Do contemporary audiences not find 1970's comedy funny?

Ok I finally listened to comedy from the 1970’s, a Mort Sahl routine. I have to say I didn’t find it funny at all.

I also heard a lily tomlin, and a Freddy Prinze. Not, not.

The only older comedy I liked was Don Rickles’ ‘You Dummy’, which I consider a classic. Rickles still performs occasionally (or makes appearances).

Is this me? Another example of ‘the sass’ not appreciating classics? I know Mort Sahl is considered a big source of today’s stand up. But I didn’t find anything funny at all. Sahl’s “Billy Graham” routine I did not find funny. And I know who Billy Graham is.

But Rickles’ ‘you dummy’ dates from the late 1960s and contained references to TV shows and movies I never heard of before, but his routine is still classic. So could it actually be the dated nature of some of the humor? Why is rickles’ still funny then?

And observational humor, like Stephen Wright’s jokes, do not age much.

So was standup in the 70’s fundamentally different than today? The jokes seem much nicer, more like a conversation with a barely funny guy with little content but comfortable delivery.

So is this me? or do most agree?

Most of Richard Pryor’s standup was during the 70s and I think it’s pretty funny.

One thing though is the basis for most comedy is in causing fear or cognitive dissonance in people, for which laughing it away is the only solution. The things that cause that are, basically, topics that are on the edge of the audiences comfort zone. If the comfort zone has changed such that conversations of race, sexuality, etc. are all easily within the range of general conversation for anyone, then it’s not scary to talk about, and it’s not funny.

Bill Cosby’s routines hold up pretty well, but he always crafted his into stories, rather than relying on punchlines. Most of those comics’ routines don’t do as well, as you mentioned. Jackie Mason and Shelley Berman come to mind, as does Red Skelton and Rowan & Martin. Bob Newhart’s shtick holds up pretty well, but that’s what great delivery and timing can do for your career.

The classic years of the original SNL still hold up pretty well, as well as the entire TV career of Monty Python. Animal House and The Blues Brothers still make me laugh. The glory days of National Lampoon were in the 1970s. This was the decade when filmmakers were free to get raunchy (Airplane, The Groove Tube). Woody Allen’s two best movies, Annie Hall and Manhattan, were made in the 70s. Neil Simon and Mel Brooks peaked in this decade. Redd Foxx peaked a few decades earlier, but white audiences didn’t know about him until the 70s with Sanford and Son.

Steve Martin’s stuff holds up pretty well. Nestor Pistor’s, not so much.

I think the category is too broad to be meaningful.

I listened to Phyllis Diller and her comedy holds up well, probably because it’s still just men and women type stuff. The only thing that seems a bit odd is when she talks about plastic surgery. No one cares about it today but back then it wasn’t mainstream at all. So when she refers to it one might ask, “What’s the fuss?”

I have a few of Sahl’s albums as mp3. The only Graham material I can find offhand is only 88 seconds. And I agree it isn’t all that funny.

You’re comparing different styles really, not eras. Sahl and his material are not yock-a-minute, beat-you-over-the-head like Milton Berle, Rickles, Henny Youngman or similar comics. He really was different as well as topical. He was more cerebral.

Dennis Miller is closer to him than most other of today’s comics, but still not all that close. And Sahl did take some heat for what qualifies today as gently poking fun at the Kennedys and the Democrats generally.

I thought Mort Sahl peaked well before the 70s. Like in the 50s and 60s.

Of course topical humor isn’t going to age well. Here’s a 10-minute clip of Mort Sahl riffing on the news. I lived through that era, but without a thorough knowledge of the people he was talking about, the entire routine falls flat.

It even fell flat with the studio audience. Note that the biggest laugh in the clip came from a simple joke about “Rocky and his friends” (the original title of The Bullwinkle Show.)

Ok I should have explicitly titled this stand-up comedy only – not the movies.

And Monty Python is another country :slight_smile:

Mort Sahl doesn’t seem to have any of the bite that Dennis Miller had. Maybe I should redirect the discussion to Mort Sahl. I didn’t feel it was cerebral as in any sort of complex topics, interweaved material, or art/science/philosphy involved. Just someone with a great stage presence with no material.

Check out this clip, beginning at about 1:54. Sahl is using a chalkboard to explain the world’s political systems, from Communism on the left to “we used to call it capitalism” on the right. (Capitalism was a good thing, but now, according to Sahl, it’s trending toward its utopia – greed.) You’ll probably have to look for the whole the whole thing on one of his old albums; I can’t find it on YouTube.

Sahl also came up with a line to explain McCarthyism: “Every time the Russians throw an American in jail, we throw two Americans in jail, to show them they won’t get away with it,” which could’ve come straight out of the Patriot Act.

Also, keep in mind that Sahl was doing this stuff on middle-American mainstream television like Ed Sullivan and The Tonight Show. Chris Rock or Dennis Miller would have to do 10 HBO specials to get the audience Sahl got from a single Ed Sullivan appearance.

I think The Carol Burnett Show still holds up well.

Donny and Marie, not so much.

Sonny and Cher – mmm . . . 50/50.

Tony Orlando and Dawn – not funny even in the '70s.

Indeed it is.

Rich Little did a bit at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2007.

Jimmy Carter
Johnny Carson
Andy Rooney

… stale …

Not always. Tom Lehrer’s That Was the Year That Was album is very definitely dated to 1965 and is full of then-topical humor – but it’s still good for some laughs.

As usual, people underestimate a pioneer because so many have followed his path. Sahl’s type of humor was revolutionary in its day. No comedian did political comedy – the standard was to just tell a bunch of jokes.

Sahl was different. He wasn’t afraid to get political, and he didn’t stick with jokes, but instead made observations. Few did this. Now, everyone does this. We are so used to it that we can’t understand what made it so different from what had gone before.

Of course, Sahl was at his best in the 50s and 60s, and that’s the time you should be judging him – remembering that no one did that sort of humor before (well, no one who the average TV viewer would know).

Seasons 1-3 of MASH are still really funny.

To be brutally honest, I have a hard time defending the “genius” of Albert Brooks…

I remembered MASH as being very funny, and never missed an episode back then. When I tried to watch it again last year, starting with season one, it seemed painfully dated and unfunny.

This is going to be absolute heresy, but…

I caught an old George Carlin special on HBO last summer with my roommate (who’s a HUGE comedy buff), and we hardly laughed. What was edgy and taboo back then was really vanilla by today’s standards. Comedy style seems to really change with the times, and it was disappointing.

I do agree though that Bill Cosby still cracks me up - maybe it’s because I have fond memories of listening to it after I was supposed to be in bed, and never in a million years would my parents have let Carlin into the house, so I didn’t have any exposure to him.