I have a friend who's a psych major, and he claims that no generation can understand the humor of another generation. His logic goes that humor is an accumulation of life events, so Boomers, for example, see humor in things others don't, and vice versa.

What I see in a lot of today's humor is stupidity. Characters that are considered hilarious by the standards of television, movies, and stand-up audiences are to me pitiful at best, disgusting at worst. Otherwise intelligent people in their twenties and thirties rave about how funny a movie is, but I can tell from the previews that I would run screaming from the theater. I don't get the humor of someone who's so stupid he shouldn't have made it to adulthood, someone who's so dysfunctional he shouldn't have been allowed to.

I have no idea what's funny about THE SIMPSONS or FAMILY GUY. I suppose I'll never know if Adam Sandler or Will Farrell are really funny because I've never made it through one of their movies. And about the time some comedian starts sharing his bathroom habits, I'm clicking the remote. Am I prudish? I suppose so, if that means TMI is entertainment. You've got a college degree and you pay money to watch a movie about someone who hardly thinks at all? I'd say the laugh is on you.

Some have told me that the humor comes from how well the character is portrayed, and I agree that could be a factor. I'd just be embarrassed to take on a role where underwear is so prominent.

Is it funny because it flies in the face of convention to have a protagonist be a jerk? Does an idiotic "star" allow a person to say, "Well, at least I'm not that dumb"? Is it a visceral reaction that I've somehow suppressed? I may sound non-hip, but I think humor that's too easy bothers me. Anyone can make stupidity funny, as long as you don't attach any reality to it. Escapism, hyperbole, and overacting are fine for some. I like humor that develops from reality, grows from familiarity, and requires applying a little bit of intelligence before laughter arises.

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Comment by Peg Herring on December 4, 2008 at 4:41am
One of my fondest memories is showing a very staid, very academic Arthurian legend professor HOLY GRAIL. He cracked up! (As I do, every time.) It's funnier than just simple slapstick if you understand the period, the literature, the history. And yeah, the Three Stooges make me laugh, so I get your point.
Comment by Dana King on December 4, 2008 at 2:28am
There's a lot of truth in that opening statement. I've made an active effort to expose my teenage daughter to movies she would consider "old" so she has the cultural context to "get" contemporary humor that may refer to it. (Examples: TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE as context for the BLAZING SADDLES line, "We don't need to show you no stinking badges." BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID so that anytime she overdoes something I can pause and say, "Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?")

That being said, I think what limits some humor is its appeal to too select a taste or age group. I don't get a lot of contemporary SNL humor, because it refers to thinks kids are aware of right now, that a 52-year-old man just doesn't follow. I knew enough to appreciate the premise of their HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL satire, but I'm sure I missed many of the jokes because I haven't seen the movies.

On the other hand (which is, I realize, another way of saying "That being said," so what I'm really saying here is "on the other other hand"), stupid, slapstick humor can break me up. I own copies of ANIMAL HOUSE and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, andI'll watch Three Stooges skits to this day, and I think the movie STUCK ON YOU is pee my pants funny. But, that's me.

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