Monday, January 11, 2010


Ricky Gervais meets Larry David on a BBC Channel 4 special that aired in the UK. Two very funny men talk about their comedy heroes and influences.

Like beauty, comedy is in the eye of the beholder. Some people found Ricky Gervais' "The Office" television series excruciating--and yes, it was, and that's what made Gervais' character David Brent so hilarious. His complete lack of self-awareness made us wince AND laugh. (The American version is much more of a traditional sit-com, and not nearly as funny).

Similarly, some people got tired of Larry David's shtick, the whining kvetching crank who--like David Brent--shares a basic lack of insight. This isn't joke-telling, stand-up, or a comedy routine in the strictest sense. In this age of irony and self-awareness, these characters hold a mirror up to us and we get that chill of recognition. Or not. Their humor pivots on our awareness of our own foibles.

Paton Oswalt takes on KFC

Another funny guy is Paton Oswalt. He is a stand-up comic whose observational humor is a sane man's cranky response to a mad world. He points out lunacy all around us. You might think he's funny, you might not, but he's not changing a thing. Like Lewis Black, Bill Hicks, and grandmaster of surgical wit Lenny Bruce, Paton is wielding a scalpel against the sickness in our society.

That type of humor might not work for you. Maybe you're too cool, or old school, or maybe you just don't get it. There is another humor that is based on cruelty and offending others. For me, at the risk of sounding "politically correct," the best humor fights the powerful and conventional--including our own self-delusions--and the worst makes fun of other people. The powerless , you might say. That's easy. A lot of people feel stupid and ugly and powerless, and they don't want that pointed out, so their humor veers away from the self-deprecating and takes on a nasty aggressive edge. Feel better now? Or look at the "fails" that are so popular. "At least I'm not THAT stupid," they seem to say. Check out the following compilation and laugh at the silly stunts and backfires of guys even dumber than you. If laughter is the best medicine, these fools will need a huge Costco-sized jar of it.

Keep laughing!

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