CNN's The History of Comedy

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Vidiot, Feb 11, 2017.

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  1. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I noticed that CNN just launched a new documentary series, The History of Comedy, basically in keeping with their past historical docs on The Sixties, The Seventies, and The Eighties.

    I enjoyed the show quite a bit, but given the first episode was about the use of foul language, it was annoying how some of the words were cut (like the famous 7 dirty ones, which are discussed quite a bit), but some were allowed. I think the show was a little scattered and all over the place, and they could have focused on one particular period to try to set it all in perspective, but what was there was entertaining and the overall quality of the show is extremely good, particularly for a series that draws from a lot of historical and stock footage.

    Here's a promo:



    One surprise: one of the executive producers is comic actor Sean Hayes (formerly of Will & Grace), who is a very smart, funny guy.
     
  2. tonyc

    tonyc Well-Known Member

    I was flipping channels one night and there was a long comedy segment during "The Eighties" documentary. So, some of that footage was probably reused for the "History of Comedy". But, what I saw was really good. So, I will probably watch this at some point.
     
  3. hbbfam

    hbbfam Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chandler,AZ
    First half hour was quite good, but it sort of lost it's way towards the end. The constant beeping out of the nasty bits was annoying. There have been some very good documentary series on CNN last few years-60s, 70s, 80s. This one has potential, but the first episode was, as Vidiot put it above, a little satttered.
     
  4. bartels76

    bartels76 Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    CT
    Thanks for the reminder. I forgot this started. Funny I have had CNN on lately and haven't seen a promo for this in a few weeks.
     
  5. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I saw several promos on YouTube but not on CNN. Weird!
     
  6. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    I still don't get Dice Clay yet I loved Sam Kinnison who was probably even filthier. I have to take people's word for it that Dice Clay really was funny to some. I thought the pregnant Asian woman was just awful too (clumsy, trying too hard to be shocking), oh well.
     
  7. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    But they ought to call it the RECENT History of Comedy! Comedy certainly goes back further than the early 60s. Yes, they talked about early 20th century Vaudeville and Burlesque, but the really just rushed through it, with a very reductionist attitude toward Vaudeville in particular.
     
  8. Jack White

    Jack White Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I thought the most intelligent comments were by Craig Ferguson. I still can't believe he was passed over for Stephen Colbert in Letterman's old time slot.
     
  9. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    They did run a promo that said, "if you download the CNNGo app, you can see the entire show uncensored," so there is that. I would've rather the show had been 100% chronological, but I think modern audiences looking at the comedy of the 1920s and 1930s and vaudeville and the Marx Brothers and all that stuff would be tough to get through. I wouldn't mind it at all, but I would've rather had a more scholarly approach, kind of like Ken Burns only a lot less serious.

    Yeah, I wrote my message above without seeing yours, but I think you're 100% right. It's an unbalanced look at the comedy of the last 60 years. However... there are some good comments here and there. I just wish Garry Shandling could've been around for it -- he was a very smart, witty guy who knew and understood the history of the comedy that came before him very well.
     
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  10. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I was a huge Sam Kinison fan back in the day (still am, really), but I never understood Dice's appeal or laughed at his jokes. I also never bought into his claim that "he was just portraying a character." That was bulls***. I did laugh at people imitating Dice (particularly Gilbert Gottfried), who I think got down to the core of why Dice was so ridiculous.

    Some the best exchanges ever on the old Howard Stern Show were Dice and Kinison having screaming matches at each other, each claiming they ripped the other off. I think Kinison was as you saw him and not an act: an angry guy who was insecure and miserable, yet found a way to come up with comedy out of that situation. He once did a half-hour routine about breaking up with a girl, then in the morning he drove to the airport and checked in, only to discover the ex-girlfriend had put a loaded guy in his suitcase. Now, that's comedy.
     
  11. showtaper

    showtaper Concert Hoarding Bastard

    When Ferguson's run was over, it ended my interest in late night TV. The current group of
    hosts are unwatchable.
     
  12. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    I watched the first episode, which was way, way to scatterbrained in its approach. I have no interest in further episodes.
     
  13. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    There is a "short attention span" philosophy that I see prevalent in a lot of documentaries these days. I see your point, but I like the subject matter enough that I'll stick with it for awhile longer.
     
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  14. hbbfam

    hbbfam Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chandler,AZ
    And the constant interruption to see interview snippets from people analyzing the subject.
     
  15. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York City
    I watched the promo (above) a few times, stopping to take note of who the portraits depicted. I was disheartened not to see either Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl. Granted, they only represent one aspect of comedy (i.e., stand-up), but they were pretty big in that area. If CNN is trying merely to be entertaining and maximize viewership, I can see why those two (and others) might get pushed off to the side in favor of more recognizable modern TV celebrities. And if Lenny Bruce is highlighted only as a prelude to Carlin's "seven dirty words", I'd rather see him entirely ignored.

    I noticed other omissions - Robin Williams but not Jonathan Winters, Johnny Carson but not Steve Allen, various political comedians but not Will Rogers, more recent African-American comedians but not Bill Cosby*, Carol Burnett but not Fanny Brice, etc. - but I of course need to see the series to see if the founding fathers (and mothers) are given their rightful due.

    * Yeah, I know, but the guy was huge in the business and quite a game-changer.
     
  16. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law

    For those expecting a TRUE 'history'....
    from the start, I just assumed they'd be using all material OWNED by the mighty TIME/WARNER COMMUNICATIONS vast archive of comedy 'stuff'!
    It's cheaper that way.
     
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  17. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    There was a fair amount about Lenny (son of Boots Malloy) Bruce, and interview with his daughter. They even showed one of the photos of him dead (probably all in the Phil Spector collection). If they did mention Mort Sahl I missed that. :mad:

    Saw an ad for the next part, women are the funnier sex or whatever. I like Judy Tenuta, Paula Poundstone and Tracy Ullman but dislike Roseanne and Phyllis Diller. I think that's kind of brainless to group comedians by gender.
     
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  18. Bender Rodriguez

    Bender Rodriguez RIP Exene, best dog ever. 2005-2016

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Did you mean loaded gub?
    [​IMG]
     
  19. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York City
    Yeah. If you do that then you're sort of stuck with doing one by race . . . then you REALLY have to mention Cosby (and perhaps a few that now are very politically incorrect (e.g., Lincoln Perry, who performed under the name of "Stepin Fetchit", and Bert Williams, who performed in blackface). Dick Gregory became a bit off-beat (and less funny) in later life, but his stand-up in the early 1960s was great (slyly but not overtly political/social). Godfrey Cambridge was given high marks for some of his early work, as well.
     
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  20. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

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    Hollywood, USA
    Sorry, loaded GUN.

    Lenny Bruce is the main focus of the entire first episode.
     
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  21. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York City
    Great! Ready to go on my Apple TV.
     
  22. Jack White

    Jack White Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    There was a clip of Steve Allen in the first episode not of a skit or stand-up routine, but him describing what a comedian is/ should be. My guess is the clip was not from his stint on 'The Tonight Show', but from his prime time show ,'The Steve Allen Show'.

    And generally ... I would have preferred a purely chronological history from at least a hundred years ago and longer - from vaudeville to today. But I guessing that kind of structure wouldn't attract a sizeable audience or serve the themes CNN is trying to communicate.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  23. goodiesguy

    goodiesguy The Liverbirds

    Location:
    New Zealand
    I'm guessing it'll just be American comedy? So none of the early Brit's like The Pythons, Pete & Dud, Benny Hill, Morecambe & Wise etc..?
     
  24. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York City
    Add the Brits and you're really into Ken Burns mega-documentary territory. You could do an episode on Sellers alone I suspect. I'm sort of surprised Burns didn't think of this first.
     
  25. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York City
    I suspect they will not get into any vaudevillian unless he or she ended up in radio or movies (e.g., Fred Allen). I, too, would like to hear about all of the relative unknowns I read about in Allen's book. It wasn't just what they did, it was they way they lived.
     
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