It is a threadbare premise, for a medium still in its pull-ups. When we think of greatness, whose face goes on the largest of sculptures—formed by God but finished by men—vandalizing the Dakotan landscape?
For the field of American humor I’ve had one year to think it over. Last September my friend Steve (whose real name is Mark, but in these kinds of online articles an alias is typical) said to me:
“Twain is sort of the great white whale of American literature. Dickens assumes the same type of stature for 19th century England. And Tolstoy (sorry Mr. Dostoyevsky and my beloved Mr. Chekhov) occupies the place for Russian literature. Who for France? Hugo? What a Mount Rushmore for 19th century literature.”
I agreed with Steve, but turned the direction of our conversation to something even more trivial: American humor. Putting very little thought into it I said:
Of course, the problem is limit. I immediately regretted the absence of George Carlin, but I didn’t know if he trumped Pryor. I couldn’t remove Groucho to include both influential standups when Marx represented the long stretch of Vaudeville and Jewish humor that shaped early Hollywood. And Franklin? You don’t see a lot of comedians today reference Ben Franklin as a significant influence on their craft, but then again what politicians model themselves after Washington? At the time it didn’t matter. Steve agreed with my list.
“I think you’ve nailed the Mount Rushmore for humor…Franklin is the headwaters. Essential. But you’ve got a nice spread of eras there, too. If we were confining this to movies and television, we could throw out Franklin and Twain and make room for Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball (hate to leave Fields out). But they don’t make the cut if we’re looking to represent all of American humor. Groucho is one of the few humor masters, by the way, who mastered almost every medium available to him: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, television, books. And he could get laughs in a stunning variety of ways: monologues, acting, singing, dancing, ad-libbing, sophisticated word play, low slapstick. Pretty remarkable career.”
the managing editor.
productive + procrastination = productination: a collection of links about humor to spend your time not working in a semi-productive manner.
- On comedians who took alternate routes
- Anyone want to blog on Two and a Half Men?
- Lucille Ball at 100
- Two on Catch-22, and one more
- Comedy in Brazil
- 29th International Society for Humor Studies–a review
- Slaughterhouse-Five banned!
- How to Speak Hip
- Two on Jerry Lewis
- A new book on humor
- Analyzing literature via computer
- Everyone loves the Muppets
- Onion story of the week
- and finally, I found this site, which is a lot of fun reading
the managing editor.
Born August 6, 1911. (d. 1989)
Opening this week: a new exhibition at the Hollywood Museum, “Lucille Ball at 100 & ‘I Love Lucy’ at 60,” which will be on display from Aug. 3 to Nov. 30, showcasing memorabilia saluting the careers and romance of Hollywood’s most famous lovebirds.
For photos of the exhibits:http://www.yousendit.com/download/YTYvRE9saTFBNkZjR0E9PQ
If anyone visits either the Hollywood Museum exhibit or the Center for Comedy and would like to write a review, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.