June 10, 2023

American Bystander brings you Michael Gerber’s glorious essay on sick humor. Gerber displays on the current loss of life of “sick” cartoonist Sam Gross and the rise (and fall?) of the style explored by Lenny Bruce, Mad Journal, David Letterman, and Ren & Stimpy.

So roughly ten years after TIME launched its well-known tsk-tsking of Lenny Bruce and others as “Sickniks,” three Harvard boys made Sick humor’s collegiate lineage overt by founding The Nationwide Lampoon. In his magisterial Going Too Far—a e-book you need to most undoubtedly learn for those who’re nonetheless studying this—Tony Hendra refers to NatLamp as “over-the-counterculture.” And so it was, till in 1975 SNL upped the ante, turning Sick humor right into a purely industrial transaction. No matter else SNL turned later, at its delivery it was pure Sick humor. “I want to feed your fingertips to the wolverines,” stated Mr. Mike in SNL‘s first chilly open. The sketch ends with O’Donoghue’s character having a large coronary heart assault…which the immigrant Belushi mimics. Who writes a joke like that? Who thinks a sudden coronary heart assault is humorous? Individuals who haven’t got them—i.e., younger folks. Sick humor is nice, however it’s a youngster’s recreation, and for all of the truths that it could reveal, the revelations introduced by outdated age and infirmity are past this type. The clock was ticking.

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