Can TV Teach People a Sense of Humor?
My father told me that Groucho at the bridge table--sans his painted mustache--was every bit as funny as he was on "You Bet Your Life." One zinger of a line followed another.
A sampling of Groucho's rapier wit was when a contestant on "You Bet Your Life" mentioned that she had 22 children. When Groucho asked why, she said, "I love my husband."
"I love cigars," Groucho retorted, "but I take them out of my mouth once in a while."
This was funny stuff.
When I was an NBC page in New York in the 1950s, my job was to squeeze fat people into thin seats or guard the stage door. In those days, all shows with audiences were live.
I remember during a rehearsal of "The Perry Como Show," Jerry Lewis popped in off the street and proceeded to do his wild shtick, laying everyone out. Perry Como, writer Goodman Ace, the orchestra, crew and we pages were weeping with laughter.
When Jonathan Winters rehearsed, the cameramen were laughing so hard, their cameras shook. The top one-third of Winters' humor was blue and totally unsuited for television. He used this material in rehearsals, but had to rein it in on air, which screwed up his timing, so in my opinion he was never at his best on television.
And there were Sid Caesar ... Ernie Kovaks ... Jack Paar (I was a page on his very first "Tonight Show") ... Steve Allen--don't get me started.
The point is, these people were hilarious. They were funny to anyone--from three to 93--even someone with no sense of humor.
Do toddlers need to be taught this is funny?
How Television Wrecked America's Sense of Humor
I flat out do not watch situation comedies. Never have, never will.
In a 1950 sitcom, Hank McCune played a television host and got into all kinds of madcap situations. The show wasn't getting any laughs, and ratings were lousy, so the producer turned to a sound engineer named Charley Douglass, who had invented a machine that replicated audience laughter.
- Al Capone
- Ben Glenn II
- Charley Douglass
- Chester Morris
- Denny Hatch
- Diane Levin
- Eric Hatch
- Ernie Kovaks
- Ginger Rogers
- Goodman Ace
- Hank McCune
- Jack Paar
- Jerry Lewis
- Jonathan Winters
- Norman McLeod
- Perry Como
- Quincy Adams Wagstaff
- Ruth Brown
- Sid Caesar
- Steve Allen
- Susan Linn
- The News
- Tickle U. Harvard