This post brought to you by American Family Insurance. All opinions are 100% mine.
We didn't watch a lot of TV when I was a kid, but when we did, it was always something the whole family could enjoy together. And if there had been questionable programs on television back in the day, my parents wouldn't have watched them anyway.
For most of my adult life, television programming has been overrun by skank. I'm not a prude — and I'm rather annoyed that I feel compelled to give that caveat, as if civility is somehow considered unseemly — but I do not understand why comedy has become almost synonymous with making jokes about sex and/or body parts and/or bodily functions. Are the writers and performers so deprived in their personal lives, that they have to make up for it on stage or in front of cameras?
It's not as if audiences won't find humor in nonsexual material. It is, I suppose, just strongharder/strong to write good humor that doesn't resort to the cheap shot of shock. Perhaps we just don't have enough really talented writers/performers these days.
Thinking to the past few years of television shows and movies that my whole family enjoyed, these come to mind:
- 17 Again
- The Princess Bride
- Sense and Sensibility
- The Sandlot
- School of Rock
- Ever After: A Cinderella Story
- While You Were Sleeping
- Little Women
- Pride and Prejudice
- Nicholas Nickleby
- October Sky
Entertaining, funny, clever, heartwarming — some even genius (think Sense and Sensibility and Princess Bride) — and remarkably not filled with innuendo or potty jokes.
When I think of contrasts, the first movie that comes to mind is The Invention of Lying. It has one one of the most astounding drop-to-the-floor-laughing-till-you-cry scenes in recent memory. Ricky Gervais' character, Mark Bellison, is trying to explain what lying is to his friends — without success. The writing is brilliant and the delivery the same.
But the movie in it's entirety is filled with raunchy “humor.” Why? Gervais (also the writer and director) is obviously a talented man. Did he just run out of good material?
American Family Insurance has sponsored a family friendly stand up comedy show. And I don't mean children's comedy, I mean comedy that appeals to a wide audience. In his early, stand up days, Jerry Seinfeld was famous for being funny strongand/strong clean. As his TV show progressed, the clean part became less and less part of his image. But, unfortunately, this kind of undertaking is fairly rare. Kudos to American Family for making this effort.
While I am pleased that AmFam has reached out to families in an entertainment venue — and hope more people do the same — I was a bit disappointed in the number of sketches that focused on making fun of mothers and/or talking about how nbsp;mean mothers are.
To be fair, humor has a huge cultural element. When we moved to south Florida in 1991 — which is culturally New York/New Jersey — suddenly Jewish humor made sense — because almost all of our neighbors were Jewish. All our lives we'd missed half the jokes. And unless you're LDS or live in a predominantly LDS area, most of you won't understand Mormon in-jokes. So part of my problem with the sketches may be that I've not lived a southern/black lifestyle and so even the terminology is a bit foreign. I'm not a rapper, so the whole rapper sketch went over my head. The “joke” about grandma beating the speaker with a switch while naked in a bathtub just, well, wasn't funny. The verbiage sometimes wasn't clear.
That said, my favorite sketches in the viewable Stand Up For Family videos were “Eye Beggin'” — although the term wasn't familiar to me and it was to the audience — and “Momma Talk.” Funny in a fairly universal sense while they made me want to yell, “Yes! Set boundaries for your kids, like our mothers did!”
I give my vote to companies, groups, and individuals who will take the time and effort to create humor that appeals to all ages without appealing to the lowest common denominator. Way to go, American Family.