By Tom McDonald
State columnist 

Opinion: We're going to need a good laugh

 

September 2, 2020



We need some comic relief.

It’s hard to find humor in the year we’re in. Hardly anyone’s laughing, except inside their own little political and cultural echo chambers. I guess you have to turn to the Disney channel or Nickelodeon to find innocent and noncontroversial humor anymore.

My early years started with “innocent” entertainment. Bill Cosby may be known as a lowdown sexual predator now, but as a young comedian he was clean and hilarious, with albums like, “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With” to keep us laughing. Now, as a grown-up and a student of history, I recognize 1968, the year that album came out, as a tumultuous year, with Vietnam raging and civil rights coming into its own.

But for a 12-year-old boy during that time, Cosby’s bedroom scene with two brothers sleeping in a crib-sized bed and arguing over “touching me on my side of the bed” was laugh-out-loud funny.

Remember “the belt,” which was “9-feet long, 8-feet wide, and it had hooks on it and it would rip the meat off your body if it ever hit you?” It was a figment of Cosby’s imagination and, as far as I’m concerned, the stuff of classics — although, in today’s climate, it might sound more abusive than funny.


Come to think of it, I guess those weren’t such innocent times after all. In addition to war on TV, we were fed a fair amount of violence through the imagination of those times. Watch the old cartoon “Popeye” or the old “The Three Stooges” features and you’ll see what I mean. They made violence funny.

But talk of sex was forbidden in polite company, as were all those locker-room words that suggested sex; beatings, or at least the threat of beatings, were far more acceptable — and laughable. Go figure.

Then came my less-than “innocent” years, when sex was far more interesting than violence and comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor broke new ground by abandoning their Johnny Carson routines for much dirtier, and funnier, monologues.

Carlin’s was a wordsmith’s shtick, which got dirtier and more offensive with time, as well as more honest in his way of challenging the status quo.

Carlin’s jokes ranged from the silly — about dogs licking their, er, private parts (“If I could do that I’d never leave the house”) to the sacrilegious, like the way he spoke about the contradictions between God and hell. Disobey God’s commandments, Carlin said, and “he will send you to live and suffer and choke and scream and cry forever and ever until the end of time. But he loves you.”


My favorite Carlin quip of the moment is the one I bumped into online: “In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”

It’s a wonder we can laugh at anything these days. But we’d better, to hang on to our sanity.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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