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.

Here goes:

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.

This wasn’t.


Bruce Coltin said...

Joseph Heller had one book in him. He thought he had more. He was mistaken.

lakeviewer said...

Hi. I came in from Gumbo-funny-writer. This here post is funny and informative/opinionated in a generous kind of way. I'm glad to meet you.

Rodell said...

Right on the money, Bruce. I tried nearly all the rest of them and was consistently let down by Heller. But, oh, my, what a gem he produced with Catch-22.

And, welcome aboard, lakeviewer! Thanks so much for stopping by. Always great to make new e-friends!

I hope you both enjoy splendid and relaxing weekends.



Char said...

I prefer Dave over Jay. But Craig Ferguson is the funniest, ever.

Rodell said...

Char, we disagree on this issue, but as you're a long time reader of, I respect your opinion so I'm open to the idea that I might be wrong.


Fine Life Folk said...

I love Letterman. He's talented. god bless him, but I find Jay funnier, too.

bedell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bedell said...

One man's laughfest is another man's snoozetime. Humor is funny that way. I disagree with you, I thought your column was funny. But then I think "Something Happened" is one of best American novels going, next to "Catch-22." As for you cranks willing to kick a dead novelist while he's down, even Heller got it. Someone once taunted him with, "You've never written anything as good as 'Catch 22.'" Heller shrugged his shoulders and said, "Who could?"

Rodell said...

Thanks, Tom. I appreciate your contrary opinion that this column was, indeed, funny. That makes me smile.

I'd read that Heller quote before. Love it! Maybe I hold Catch-22 on such a high pedestal that I felt cheated with "Something Happened." I remember parts of it were genius, but then it just seemed to meander.

Perhaps it's time to, under your recommendation, give it another look through fresh eyes.

Great to hear from you!

bedell said...

"Something Happened" is no "Catch-22" and is, at heart, more tragic than comic. So it's got that not going for it. But it's quite an achievement.

I actually liked "Good as Gold" too, so now you know I'm pretty easy.

Yossarian and company do reappear in "Closing Time" and it's been on my shelf for years. But I haven't yet had the nerve to read it.