Even Charlie Sheen Knows Gross Does Not Equal Funny

So as I was watching Piers Morgan interview Charlie Sheen on CNN the other night with a mixture of horror and awe, I thought the beleaguered actor made a good point. Wait!! Bear with me, OK?

Morgan kept trying to insist that “Two and a Half Men” was a family show, and that Sheen was some kind of role model. Sheen replied (paraphrasing here) that the show’s writing was juvenile and crass (I believe he used the word “gross”), and besides, it’s about a womanizing boozer, so how is that a family show? Out of the mouths of Sheens… Since when is a sitcom that relies on hooker jokes and bathroom humor in the same category as “The Middle”?

But this is not a beef about the values being promoted on primetime television. (Though as the mother of 2 little boys, that is a concern.) MY problem is with what’s being fed to us as funny these days.

It’s no secret that I like to laugh, and that I enjoy watching, reading, and writing humor. Certainly, humor is subjective. I’d say I’m more aware of that than most. I can tell you from teaching many sessions of my essay-writing classes that there are tons of David Sedaris and Tina Fey fans out there, and that most of my students aspire to be funnier writers. (While there’s no formula, I have offered some advice about how to write humor in the past.)

It’s discouraging to me that so much of what claims to be humor nowadays just isn’t funny. I can vaguely remember when, in its early days, “Two and a Half Men” was actually clever and well-written, not formulaic and cringe-worthy. But I guess Hollywood sticks with what works. At the gym this morning, I read a funny article in the Feb. 25 issue of Entertainment Weekly about the formula for Adam Sandler movies. It went something like: equal parts middle-school humor, boobs, and immature man-boys who dress like college kids.

Look, I get it. I’m not the target audience for “Two and a Half Men” or Adam Sandler movies. But can we all agree it takes a little more brains and creativity to be truly funny? On TV, I’m currently enjoying the upbeat Amy Poehler and her quirky cast on “Parks and Recreation” and the way “Modern Family” captures the frustrations, sweetness, and yes, humor of family life. (See: the episode where Cameron cries, “It’s like Twilight around here!” when toddler Lily goes through a biting phase.)

In print, I laughed out loud at Colson Whitehead’s “I Scream,” an essay about one man’s hatred of ice cream that I recently read in the anthology Eat, Memory. And on a less cerebral level, I enjoyed Sophie Kinsella’s Mini Shopaholic. (Again: funny stuff about wild toddlers.)

So tell me, what do YOU find funny? And what are your thoughts on Charlie Sheen? (Kidding… although this post on the subject by a dad and ex-addict is worth a read.)

LAUGHS O’ THE WEEK: The other day my 4yo dropped something and shouted, “Oh, pickle juice!” Ha!

While watching the Academy Awards last Sunday, C. made a Freudian slip when he referred to the Oscars as “The Awkwards.”

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: Next session of “Personal Essays that Get Published” starts next week! Prices go up next time, so don’t miss out. Students from every single class are getting published and paid for their writing,even if they never have before. I’m so proud!


Mrs ebrahim said…

I agree with you, and I too find "parks and recreation" funny and a joy to watch.

pauline said…

What's funny? I think *I'm* hilarious. But there's that damned subjective thing again. Oh? You agree with me? See? I knew I liked you.
What else is funny? When Buttercup dropped an F Bomb at 18 months as she yawned to say she was tired…which is what I had done exactly 5 seconds earlier. Crass? Why thank you.
Charlie Sheen? Don't even get me started on that train wreck of a media frenzy.

Loukia said…

I am completely obsesssed with Modern Family! It's the funniest show ever and makes me laugh out loud every since week without fail. LOVE IT!

P.S. I can't stand Charlie Sheen and the talk about him lately. I simple do not care about him at all!

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said…

I like Modern Family too. I need to watch it more, however. (I'm one of those bizarro people who doesn't have a DVR. Plus, my better half usually has the remote while I have the laptop, so I bet you can guess what shows are usually on at our house.)

As far as funny, I LOVE Arrested Development. When it was airing on Fox I did not get it at ALL. But now we have the box set, and it's probably one of the most well-written, smart comedies I've ever seen! You have to watch an episode or two get the brain attuned to the humor. 🙂

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