Saturday, April 28, 2012



            What tickles your funny bone?  A pie in the face?  A slip on a banana peel?  Or, do you prefer dry, sophisticated English wit?
            Humor is very subjective, influenced by so many demographics. A person’s age, gender, nationality, and ethnic identification, are only some of the factors determining that which one considers humorous.
            Years ago, I dated someone of a different nationality.  He couldn’t understand why The Mary Tyler Moore Show made me laugh.  He didn’t get the cultural subtleties. On the other hand, he did enjoy Sanford & Son, a show I hated but whose humor was much broader than that of the MTM show and therefore more easily understood.
            Most women don’t get why men love The Three Stooges (I grew up with the Stooges because I was influenced by my older brother).
            In addition to gender and culture, ethnic identification is a strong variable in determining one’s outlook on humor. At one point, in the nineties, three networks were airing sitcoms each of which appealed to a particular niche (ABC’S “blue collar” shows like Grace Under Fire and Rosanne, NBC’s “urban shows” such as Friends and Seinfeld and the WB's numerous sitcoms which appealed to predominantly black audiences.)
            Perhaps one of the biggest divides is generational. Comedy has changed a good deal over the years. Charlie Chaplin gave way to the Marx Brothers who gave way to Bob Hope who gave way to Woody Allen who gave way to Chris Rock, and so on.
            Humor today, in my opinion, has become more mean-spirited and cynical. Maybe this happened after 9/11 or maybe it would have evolved this way naturally. (My son loves Always Sunny in Philadelphia but it does nothing for me).
            Some humor is timeless (The Honeymooners) while even the best (All in the Family) can seem dated with the passage of time.
            Fortunately, with all the technology that is available to us these days, there is no shortage of places from which we can all find the types of humor that make us laugh.

Challenge your ‘humor meter’ with the following quiz (most of those listed below got their start in stand-up), then scroll down for the answers.  

  1.  Timeless comedy writer/director/actor whose Broadway play won record awards a few years back.
  2.  Quick witted comic who incorporated ironic word play into his act.
  3.  “Take my wife…”
  4.  Famous for his stand up monologues using a phone as a prop.
  5.  Black comic actor noted for the various personas he can mimic.
  6.  One of the first standup comediennes; known for her acerbic tongue.
  7.  Major black comic to whom Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock owe much.
  8.  “Well excuuuuse me”.
  9.  First comedienne to come out of the closet.
  10.  Foul mouthed black standup who had his own series in the seventies.
  11.  Star of hit 90’s sitcom based on his life.
  12.  Plump comedienne of the 60's.
  13.  Poster boy for A.D.D., starred in a hit sitcom of the 70’s.
  14.  Politically incorrect Jewish comic who has an ongoing role on The Simpsons.
  15. “You look mahvelous!”
  16. Won a well deserved Oscar for her role as Oda Mae Brown in a 90’s hit movie.
  17. Famous for his hand-on-cheek gesture accompanied by a “well!” he was known to have been a great influence on future stars such as Johnny Carson.
  18. As part  of a team, he was straight man for his ditzy wife.
  19. Her nasal voice, like nails on a chalkboard, didn’t prevent her from having a hit sitcom in the 90’s.
  20. “I can’t get no respect!”
  21. Beloved SNL star known for her role as Roseanne Roseannadanna.
  22. Rubber faced comic actor who came on the scene in the 90’s with his starring role in The Mask.

1.Mel Brooks 2. George Carlin 3. Henny Youngman 4. Bob Newhart 5. Eddie Murphy 6. Joan Rivers 7. Richie Pryor 8. Steve Martin 9. Ellen DeGeneres 10. Red Foxx 11. Ray Romano 12. Totie Fields 13. Robin Williams 14. Jackie Mason 15.Billy Crystal 16. Whoopi Goldberg 17. Jack Benny 18. George Burns 19 Fran Drescher 20. Rodney Dangerfield 21. Gilda Radner 22. Jim Carey

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED, Vivian

1 comment:

  1. The best definition of comedy vs. tragedy is still the one from Mel Brooks. (Close paraphrase) "If you fall into an open manhole and die -- that's comedy. If I get a hangnail -- that's a tragedy."