Are we getting funnier… or not?

It struck me when I read today the comment by “Yankee” on our A-Rod story, that some people really don’t get satire or sarcasm anymore. “Yankee” was probably born in the satire-drought of the 90s – so is it really his fault?

Upon reflection, it really does seem that as a whole we are changing what we find funny as the years go by.

But was there a funny peak? Let me pose some examples, starting in the 7os:

  • the 70s gave us Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles, Animal House, the original cast of Saturday Night Live, Johnny Carson took the Tonight Show to Burbank at its peak, and Bill Cosby gave kids Fat Albert to laugh at;
  • the 80s ramped it up a notch, and hit a peak with comedy classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Beverly Hills Cop, The Naked Gun, Airplane! (or Flying High! if you are in Australia), Police Academy (we’ll ignore all the sequels), Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Princess Bride, Fast Forward, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Spinal Tap, The Young Ones, The Goodies, The Cosby Show, The original “12th Man” parodies…. I could go on forever about the 80s – it definitely seemed to be the peak for me.

Even by authoritative standards though, comedy creativity could be said to have waned in the 90s… listology’s funniest movies of the 90s includes some greats like Toy Story, Clerks (Kevin Smith saved the decade), Office Space, The Big Lebowski, Being John Malkovich but the list is not nearly as endless, and – if you exclude Seinfeld – TV started to struggle (okay, so “Friends” was popular, but it was no “Cosby Show”).

The 2000s started pumping out movie remakes to and sequels and threequels and prequels by the dozen, and cinema-going became even more hit and miss. If it wasn’t for ex-SNL stars and movies like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Austin Powers, Happy Gilmore and just to save the decade in the last few months, The Hangover, cinema could have been in a real funny-drought.  Conan O’Brien was cut donw by NBC for actually being funny and the big TV standout was the success of The Office – on both sides of the ditch – and a return to 80s-inspired comedies like Kath & Kim. But hang on, there was also the emergence of 30Rock, the rise of South Park (not to mention the Team America film).  On the flipside, the 2000s brought us “Wipeout”. Oh but hang on, there was also Napoleon Dynamite.

So now I am not so sure… are we actually getting funnier again? Was the 90s just a blip in the radar? Or was I just moody that decade and missed something?

What do you think… which decade was the “peak” of funniness for you? And who made it funny for you?

— Irish


One Response to “Are we getting funnier… or not?”

  1. clightnirish Says:

    Sadly Irish, as political correctness takes hold, satire becomes less understood; it is increasingly marginalized, feared and even reviled. Or, in plain terms, people are too bloody sensitive these days. I think it goes hand in hand with the real average IQ level dropping for the last 30 years (according to the statistic I derived from the well known “PFA” method.)

    Of course there are exceptions but they’re becoming less frequent. In particular, anything that touches on someone’s ethnicity is now taboo. In fact, even people with a minority religion or ethnicity are becoming taboo as subjects of satire. That’s a shame, because whether someone is yellow, black, white, red, blue or green with orange polka dots, and whether they worship Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, the new great god of Science or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, they are still going to say and do stupid things.

    It seems that for satire to survive these days, it has to be dumbed down and presented as farce.

    But, how can you reason with people who think “Friends” is funny? To them, we can only say “Get off my lawn!”


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