When I was a kid, comedy albums were all the rage. Shelley Berman, Bob Newhart and, of course, Bill Cosby all had a place in my parents record cabinet, hauled out on Saturday night, once the adult’s party in the rec room was in full swing and everybody was tired of dancing.
I often sat on the basement stairs in my PJs laughing along with routines we had all heard a hundred times but still loved hearing again.
There was always somebody in the crowd who wasn’t familiar with the jokes and it often felt like there was as much enjoyment in sharing in their discovery as there was in hearing a beloved quip one more time.
In my teens, Bill Cosby came to town and I managed to score a front row seat. Much of his act was from those years old albums. But the laughter was as genuine and appreciative as if it was all brand new.
There weren’t a lot of comedy venues back then. Some of the big names toured their own live shows but most stand-ups were either the warm up act or inserted in front of the curtain while the next act set up or the last stripper picked up her sequins and feathers.
Now, comedy is everywhere. Every city has at least one comedy club. There are entire networks where stand-up is available 24/7 and the jokes told in those places turn up on Youtube virtually before the laughter they elicited has died out.
Some comics, most frequently Canadian Russell Peters, have bemoaned the pressure this puts on them to come up with new material. And maybe that’s a valid beef.
But I still find myself stopping the remote or turning up the volume on the satellite radio when Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan. Kathy Madigan or Larry The Cable Guy launches into a bit I’ve heard many times before.
Maybe it’s the joy of watching how the joke is constructed or the mastery with which an audience is worked. But sometimes funny is just funny no matter how many times you’ve heard the punchline.
One of my current favorite comics is Dov Davidoff, whose chaotic stage presence belies a studied mastery of the craft. Even if you’ve heard it all before, it’s still good to laugh.
Enjoy Your Sunday.