Do contemporary audiences not find 1970's comedy funny?

You gotta hear Mort in the 50s and 60s… But by the late 60s, JFK/MLK/RFK/Vietnam, his comedy changed a bit… He didn’t digress, free-associate as much, making it easier for fans to understand, but you gotta check out those first 7-8 records… And interviews! However, I think in the last 10 years, he’s been at his best since the early 60s. He has a Weekly Show every Thursday night on Periscope through his Twitter (mortsahlsays), and takes questions from people like us (and his live audience)… The shows from the last 2-3 years have been archived as well.

My personal comedy friends seem to like everything I do - Hicks, Carlin, Burr, etc., but when they get to Mort, I get a “I don’t get it”… Well, neither did I. First off, I had to learn all the ins and outs of the 50s - names, references, current events, and still, the way his mind works (not unlike mine) can be hard to chase, but once you get it, it’s so worth it. Not only for Mort’s comedy, but a great history lesson - a real zeitgeist over time, and it’s wonderful to compare the decadent process.

I tried to watch the film recently with my wife, who’d never seen it. I remember it as funny, but now, not so much. We didn’t make it very far before she got too bored to continue.

On the same note, Austin Powers is kind of double plus unfunny, and I’d loved those in their day. Yet, I can still appreciate So I Married an Axe Murderer.

Monty Python is a mixed bag. The films are timeless, but when I watch Flying Circus, too much of it is no longer topical.

I’m not really in tune with comedians per se. I did watch something Netflix recommended last year. I don’t remember who, but it was someone modern and apparently in demand. I don’t think I’m humorless, but I couldn’t get into it. I can’t remember the specifics, but I seem to recall that it was all tired clichés. I’ll admit that what’s a tired cliché to a 46 year old could be fresh and new to younger people, though.

I still find Rodney Dangerfield’s act to be funny. He rarely did political jokes though; it was mostly personal jokes based around his “no respect at all” routine.

Others have mentioned Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. I’m a fan of both shows but I find binge watching both shows to be somewhat painful. Sure both shows have very funny and memorable sketches; but they have far more sketches that just fall flat and binging just accentuates that. And when most people reminisce about the shows it always about particular sketches; it’s hardly ever about entire episodes.

I was kind of thinking about this the other day when I was watching Barney Miller, Taxi, and Bob Newhart reruns.
Watching those there’s a bit of melancholy woven into in each story. Today’s sitcoms seem to beat you over the head with the jokes and the funny where I think the 70’s was more about the funny but almost tragic absurdness of this thing we call life that we’re all going through.

One opinion from someone who was there.

I at least didn’t like everyone mentioned even why they were new. I’d say it’s 50% the changing times, and 50% that some comics just aren’t to your tastes.

The really unfunny comics, no one remembers. Or only to remember how bad they were. Anyone listen to Emo Phillips records lately?

I say Emo Phillips recently and he was just as great as ever.

And I’m sure your statement is 100% factual. :wink:

While I love Monty Python, I have to disagree on this. There are a lot of Monty Python sketches that just fall flat. Some it’s just outdated topical references, but there are some dull bits that just drag on in the later episodes of the TV run. The show definitely holds up well overall, especially since their absurdist style masks a lot of missing missing references; for example, the “cat, duck, and lizard interview” probably mocked an actual show, but is funny on its own, and the Spam sketch was a reference to the weird diet that grew out of rationing in Britain, but Vikings singing about spam is funny enough that it lives on for people who only know Spam as a Hawaiian thing. But there really are some long sketches that are complete flops that no one makes callbacks to ever.

A lot of the humor of the 70s and early 80s was that of “the anti-comic.” (That’s not my term, but unfortunately I have yet to come up with a better one.) Guys like Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Albert Brooks and to a certain extent Bill Murray are satirists who whole-heartedly embody the stupidity of the times. Their characters tend to be unrelentingly idiotic; unlike Ralph Kramden or Lucy Ricardo or even Archie Bunker, they never have that humanizing moment of realization or regret.

I’m not saying that this sort of humor isn’t funny anymore. Humor is highly subjective, and a lot of it does depend on time, place and even mood. But I do wonder if certain forms of humor like the above, which relies on pointing the finger at the banality of others rather than at the foibles that we all share, age well at all.


Mentally giving themselves permission to flop can enable people to be their funniest. It also obviously enables them to actually flop. :slight_smile:

Someone who’s never boring is going to fall on their face a lot. Someone who never falls on their face is going to be boring a lot.

What a difference eight years makes.

This outtake–Tim Conway’s elephant story–remains the funniest five minutes of comedy I’ve ever seen. Just thinking about it makes me giggle.

His first movie Real Life was great.

Most of the topical Monty Python stuff was old by the time most of us saw it in the States, and the rest was England specific. The only reason I don’t enjoy it anymore is that I’ve memorized most of the bits. The Spam sketch, however, is funnier now than then thanks to the extra meaning the word has taken on.

We just listened to the second Tom Lehrer album, which is about 60 years old and is as funny as ever because it is not topical. That Was The Year That Was is the weakest one since some of the songs, like “MLF Lullaby” don’t matter any more.

BTW, thanks to the OP for including the reference to Don Rickles which made me realize immediately how old the thread is.

We watched the whole run of Monty Python a while ago and indeed, there’s some really poor stuff in there. Sometimes entire episodes. But then there’s quite a few real gems as well.

A few years ago I recorded and watched a bunch of stuff from the 50s off a retro channel. As to the comedies almost all were just dreadful. Ozzie and Harriet had bad acting and slight humor. Bachelor Father wasn’t remotely a sitcom with terrible mysogyny and racism. Etc.

The one show that was pretty good still was Burns and Allen. Quite clever at times.

So, you go forward to the 70s and production values go up, some (but not a lot of) edgier stuff. The ratio of good stuff is better but still not great.

Keep in mind, that most recent stuff like King of Queens isn’t funny to a lot of people now. Never mind 40 years in the future.

Since the thread has been resurrected, I’ll throw in one: I recently heard Andy Griffith’s What it was, was football (1953), and I thought it was hilarious. And not stand-up, but I still listen to Bob & Ray on trips.

I do believe I’ll have another Big Orange.

I grew up in the 80s and I thought the comedy then was hilarious. But I listen now and it’s really just a lot of shouting, cursing, and making funny noises. As another poster said, this was somewhat taboo back then so it had that attraction going for it, but now for a comedian saying the f-word is as easy as saying “fart”. Some of it does hold up. Cosby’s routine is as funny now as it was then. Some of the better political stuff, if you know the context, like Dr. Strangelove, is still great. But the shock comics like Sam Kinison just don’t seem funny at all nowadays. ALthough I imagine if Kinison was still alive today he’d be a huge hit due to the fact he was so un-PC and didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of that. Can anyone here imagine Kinison going on Twitter and issuing a sheepish apology for offending some group?

I’ve seen the first five years of SNL and I just don’t find anything funny there. I do remember thinking the Eddie Murphy years were funny when I was a kid but not so much anymore. It doesn’t start to get funny for me now until we get to the Sandler/Farley/Rock era.

People back then knew that Ozzie and Harriet sucked.

Definitely true. Jack Benny, not a sitcom, was pretty good also.

Comedy evolves and typically does not age well. I don’t appreciate “random humor” most of the time and that’s not even old. I can’t imagine what people will be saying about it 40 years from now.