The New York Post observes that post-Ramis comedians now flatter the powerful rather than skewer them:
Seventies comedy had a revolutionary undertone. It had a purpose. It had substance. It not only made you laugh, it put the world to rights. It was a snowball with a rock inside it.
How does the massive group diarrhea of “Bridesmaids” do that? What does pie-bonking tell us about society?
Today’s comics have abdicated their responsibility to take down the powerful. They tiptoe around President Obama, but comedy has to be fearless.
These days they’re more at ease mocking their social inferiors than going after the high and mighty. Comfortably ensconced inside the castle that Richard Pryor and George Carlin tried to burn down, they drop water balloons on the unspeakable middle-America drones of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.”
There’s a joke from “The Office” that’s typical of the contempt. Andy says, “I went to a little school called Cornell — ever heard of it?” It’s not a takedown from below but a sneer from above, in tune with Dwight Schrute’s pathetic insistence on his title of “assistant regional manager” when he’s merely “assistant to the regional manager,” and anyway anyone with “regional manager” in his title is a nobody by definition.
Cornell, to comedy elites and graduates of the 15 schools that outrank it, is a near-mediocre brand so lame that only a dope would brag about it. “The Office’s” first and second showrunners Greg Daniels and Michael Schur both went to Harvard, as did writer-actor B.J. Novak. Their colleague Mindy Kaling went to Dartmouth (which also unclogs its nose at the likes of Cornell).
Ramis’ death is a reminder that comedy has gotten too fat and happy, too rich and insulated, too therapeutic and self-adoring, too willing to mistake the meaninglessly crude for the spectacularly subversive.
Even comics who present themselves as the loyal opposition to the political leadership, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, expend most of their effort simply repackaging Democratic Party talking points as jokes. The ’70s hang-’em-all anarchist spirit lives on only in the margins, in a few brave outposts like “South Park.”
It’s as if today’s comedy writers are sitting respectfully, stars in their eyes, as their beloved president sits amongst them like Charming Guy with Guitar in “Animal House,” gently strumming away and singing, “I gave my love a cherry.” If some free-ranging Blutarksyite came up and smashed the guitar, they’d stand up — and pound the rebel for interrupting such a beautiful, magical moment.
Then they’d go back to cracking jokes about those pathetic losers destined for unspeakable middle-management manufacturing jobs because they only managed to get into Cornell.
What happened? My guess is that the Baby Boomers got sufficiently powerful and were too self-absorbed to accept anyone poking humor at them. And they won’t tolerate any comedian who is willing to challenge their particularly bland and all-smothering form of evil.
Plus the more liberal the comedic establishment, the less humor it tolerates. That’s why they’re limited to the One Liberal Joke: “You know this guy? He’s not as smart as we are!”