Re: What Happened?

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Posted ByJerry J. Haumberger on January 20, 2003 at 03:15:57:

In Reply to: Re: What Happened? posted byMichael on January 16, 2003 at 23:18:38:

: I think a lot of what happened can be attributed to the attempts of commedians to "push the envelope" starting back in the mid to late 60's.
: It was easier to get laughs by either profanity, or coarse topics or both, and the trend has continued... although there are a few exceptions

Pushing the envelope? I wonder...

According to Milt Josefsberg (and I believe George Burns), Jack's humor was considered "straight man" humor, and he certainly was a master of that style. Jack and his crew made brilliant use of funny stereotyping, careful timing, and enough comedic techniques to appeal to a very broad audience -- and keep their sponsers happy. Of course, all of that material was and still is subject to change.

Today we find ourselves in a "politically correct" world where huge strides in human rights and permissive culture have developed. Since Jack has left us, the human rights movements have established full acceptance of African Americans within our society, and the same progress has occurred with gays, Jews, and other minorities, and we certainly can't overlook the accomplishments of various feminist movements since Jack's last days. All of these changes created new sensitivities and altered what many may or may not find funny. As dear as Rochester is to us (and was to Jack), how would Jack's way of humor with him be accepted on regular public television today? What about the occasional implied gay, Mexican and alcoholic humor -- and of course, would Jack's personal stereotype create troubles for himself and various Jewish groups? And certainly, cigarette commercials are now forbidden, so that there could even be trouble with showing Jack's reruns in some places (very difficult to cut out, too). On top of all that, I think it would have ruined Jack's "straight" image and the importance that had for his character, if he were to have added more and more sexually explicit humor in his programs.

Even so, I think the "baby boomers" (of which I'm one) genuinely miss Jack Benny. Before the bar of censorship started to get lowered, Hollywood writers had a very straight and narrow act to follow on public TV -- forcing them in very odd ways, sometimes, to be highly creative in entertainment without being censored. (Remember when the word "pregnant" was considered shocking?) Despite all that, Jack and his crew still make us laugh, sometimes hysterically. I believe much of what they did could still be done if 'brought up to date' without offending a "politically correct" world -- and without wearing us out even more with the same, dull, off-color style of humor.

You know, in the new "retro" fashion taking hold these days, maybe the baby boomers are ripe for another go around of good old "heymish" Jack...


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