Saturday, September 12, 2009
Brace yourself: Jay's better than Dave
I’m about to write a paragraph that has the potential to alienate the three or four readers who look to this little corner of the internet for cutting edge direction.
I can’t wait for Jay Leno’s return. I missed him. I think he’s funny. I’ll take him over David Letterman any day of the week.
Now, for those of you who haven’t already deserted me for more hip commentary, let me explain:
At the end of a long day of work and tending to family responsibilities, I enjoy a little laughter.
(I put that bit about “ . . . after a long day of work/family responsibilities . . .” in there specifically for my long-suffering wife, who’s entitled to a little laughter herself.)
Maybe there was a time in my life where I demanded comedy challenge me with cutting edge intellect, but I doubt it.
I don’t need comedy to be complex or layered. I just need it to be funny.
Laughter with me is a more reflexive function than even when some doctor strikes me on the knee with that odd little hatchet-shaped hammer with the earth-toned rubber triangle.
I don’t want to know why I laugh. I just want to laugh.
Jay’s jokes make me do that. I laugh out loud when he tells them.
Or maybe with late night comics, it comes down to one of the least funny disciplines known to man. Maybe it comes down to simple math.
Dave’s monologue is stingy. He’ll do maybe 10 jokes to start the show. He wraps them around bug-eyed facial expressions meant, I guess, to punctuate the jokes. The jokes are funny. Dave isn’t.
In the 12 or so minutes it takes Dave to tell 10 jokes, Jay will fire off about 30 and -- this is key -- they make me laugh.
I guess in the eyes of the uniform opinion of our nation’s top coastal-based television critics that makes me the kind of bib-overall wearing, Mid-West rube who supports things like farm subsidies.
His most ardent fans say they revel in Dave’s attitude and I’ll give them that. He’s got plenty of ‘tude. Unfortunately, it’s the kind Clint Eastwood’s character displays in the fine film, “Gran Torino.” I turn Dave’s show on and I think he’s going to ask me and my wife to get off his lawn.
I don’t know whether this beloved and wildly successful man still has unfulfilled ambitions about his standing in relation to Johnny Carson, but he doesn’t look like he enjoys his job. At this point, he looks impatient to conclude his show and, in fact, his career.
If Jay’s ratings tank -- they won’t -- he looks like he’d go door-to-door telling jokes for canned food donations. It makes me feel comfortable watching someone having so much genuine fun at what they’re doing.
To be fair, I need to give you some examples of what else I think is funny and what I think is not.
Ben Stiller in “Meet The Parents” (just the original) is very funny. Ben Stiller in “Something About Mary” is not.
Old newspaper columns by Mike Royko are still funny. Ones by Dave Barry are not.
The Coen brothers movie, “The Big Lebowsky” and “Raising Arizona” are funny. The Coen brothers movies “Burn After Reading” and “Barton Fink” are not.
I love Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” because so much happens that's so damn funny. That's why I remain confounded by Heller’s “Something Happened” because it’s not funny and nothing did.
Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Chris Rock and Mike Myers from the early 1990s were hilarious and hands down the funniest cast in SNL history. Despite occasional flashes of brilliance (Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin), Will Farrell and the vast majority of the rest of the roster aren’t at all funny and make me happy I fall asleep before they crank up their noisy tedium.
We live in times so divisive we are compelled to choose between things like late night talk show hosts. I don’t know why I can’t enjoy both Jay and Dave, two gifted comics who stand head and shoulders above the myriad pretenders to their thrones (excluding the funny Craig Ferguson). But since I have to pick, there you go.
Oh, and one more thing.
One of the blogs I posted in the last month was really funny.