Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ethno-auto-comedy...: Comedy: Abbott and Costello, "Who's On First"; George Carlin, The George Carlin Collection; Woody Allen, Standup Comic

Today's entry--and I'm coming down to the last few tapes here--is probably not as interesting to historians of the mixtape, since they aren't at all mixtapes. Historians of me, however, will probably cite this blog post to explain my sense of humor. This... not my sense of humor, though I do kind of love it. If you've never heard "Who's on First?", the famous sketch itself involves Abbott identifying baseball players by their ridiculous names; and Costello thinking that Abbott is refusing to answer. And it's only about 8 minutes long, so you might as well go listen to it.

So I rarely listened to this tape and don't think I ever tried to force it on anyone.

And this is probably my dad's, so I'm not sure why I have it.

George Carlin is closer to my sense of humor. This collection from 1984 includes stuff from Carlin's 1970s bits: "Occupation Foole" and "Class Clown" and "Goofy Shit." Which is to say, this is not his later, more political, more satiric stuff. (I once saw him perform live; and though I can't remember any of his jokes that made me laugh, he carved into my memory the arch-political line, "Republicans want live babies so they can make dead soldiers.")

Though even here Carlin is super sharp in his observations and gets a lot of mileage out of dialogue, inhabiting the characters quickly and fully. Most of the stuff I remember is related to his childhood--playing the dozens, trying to stump the priest with arcane theological questions. Though, again, whenever I am invited to board a plane, I remember his line:
Get on the plane? Fuck you, I'm getting in the plane.

Now this is my sense of humor; and this is a collection of stand-up bits that I am sure I have subjected other people to. (Honestly: probably I played this for girlfriends. Heck, this should've been first date stuff. "If you don't like this, we're probably not going to work out.")

I grew up on Woody Allen movies and discovered his writing later and his stand-up even later. It's common wisdom that his movies have shown a lot of variation, from the madcap antics of Bananas and (oh god, how I love) Love and Death* to the character-heavy work of Annie Hall (which still has some madcap to it) and Blue Jasmine (sans antics); but his writing and his stand-up seemed pretty consistent to me, and pretty consistently absurd.

For instance, "The Moose" is a long story about how Allen goes hunting, shoots a moose, but fails to kill it; so he takes it to a costume party, where it loses best costume to a Jewish couple in a moose costume, and so on.

A lot of this stand-up is like that and utterly unlike the observational and personal stand-up that I like now. But I will say that I tried to read one of Allen's stories to my girlfriend a while ago, and I laughed so hard that I couldn't get through it. I'm not sure that I'd find it so funny if I were first exposed to it now; but I think this work formed part of my sense of humor.

*If only for one line: when Woody Allen comes in with an enormously long box for Diane Keaton and says, "You know those earrings you always wanted? The long ones?"

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