Every decade or so comedy itself changes. Things that were funny 10 years ago are nostalgic but they don’t scream that phrase which is now a staple in the comic community – now THAT’S awkward.
Zingers are now a thing of the past. Punchlines are out the window. From the awkwardly nerdy Liz Lemmon of 30 Rock and – of course – the awkwardly idiotic Sarah Silverman entertainment has embraced this off the wall style as it’s new standard. They take their every day lives and accentuate the odd and embarrassing points, you know, like the missed hug/handshake scenario, the “near kiss” which always leaves them humiliated, sacrifices in personal hygiene… oh and don’t forget general poop and pee potty humor. Just a few years ago this was alternative comedy. Just as alternative music did, the alternative style has become the standard. It seems like “alternative” is only an alternative until EVERYBODY chooses it.
So why is awkwardness so funny? It’s no longer cool to be *cool*, if you’re not mal-adjusted or somehow uncomfortable with society you simply aren’t fun. Even in our day to day we all seem to embrace and capitalize off uneasiness. Every story we hear or tell is about something going slightly askew, just enough to make us at least slightly uncomfortable.
Lately I’ve been addicted to NBC’s 30 Rock and seriously it’s one awkward moment after the other. Switch over to my favorite all time show, Roseanne. Why was Roseanne funny? Every line was a insulting, offensive, and degrading. In other words hilarious. It’s not as much fun to seriously rip on people anymore, it’s more fun to say stupid stuff like “Yeah your face!” or other trite expressions dug up from our childhoods.
It’s like retro humor of things that weren’t funny when they were new. 80’s video game t-shirts. Oddly simple hairdos. STAR WARS. Pretty much anything that screams 80’s kid, even the insults as long as they’re somewhat out of context. It’s not nearly as entertaining to hear Chris Tucker rip on someone’s mom, but watching Tina Fey as Liz Lemmon rip on someone’s mom with Alec Baldwin as her boss Jack Donaghy standing right behind her. Now THAT’S awkward.
But skip back nearly 50 years ago. Bonanza. The episode: Hoss and the Leprechauns”. The episode starts with Hoss Cartright with a strongbox full of gold which he claims he got from leprechauns. In reality the leprechauns turned out to be a band of carnival midgets that had run away from their oppressive boss. CARIVAL MIDGETS! Now THAT’S awkward.
Really, we must give credit where credit is due. There would be NO SUCH THING as awkward comedy without it’s before her time creator, Lucille Ball. Now that woman was awkward, always avoiding Ricky’s iron fist… I think that’s why she is so timeless, she embraced so many different kinds of comedy that she didn’t even realize she was embracing that it can be taken in different context no matter what the current trend in comedy is.