It is traditional for comedians to make jokes at the expense of the president, other elected officials or celebrities.
It is amusing to the person and the intended audience if whomever the joke is played on or given about is done properly.
Will Rodgers was famous for his jokes and sayings about the administration that was in power during his popularity.
“Calvin Coolidge didn’t say much, and when he did, he didn’t say much.”
“I can remember way back when a liberal was generous with his own money.”
“The difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
Mark Twain spit out a few comical quotes about government officials as well.
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”
“Sometimes, I wonder if the world is being run by really smart people putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
“There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
Rich Little was an impressionist/comedian that imitated or made jokes on nine presidents total. His impersonation of Ronald Reagan was legendary and solicited the biggest and best laughs from Reagan himself.
Rich once asked him, “Mr. President, why do you always look down before you speak?” He replied, “Well, Rich you’d look down too if you owned a horse ranch.”
However, around 2005, comedy slid down the hill from amusing and entertaining to hateful and not funny.
One specific example was Comic Relief for Hurricane Katrina with Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and the late Robin Williams.
The famous show that originated in the 80s had done many hilarious segments that not only entertained the viewers, but raised large sums of money for worthy causes.
Unlike the Comic Reliefs that had aired in the past, this segment stopped being funny as the jokes were repetitively political and hateful to the point of extreme bad taste. It was so pointedly ugly to the current administration at the time that the tone would discourage good will. It became unwatchable after a while. A few good natured jokes are funny, but the rhetoric and personal agenda on this particular show was no longer funny.
It hasn’t gotten any better in the subsequent years. As society evolves into safe spaces, easy offense and political correctness, it seems there is no room for pure humor anymore.
Remarkably, the ones with the most acerbic comments are the ones that generally cannot take a joke, or find some offense in the topic, leading to a general meltdown or wailing session.
Tim Allen addressed the matter of “microagression” on his show Last Man Standing. Today’s college students are unable to process certain traditional forms of speaking which can be construed as “offensive words.”
In his skit, after all of the “microaggresive words”, and possible gender offenses and human equality references were culled out of his speech to his daughter’s college, there was nothing that was acceptable to be said, other than hello and goodbye.
All of this editing had to be done to protect the sensibilities of the students. To which Allen replied, “Protect them from what, ideas?”
It seems that today’s society is at the impasse where a quote by Bette Midler seems applicable.
“***k them if they can’t take a joke.”
Which would, of course, offend those to whom the rhetoric is intended.
It would be nice if everyone got over themselves and comedy returned to being funny, not venomous or vulgar.
Stay tuned. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing back to center and genuine humor can be enjoyed again.
Image: By David Shankbone – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5862063