Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
–Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
I enjoy a wide range of comedy types and styles. I like slap-stick on one end of the spectrum and subtle, droll humor on the other. But there are comedy genres, highly popular ones in fact, that absolutely turn me off – those that are crude, off-colored or over-the-top politically. I may be the only person in America who has never seen a complete episode of The Simpsons (yes, I know they just had their 500th episode – my head is not in the sand) or the much celebrated South Park. For the record, I am also totally bored by shock-jocks like Howard Stern. So write me up for the Guinness Book of World Records.
I think what characterizes most of the genres and individuals that I dislike are the in-your-face attitude of those performers, or in the case of shows, their creators. When you hear these folks interviewed by the entertainment media or by NPR you virtually always hear “the attitude.” “With my style of humor, I’m trying hard to stick it to the man!” “I’m stretching the boundaries of what’s acceptable.” “It’s my job to make people feel uncomfortable.” “I’m pushing the envelope!” Really? When did “pushing the envelope” become elevated to an Olympic sport? I must have missed that one, you brave envelope-pushing hero you.
George Carlin gave such an NPR interview just a few years before his passing. And while I can acknowledge the wit and talent of an individual like Carlin, his attitude and his “work product” leave me unimpressed. Totally unimpressed. Like I’m yawning at an annoying junior high school kid here. “Georgie, go stand in the corner please until you can talk civil in front of your mother.”