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Are Comedians And Comedy Less Funny Today Than They Used To Be?

Home - by - November 20, 2012 - 11:45 America/New_York - 41 Comments

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The Watcher’s Council



Welcome to this week’s Watcher’s Forum, where each Monday the Council and their invited guests weigh in with short takes on a single topic.

This week’s question: Generally speaking, are comedians and comedy less funny today than they were previously? Has America lost touch with its sense of humor?

The Razor: Having been a fan of Comedy from the 3 Stooges to Dave Chappell, I think that Comedy today is much less free than it was 40 years ago. On one hand I can watch a comedienne talk in detail about masturbating on stage on the Comedy channel, something that would have been unthinkable in the era of George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Yet that same station has censored South Park for fear of offending Muslims.

Comedy used to be a revolutionary force. During the Renaissance, wandering groups used to stage puppet and stage shows that made fun of the clergy and aristocracy, stoking the fires that inevitably lead to the Reformation and revolutions in England, the US and France. In more recent times comedy was a counter cultural force led in the underground by the likes of Lenny Bruce and Carlin and in the mainstream by shows like “Laugh In” and later “Saturday Night Live.” Comedy played an important role and breaking the color barrier, with Bill Cosby, Pryor and Eddie Murphy proving that black people were just like other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately today the subversive nature of Comedy has been lost, smothered by the corporate nature of the business that has adopted political correctness as a doctrine to avoid being sued when someone is offended. Today it’s only okay to poke fun at white males. If you think that ethnic humor today is alive and well, see an early routine by Eddie Murphy. If you think we are freer today than the past watch a re-run of Laugh In. Neither would be acceptable in today’s politically correct climate.

When President Obama is portrayed, as he is in the Key and Peele show, he is played as a “straight man,” calm, above the fray and respected. Similarly Saturday Night Live has struggled to do skits about the President that are funny yet respectful, with a bland result. Since Obama has taken over the genre is brain dead, kept on life support by the likes of Jon Stewart who does his best to make new jokes about safe subjects as Republican lawmakers and Tea Party activists.

When the cows are too sacred to slay Comedy is boring.

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  1. Marmo

    November 20th, 2012

    Most comedians today are not nearly as smart as comedians from years ago. Comedians these days can’t even think of anything funny about our president.

    They’re pretty lightweight.

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +17

  2. CrustyB

    November 20th, 2012

    Getting offended has replaced baseball as the great American pasttime.

    Thumb up +9

  3. Twellsy

    November 20th, 2012

    Ameria has lost the ability to laugh at itself. Thats what made National Lampoon so great. Everyone and everything was fair game, so no one was left out. A simpler time. Sigh.

    Thumb up +8

  4. Twellsy

    November 20th, 2012

    “America”, of course.

    Thumb up +1

  5. Jerry Manderin

    November 20th, 2012

    Sam Kinison would be a WRECKING BALL were he alive today. Man he was blistering live! Anyone aware of his last moments on Earth as recalled by his brother Bill? Absolutely beautiful.

    Thumb up +3

  6. muddjuice (Absolutist)

    November 20th, 2012


    It may go deeper than this. Gross, indecent, disgusting, derogatory, profanity laced “humor” is just not funny.

    People who attempt “comedy” these days have to be edgy and have to push the envelope further and further.

    The result is shock, not humor. The result is, “I can’t believe he said that” not “wow, that was hilarious.”

    Comedy is sort of like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has their own opinion on what is funny and what isn’t.

    But, just like beauty, no one is attracted to something ugly, degenerate and disgusting. That’s not beauty. Sure, a girl who’s all tattooed up, aborts her babies, has sex with anyone and everyone and swears like a trucker might be fun for a short time, but she’s not beautiful. There’s no substance.

    In the same way, gross out comedy may be fun for a short time, but it doesn’t last. There’s no substance.

    Bill Cosby was very funny without ever relying on vulgarities or gross out humor. It was appealing, it was beautiful.

    I better stop. I’m ranting now….

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +11

  7. Left Coast Dan

    November 20th, 2012

    Certainly a lot of comedians are funny today. But compare the Dean Martin roasts to the recent ones on Comedy Central and it’s easy to see that a lot of mainstream comics don’t understand what is really funny.

    Also Bob Newhart & Bill Cosby = side-splitting humor.

    Thumb up +3

  8. RANDO

    November 20th, 2012

    There is still plenty of humor at iOTW, in the comments as well as in the posts.
    Thank you.

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +15

  9. Dr. Tar

    November 20th, 2012

    The best comedy has moved out of the control of the experts and professionals. The more they try to tame and analyze what is funny, the more irrelevant their efforts become.

    It lives and breaths to bring down the high and mighty. It attacks and malls the stupid and freedom stranglers among us. Step up and take your medicine idiots, you know who you are.

    Thumb up +5

  10. Mountain Dog

    November 20th, 2012

    Early Saturday Night Live was funny back in the 70s and part of the 80s. Dennis Miller still has the wit and humor he started out with. The rest of them have fizzled out.

    The Marx Brothers and Three Stooges are my all time comedy favorites. And movies like Used Cars or Blazing Saddles are way too rare today.

    Thumb up +5

  11. demonrat dave

    November 20th, 2012

    Nobody likes a good fart joke anymore and that depresses me. (sob)

    Thumb up +5

  12. Mountain Dog

    November 20th, 2012

    RANDO is right. There is plenty of humor right here that makes most current comedians look like amateurs. I love to read iOTW.

    Thumb up +5

  13. Left Coast Dan

    November 20th, 2012

    Those of us old enough to remember the original Hollywood Squares Game will appreciate these. These are from the old Hollywood Squares show in the 70′s when responses were truly spontaneous.

    Q: If you’re going to make a parachute jump, you should be at least how high?
    A: Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

    Q: True or false…a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
    A: George Gobel: Boy it sure seems that way sometimes..

    Q: You’ve been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
    A: Don Knotts: That’s what’s been keeping me awake.

    Q: According to Cosmo, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think he’s really attractive, is it okay to come out directly and ask him if he’s married?
    A: Rose Marie: No, wait until morning.

    Q: Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
    A: Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

    Q: In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to Say “I love you”
    A: Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

    Q: As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while you are talking?
    A: Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing older question, Peter…and I’ll give you a gesture you’ll never forget!

    Q: Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?
    A: Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

    Q: Charley, you’ve just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during your first year?
    A: Charley Weaver: Of course not, Peter. I’m too busy growing strawberries!

    Q: In bowling, what’s a perfect score?
    A: Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

    Q: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics. What is the other?
    A: Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

    Q: Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
    A: Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

    Q: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?
    A: Paul Lynde: Make him bark

    Q: If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
    A: Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

    Q: According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
    A: Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army!

    Q: It is the most abused and neglected part of your body – what is it?
    A: Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused but it certainly isn’t neglected!

    Q: Charley, what do you call a pig that weighs more than 150 pounds?
    A: Charley Weaver: A divorcee.

    Q: Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
    A: George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

    Q: Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
    A: Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

    Q: When a couple have a baby, who is responsible for its sex?
    A: Charley Weaver: I’ll lend him the car. The rest is up to him.

    Q: Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
    A: Charley Weaver: His feet.

    Q: Do female frogs croak?
    A: Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

    Q: Imagine you are a child in your mother’s womb, can you detect light?
    A: Paul Lynde: Only during ballet practice

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +16

  14. norman einstein

    November 20th, 2012

    The answer to the question lies in Left Coast Dan’s post.
    Thanks, Dan, for the Hollywood Squares memories.
    I’m LMAO over here.

    “Q: Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
    A: George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.”

    Thumb up +7

  15. Tracy

    November 20th, 2012

    I still crack up over the pre-Shemp 3 Stooges, The Honeymooners are always a good laugh, and Taxi had some great stuff. Even cartoons were hilarious; Looney Tunes.

    With a few exceptions, as far as comedy much has been a dud since the mid-80′s on. Saturday Night Live was a waste of time since the early 80′s. Comedians are still telling Palin Jokes.

    Now, in butt-osculation mode, a refusal of a treasure trove of material called the Democrat party keeps SNL in perpetual sucktitude. This site wisely embraces what’s obviously funny.

    Comedy Central had this crap called Def Comedy Jams. The entire show was black stand-ups goofin’ on whites. A camera panned the mostly black audience, some white, howling, doubled up in laughter.

    All the jokes were the same: ‘White guy speak, the flat ass white guy walk & the ‘You don’t do that to a sister routine’. Each comedian had their own variations on these.

    There’re those who fancy themselves comedians who aren’t funny. MSNBC is an entire network of laughing stocks. If laughing at these mental cases is wrong, I don’t wanna’ be right.

    Thumb up +5

  16. Left Coast Dan

    November 20th, 2012

    That batch is one of the few collections that make me laugh every time I read them.

    Thumb up +5

  17. Stranded in Sonoma

    November 20th, 2012

    I remember reading in TV Guide many moon ago about the 1970s show Police Woman with Angie Dickinson, Earl Holliman, and Charles Dierkop. They would get the script and trade all the hells and damns and such with each other because they though a damn would work better than a hell in a specific situation. They couldn’t ADD any because there was a limit on these swear words. Now, on cable, the only thing you can’t say is the F word. On broadcast, you can’t say the S word either. That’s about it.

    What I’m getting at is that it’s a different audience. Most of the people watching comedians today are the dumbed down knuckle-draggers that need to be shocked into laughing. @muddjuice is right.

    As for funny lines, one of my favorites was on the old You Bet Your Life radio show with Groucho Marx. Groucho had a woman on who had something like 15 children. When he asked why so many she replied, “Well Groucho. I guess I just love my husband.”

    That’s when Groucho dropped his 50 megaton zinger: “Well I love my cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!”

    Thumb up +3

  18. Tracy

    November 20th, 2012

    @Left Coast Dan, the celebrities on that show were sharp. It be interesting to fill 9 seats, with anything close. One question that always comes to mind was asked of Paul Lynde.

    Q: Is there anything good that comes from a forest fire?
    A: Roasted Venison.

    Thumb up +5

  19. Alxandro

    November 20th, 2012

    I watched a video a few years ago of a comedian talking about how it’s not nice to make fun of Obama.
    Then the video got removed.
    Then I found it somewhere else and reposted it on YouTube.
    Then I got an email from the comedian asking me to remove it.

    I will soon comply and remove it for good as I had originally agreed, I don’t want this guy to end up like Steve Bridges and Breitbart.

    Ross Bennett: “It’s Not Nice to Make Fun Of Obama.”

    Thumb up +3

  20. MNHawk

    November 20th, 2012

    Peter Marshall: Paul, Snow White…was she a blonde or a brunette?

    Paul Lynde: Only Walt Disney knows for sure…

    Always my favorite. Yes I remember the show, although I think I was too young to get much of the humor, such as this.

    When is the last time any of us actually laughed watching TV. For me it would have to be Home Improvement and that’s been years, now.

    Thumb up +1

  21. MNHawk

    November 20th, 2012

    Peter Marshall: It’s well known that small amounts of female hormones are found in the male body. Are male hormones ever found in the female body?

    Paul Lynde: Occasionally.

    Peter Marshall: True or false…research indicates that Columbus liked to wear bloomers and long stockings.

    Paul Lynde: It’s not easy to sign a crew up for six months…

    Peter Marshall: What is a pullet?

    Paul Lynde: A little show of affection…

    Peter Marshall: Paul, can anything bring tears to a chimp’s eyes?

    Paul Lynde: Finding out that Tarzan swings both ways!

    Peter Marshall: Nathan Hale, one of the heroes of the American Revolution, was hung. Why?

    Paul Lynde: Heredity!

    This can go on all day! :-)

    Thumb up +4

  22. Lithium Treebark Stuporman

    November 20th, 2012

    My Name is Earl
    Family Guy
    Three Stooges
    older Simpsons episodes
    Married with Children
    Chaplin, Keaton

    While the obamas aren’t particularly funny, iOTW and others have hit Comedy Gold by mining that vein.

    Thumb up +6

  23. bitterclinger

    November 20th, 2012

    Hollywood Squares was a scream, as was Match Game. My all-time champ was the old Dean Martin Roasts. Hi-feckin’-larious!

    I miss Paul Lynde. He was taken much too soon. Now there was an example of a guy who was obviously flaming but didn’t feel like he had to beat everyone over the head with his sexual preference.

    I admit. I laughed REALLY hard t’other night when my 15-yr-old turned the channel to MAD TV’s Thanksgiving episode. It’s a “must see.”

    Speaking of “must see’s” that no white person would EVER be able to get away with, here’s a classic from Dave Chappelle: http://bit.ly/I340tC

    Thumb up +2

  24. RANDO

    November 20th, 2012

    Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
    Doc Martin, and Reggie Perrin (Martin Clunes,BBC)

    Also Archer, an animated series, available on Netflix

    Thumb up +6

  25. even steven

    November 20th, 2012

    Political correctness has ruined comedy. For example, there is no way in hell that the brainless progs in Hollyweird would release a movie like Blazing Saddles. Also, many old classic comedies have just disappeared. When’s the last time you’ve seen an old WC Fields movie? Sure, he was a mean drunk who said racist and sexist stuff, but he was funny as hell, too.

    Thumb up +4

  26. Alxandro

    November 20th, 2012

    Classic comedy gold has got to include Johnny Carson and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

    Zsa Zsa: “Do you want to pet my pussy?”
    Carson: “I will if you move that damn cat out of the way”

    Thumb up +4

  27. Serious Putty

    November 20th, 2012

    @ steven. Good one. How about this:


    Clerks II. Funny all the way through.

    Thumb up 0

  28. Serious Putty

    November 20th, 2012

    (Meant to say bitterclinger in my comment above.)

    Thumb up +2

  29. Tim

    November 20th, 2012

    They quit making monster movies during WWII – so I guess it’s pretty difficult to be funny when you’re living throught absurd bizarro times.

    Thumb up 0

  30. Stranded in Sonoma

    November 20th, 2012

  31. bitterclinger

    November 20th, 2012

    Serious P — Never saw that one before. Heh!

    Good one!

    Thumb up +1

  32. Alxandro

    November 20th, 2012

    The Newlywed Game, classic

    Thumb up +2

  33. Death_By_Farts

    November 20th, 2012

    @demonratdave…..*sniffs sadly*

    I know what ya mean, buddy.

    Thumb up 0

  34. Death_By_Farts

    November 20th, 2012

    Groucho Marks: Waiter, do you have any stewed prunes?

    Waiter: Yes sir.

    Groucho: Well get em some coffee, that’ll help sober them up.

    Thumb up 0

  35. Death_By_Farts

    November 20th, 2012

    WC FIELDS, hands down…

    Customer: What have you in the way of steaks?
    WC: (I have) nothing in the way of steaks. I can get right to them.

    -Secretary: It must be hard to lose your mother-in-law.
    WC:Yes it is, very hard. It’s almost impossible.

    -Say, Mr. Fields, I read in the paper where you consumed two quarts of liquor a day. What would your father think about that?
    WC: He’d think I was a sissy.

    Thumb up +3

  36. FreedomCat

    November 20th, 2012

    Did anybody watch In Living Color back in the day? That is when the Wayans brothers weren’t afraid to make fun of blacks/whites, et al. Also, still love today the Blue Collar guys, Foxworthy, Cable guy, etc.

    Thumb up +5

  37. Moe tom

    November 20th, 2012

    Frank Sinatra to Old Waiter in Lindies Restaurant in New York. “Do you serve crabs”? “Take a seat sir, were serve everybody.”

    Thumb up +1

  38. Skorpion

    November 20th, 2012

    W.C. Fields (at a bar, to a bartender): Was I in here last night and did I spend a $20 bill?
    Bartender: Yeah!
    W.C. Fields: What a load that is off my mind! I thought I’d LOST it!

    Thumb up +1

  39. The Doktor

    November 20th, 2012

    Early SNL funny?!?! Really?!?!

    I just watched the first year of SNL. I wouldn’t watch it again if you PAID me. It was all shit except for a few shinning moments (NONE of which included Chevy Chit and almost ALL of them including Belushi). I am surprised that that show stayed on the air longer than four weeks.

    We watched a comedy routine by Ben Bailey (the Cash Cab guy) that was pretty funny. His delivery needs work but his material was good. Another comedian that we like is Jeff Dunham.

    Thumb up 0

  40. Freeshiticus

    November 20th, 2012

    That Jay Carney guy is funny some times. Lately though most of his jokes have bombed.

    Thumb up +2

  41. Monty Ehrich

    December 3rd, 2012

    My all-time favorite Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares joke:
    Peter: Paul, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wished to get back to Kansas, and the Cowardly Lion wished for courage. What did the Scarecrow wish for?
    Paul: For the Tin Man to notice him.

    Thumb up +1