EXHAUSTING THE RESOURCES: Making the Case for a Moratorium on Comedy

Is there no end in sight to the nation’s comedy binge? Toyota obviously hopes not, having announced plans to sponsor Toyota Comedy Festivals this spring. Still, amid all the talk of cultural change in the nation as a new regime takes power, one can’t help wondering whether the stand-up craze still has legs. Americans managed to amuse themselves and each other for decades before every little burg got a comedy club and every other cable channel became a venue for such performances, so there’s no obvious reason why the fad should last forever. Indeed, since much stand-up material seems designed to shock the grown-ups, the accession to power of a younger generation weakens the flow of easy laughs from that source. And plenty of people, don’t forget, haven’t found the current crop of comedians especially funny in the first place, particularly as the rise of comedy has been contemporaneous with a general coarsening of popular culture. But you needn’t be anti-comedy to feel the comedy boom may have overstayed its welcome. Consider a conservationist view of the matter: The number of really good jokes about the human condition is pretty much finite, and in the past decade we’ve exhausted the possibilities at a faster rate than at any previous time in human history. The hordes of comedians have gone through the reserves of humorous material like a lumber company clear-cutting a forest. Don’t we owe it to our children and our children’s children to leave some jokes untold?
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)