis in Catholicism. In either case, a terrible name, aping as they did the NAACP’s century-old journal, The Crisis. I guarantee that was the choice of Michael Novak rather his co-founder the late Thomist and Notre Dame professor Ralph McInerny.

    In any event, good to see it mentioned here on iSteve.

  286. @syonredux

    Earlier Allen films, such as his 1974 Love and Death, are often direct knockoffs of Hope. Love and Death is simply the Cowardly Bob Hope Character plugged into a pastiche of War and Peace and other 19th Century Russian novels.
     
    Woody Allen has noted his fondness for Bob Hope's Monsieur Beaucaire

    Woody Allen has long expressed his affection for Monsieur Beaucaire, an affection made doubly obvious in "homage" fashion by Allen's 1975 costume comedy Love and Death.
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/33142/Monsieur-Beaucaire/overview

    And here's a list of Woody's favorite comedies:

    Comedian's films or broader sillier films that I always laugh at are:
    31. Duck Soup(Marx Brothers)
    32. Monkey Business (Howard Hawks)
    33. Horse Feathers (Marx Brothers)
    34. A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers)
    35. A Day at the Races (Marx Brothers)
    36. Monsieur Beaucaire (Bob Hope)
    37. You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (WC Fields)
    38. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (WC Fields)
    39. Casanova's Big Night (Bob Hope)
    40. Airplane! (Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker)
     
    http://letterboxd.com/zevi/list/woody-allens-favorite-films/

    Interesting to see that the two Bob Hope m