Need A Laugh?

In the classic movie “The Caine Mutiny” the petty tyrant Captain Queeg assigns the deceptive title of morale officer to one of his unfortunate junior officers.  His responsibility in this position was to ruthlessly enforce the dress code down to the buttoning of shirts and the length of hair on the enlisted men.  Whereas this was a mockery of the concept of morale I believe that a morale officer is exactly what the country needs right now.  And to a large extent that is what President Trump has been attempting to do with his COVID-19 press conferences.  He’s trying to provide helpful information and an optimistic assessment of the progress we’re making in the dreary business of navigating through the pandemic swamp.  But we need more than that.  Trapped in our homes and deprived of even the opportunity to work we need some distractions.  We need some entertainment.

In a happier time, even just a short generation ago we could turn on the television and we would find on every network at least one show that was funny enough to distract us.  Back in the early 1990s you could watch Home Improvement with Tim Allen as a tv dad with his wife and three boys stumbling through the foibles of American family life with gentle humor and a very muted take on the battle of the sexes and the revolt of the young against their parents.  Later on, you could still laugh at the misanthropic but relatively harmless antics of Seinfeld and his neurotic associates.  Even during the 2000s you could see a show like King of Queens where the humor was more like a pitched battle between the husband and wife and the dysfunctionality of the older generation was on full display with Jerry Stiller’s portrayal of Arthur Spooner more resembling a mental patient than a normal adult.  But it was funny and the characters somewhat resembled real people.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  The loss of any originality on network television seems to have killed off the sitcom.  The stupidity of the writing and the restrictions on the plot dictated by political correctness have rendered these shows unwatchable.  Maybe the better writers have moved over to cable stations like HBO and Netflix but the darkness of most of what passes for comedy on cable is pretty extreme.

And that is where we are.  As a society we are surrounded by joyless dysfunctional productions that are supposed to be entertainment.  The action shows aren’t good but they’re just supposed to tell a simple story of good versus evil.  That’s easy enough to do.  Comedy is harder.  It takes intelligence and an actual sense of humor.  Those two things are mostly absent now.  But that’s what we need.  A good laugh.

Luckily, there is a lot of old comedy available.  And there is probably something there for all tastes.  Everything from the tame antics of the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello and the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, to the early modern comedy of George Carlin, Mel Brooks and Rodney Dangerfield, to the outrageous Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, right up to the current rants of Dave Chappelle.  Of course, the definition of funny varies enormously depending on the audience.  It’s probably safe to say that generational tastes will divide the audience into several camps.  But what is undeniable is that the modern entertainment industry has destroyed comedy.

But we still need a laugh.  So, go looking for something that is funny and put it on and have a good laugh.  You need it and the rest of us do too.

What I would recommend is do a search online for what movies, tv shows and comedy recordings are considered the funniest for the time periods when your concept of comedy was formed and see if you agree with the opinion.  Look at general lists of comedies for these time periods and make a list of your own favorites.  Then rent or buy or stream a few of these comedies together in your own film festival.  Make sure you have your favorite popcorn or other snacks and enjoy.  Maybe tell a friend or two and have a virtual movie festival in separate homes.  You can make a deal to swap favorites and compare notes after the fact.

Just to show that my heart is in the right place I’ll throw a few out.  Now mind you, I’ll start off by saying my tastes are peculiar.  But there they are.  I’ll go with two W. C. Fields movies, “It’s a Gift” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”  I always enjoy his henpecked husband routine and the melodramatic actress who plays his wife in both these movies is perfect.  I love telling Camera Girl that she treats me just as badly as Field’s wife in the movies.

Add in the first installment of the “Thin Man” series.  And finish off the early movies with the Marx Brother’s “A Night at the Opera.”  For the later decades we could take a couple of Bill Murray movies, say “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.”  Maybe add a Jim Carrey movie, say the “Mask.”  And finish off with a cartoon that’s mostly a comedy like “The Incredibles.”  For a classic tv series I’d go with Jackie Gleason’s, “The Honeymooners.”

If you have any picks you’d like to volunteer leave them in the comments and share the wealth.

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Chemist
Chemist
5 months ago

Tim Allen’s current show: “Last Man Standing” on Fox is pretty good.
For Bill Murray movies – You’ve gotta add Caddyshack. You get Rodney Dangerfield as a bonus.
A great movie to watch is Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The dialog alone is worth the movie.

War Pig
War Pig
5 months ago

I am old enough to remember B&W television and even B&W movies in theaters. Red Skeleton was hilarious in his weekly show. The Ed Sullivan show could be funny and was always entertaining. Phil Silvers as Sgt Bilco, F Troop, Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Honeymooners, certainly. Add in the Jack Benny Show and later, Benny Hill. Later it was The Munsters, the Addams Family, Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes, Batman (Adam West), The Monkeys, Gomer Pyle USMC, Laugh In, the incomparable Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the Flying Nun and the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Plus you had the prime… Read more »

War Pig
War Pig
5 months ago
Reply to  photog

Millennial liberals would be butt-hurt offended by Benny’s Black chauffeur, Rochester. Especially in one of Benny’s comedy films. At night, Rochester heard an owl and he said; “Who dat” and the owl hooted back and then he said; “Who dat say who dat when I say who dat?” Then he got spooked and ran away saying “Feet don’t fail me now!” as they sped up the film to make it look as if he was running 60 MPH.

Me and my brother used that “Feet don’t fail me now” for decades. In fact, we still do.

Ed Brault
Ed Brault
5 months ago
Reply to  War Pig

I’d also add the Jerry and Sylvia Anderson Supermarionation shows: Supercar, Firebal XL5, Stingray, The Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet. For comedy, The Tonight show with Steve Allen as well as Johnny Carson. And Steve Allen’s 1960’s syndicated show was absolute gold! And there’s nothing like binge-watching one of the Republic Rocketman serials!

War Pig
War Pig
5 months ago
Reply to  photog

Does anyone remember Daktari? Or the movie Clarence The Cross-Eyed Lion on which Daktari was based? I actually got to pet Clarence. They had him at a supermarket opening in LA in I believe 1966 when dad was assigned out there working for Rocketdyne. There was Clarence and the Chimp, Judy. Judy was kept back in a cage as she was a vicious little witch as apt to bite off a finger as not. But Clarence was a fine, old gentleman, well fed and the only way he’d hurt you was if he tried to lean across and lay on… Read more »

War Pig
War Pig
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed Brault

Yes, Supermarionation. I especially like the episode on Fireball XL5 when they were trying to escape from an alien with a powerful ray gun. The background music as the alien marched toward them was the guitar solo from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and I thought it was so cool. I also liked Lady Penelope’s driver, Parker. Nothing ever flustered him. Always “Yes, M’Lady” or “No, M’Lady”

Jason
Jason
5 months ago

I guess I’m at least a little younger than some of you… But only a little. Shows: Perfect Strangers; The A-Team; MacGyver (not really a comedy, but there was some humor); Boy Meets World; The Wonder Years. I could go on… Movies: Monty Python and the Holy Grail; The Princess Bride; Liar, Liar. And from the college years… (please don’t think less of me…) Billy Madison; Happy Gilmore; Mars Attacks. Any of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. Tommy Boy. For Bill Murray… Ghostbusters (only the first one) and (if you can handle the language) Zombieland. I honestly think Zombieland… Read more »

Jason
Jason
5 months ago
Reply to  photog

Yeah, I was saddened to hear that. When I saw it I immediately thought of Tommy Boy.