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tv   The History of Comedy  CNN  December 22, 2019 8:00pm-9:00pm PST

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[ laughter ] >> it's a funny thing. i never thought about how to find humor here. i thought, how do i not find humor here in i feel humor is a way to diffuse things, to take the air out of something. >> it doesn't have to be tuesday for me to eat tacos. i don't need somebody to tell me that today i can have tacos. >> white people will ask me how are you friends with so many black people? i said, i don't know. it's weird. i just treat them like human beings. >> people go, do the indian accent. you can't. you have to physically become the indian accent. like, i'm talking to you like this, but if i had to change, suddenly my body has changed. my hands, eyes, everything is different. >> we have to morph. and that's really what it's about. you know? now i might not get on the news here in nashville. but i may say something that's very upsetting to many of you. >> the good thing about topical comedy is you look like you're more intelligent than you are. >> well, let's go to the news and see what we can unfurrow there. >> have you to be smarter than the first thought that everyone had. >> i'm being told that i don't have an earpiece. >> if something happens at 3:00 in the afternoon and you go on stage at 8:00 at night and you turn that into a joke, that's part of the high. >> it would be weird if i didn't make a joke the day of a tragedy. >> sometimes late at night on twitter, i think of something and say, i can end it all right now with these two little
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thumbs. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> north korea conducted what they claim was successful test of their biggest nuclear warhead yet. congrats to them. that's great. i'm glad they're finally figuring that out. that's really -- will someone please tell kim jong-un they like his new glasses and he looks like he lost weight so he doesn't kill everybody on the west coast? >> when it comes to comedy you look for something that people know about or are talking about, and you want to give your take on it. >> when you do topical humor, it goes right to the brain and the heart and the stomach all at the
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same time. >> you know, they reintroduce the mcrib every [ bleep ] year. it is nothing new. >> the power of topical humor is everyone is on the same page. they are primed. they are laughing already. so your joke has rocket fuel under it. >> the best comedy is novel, like you've never heard it before. and the things that are happening in the headlines give rise to brand-new jokes. >> we interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the united press. flash, the white house announces japanese attack on pearl harbor. >> world war ii was the most uniting war in the history of the united states. so it was natural that the biggest comedian in america would participate in the war effort. >> i'd like to stop the show for just a few minutes here and explain why we are here.
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we want to you buy extra war bonds. >> when the war started, bob hope became the voice of america. people turned to him to make jokes about what was going on. he was not the first topical comedian. but what bob did was take that topical monologue and add to it the vaudeville rhythms, the joke-telling rhythms. >> how do you do, fellows? this is bob "command performance" hope telling each nazi that's in russia today that crimea doesn't pay. >> it was a very dark time, generally. but bob could always shrug his shoulders and say, well, let's tackle this. all right. let's talk about it. and somewhere in talking about it, he'd find a laugh. and boy, that helps. >> up here, a marilyn monroe calendar isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. >> that topical kind of monologue was something brand-new. it seems like a very simple thing but that's what bob hope really innovated. >> it takes a lot to mount a big show. long hours deep into the night, constantly revising the script.
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revisions made necessary by last-minute changes in a changing world. >> bob hope was the first guy to utilize an actual staff of writers to give you topical material of the day. >> he really did invent the idea of the comedian being the head writer, managing editor, and having a bunch of writers. >> the traditions of standup comedy in the '50s were still really derived from vaudeville. those performers like bob hope had nothing more on their mind than just getting laughs. that was plenty. the guy who really came along and changed all that was mort sahl. >> richard nixon is running for governor of california, and i realize sometimes the shows to hit on are all topical. he will be running for something no matter when this show is on, so sorry. >> mort sahl was the first person to talk like a human being on stage. it wasn't schmaltzy. he did for comedy what james dean and marlon brando did for acting. which is, he humanized it.
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>> i have to report to you that the largest news last week was the soviet spaceman who was invited for lunch by the queen, as you know. just to put your minds at rest, i probably will not say anything about the queen. she hasn't mentioned me, has she? >> he just came out with a newspaper. and he reacted in live time to the news as he was reading it. which is a real high-wire act. >> bob hope rather famously said, you've got to always balance your humor or you're going on offend somebody. mort did not care. >> i'm not the most tolerant guy in the world. i'm very intolerant. that's basis of the act. the act is a statement of a lone guy in rebellion. that's why people mistakenly call it negative. it's mainly me. i don't talk about the news, i'm
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a victim of the news. >> the country was ready for something different. almost like mort sahl led a revolution that people didn't even know they needed. >> mort, are you really a bad guy? >> all i am is a western union messenger. sometimes there's bad news on the wire. but that's not my fault. i only work at the office. >> mort sahl influenced this whole generation of coffeehouse comedians like lenny bruce, richard pryor, george carlin. whereas bob hope with his large writing staff influenced the format of the late-night comedy shows. >> here's johnny! >> it will be a good night. i just saw bob hope, actually, as we were walking. you know, it's really a wonderful thrill standing next to one of the greatest comedians in the entire world. and i'm sure bob appreciates it. >> if you are looking for not
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just a take on the news but the actual news, because i wasn't reading anything other than the sports and comics, johnny carson was where you would go. >> and i saw the headline in "the national enquirer" this week. the headline article is how eating the right foods can increase your iq. now, isn't that risky for "the enquirer"? they could lose all their readership. >> johnny carson would mock something that was in the public eye. everybody was in on it. >> he was the most powerful man in hollywood because he could kill you with one joke. >> somebody told vice president george bush that jesse jackson was coming to the white house and george said, oh, good, maybe he'll autograph my "thriller" album. >> you wanted to hear what johnny said about anything in the news. you don't care what other people would say, but let's hear what johnny says. >> a woman in michigan was arrested for soliciting sexual favors -- that's the way they put it in the paper, sexual favors -- for spaghetti dinners. you can't make this kind of stuff up. apparently she never asked a man for money, all she wanted was his -- a spaghetti dinner. my question, technically, wouldn't that make her a
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on "closeup" this morning, the end of an era. after ruling late-95 television for 30 years, johnny carson steps down tonight.
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>> and so it has come to this. i am one of the lucky people in the world. i found something i always wanted to do, and i have enjoyed every single minute of it. i bid you a very heartfelt good night. >> it's certainly true that with johnny out, a vacuum was created. >> a big decision that had the entertainment industry buzzing, this week. that's of course the fate of late-night stars jay leno and david letterman. >> "the tonight show" without johnny carson as the regular host made its debut last night. jay leno emerged from behind the curtain. >> oh, i don't care if you laugh. i got the job. >> look at this. they are getting more press than the president. so start up your remote controls. a late-night race is about to begin. >> jay was a brilliant standup. he continued the tradition of johnny. he had a big group of monologue writers. that was the main writing on that show. he was writing the best topical
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jokes that anybody could write. >> democratic candidate bill clinton said he is also troubled by the amount of sex portrayed on television. clinton said where he comes from sex is a deeply personal matter between a candidate and his campaign volunteers. yeah. >> jay is more bob hope in the sense of set a punch line, set a punch line, he would tap into exactly the best joke of whatever happened that day. >> and because the big story in hollywood is still the fugitive. all right. but enough about michael jackson. >> jay made the jokes the joke. dave was doing the other side of jokes. he wanted the laugh he wanted. >> these last two jokes are the intellectual property of nbc.
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who would have thought you would ever hear the words intellectual property and nbc in the same sentence? >> there was not much emphasis on that monologue for dave. because when we started on late night we weren't allowed to do a monologue. they were calling them opening remarks. if you called them a monologue and there were too many, you would have stepped on johnny's toes. >> now with that in mind, let's continue with the opening remarks. >> it was just a little off. it looked like a talk show, kind of. sometimes he wore sneakers, which was weird. and they talked about the events of the day. to a certain extent. but also more focused on weirdness than on the newspaper. >> dave is passing out ham. >> dave was a very new york-centered show. jay could be monica lewinski and o.j. trial and dave could be like there was a squirrel today in the park. just some bizarre offbeat thing. so you're not going to just get
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monologue jokes about the front page. it's whatever dave wants to do. sometimes it seems like a cable access show, like why is he throwing a watermelon off the building? >> i think that's an important consideration for all of us. and believe me, ma'am, you've come to the right place. >> you don't tune into letterman to see what's going on in the country today. would you have tuned into jay to see that. that's the difference. character and personality, then a great joke teller. >> if you don't like who dave has on and you don't like who i have on, now you can click around, why don't we go back to jay? gee, here's something i might have missed. >> i found they both evolved their style. they came out of the carson thing and first instinct is to kinda sorta do it like that and then their personalities emerge and they did their own versions of it. >> the host plays with the structure. but you need the structure. without it, you don't have comedy. people like when they know what the rules are. then it's what you do with those rules.
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>> how do you begin deciding you're going to be different? >> make no mistake about it, i will be fired from this job. it's just matter of how long it will take. i don't know, i don't really -- i don't think you can invent anything altogether new. >> i'm sure you've heard angelina jolie filed for divorce from brad pitt and of course all the celebrity gossip magazines are claiming victory. you know they broke this story. they broke the story every week for the last 11 years. over and over and over again. >> there are certain things that i don't think will ever go away. people are always going to want to hear jokes about the news of the day. >> this is very exciting for me. i didn't really watch late-night television before i started doing it. then i didn't watch it when i was doing it. i just did things to entertain myself. >> it's a great day for america! >> one of the real problems with broadcast television is trying to make a show, you know, which was a broadcast, which was okay for everybody. that seems like -- it seems almost an impossible job. >> hosting "the tonight show" has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me. i just want to say to the kids out there watching, you can do anything you want in life. yeah.
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yeah. unless jay leno wants to do it too. >> all of them do, some of a news segment, because it's already been established. it's become a way to consume current events. >> this jerk left duffle bags on the street, and two bombs were discovered by thieves snatching bags. because as all new yorkers know, if you see something, steal something. >> there's seriously too many late-night shows. everyone's kind of talking about the same thing. and you're really just trying to put it in your host's voice instead of sounding like everyone else. >> of course i wouldn't be here tonight if it weren't for the "tonight show" hosts so i want to say thank you to steve allen, jack parr, johnny carson, conan o'brien, and jay leno.
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we are delighted to be back as a regular series. but for those of you that wrote in that you hated our pilot show -- wait until you see this one. >> "that was the week that was" was an innovator. that show set forward you could make the current news funny and do it in a hip way. >> with the candidacy of senator barry goldwater, the republican party is on their way back. and who knows, one day it may
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even go forward. >> the insensibility was more tame in a sense. more controlled. more dry. it was witty but wasn't really challenging the power structure. >> our top story tonight, president ford is finally over that stubborn week-long cold -- >> stubborn week-long cold! >> before "saturday night live," everybody was so schmaltzy, "saturday night live" was the first show that came along that had a sensibility of people who had grown up on tv. it was making fun of tv. >> this idea satirizing the news, we needed it. vietnam was going on. we'd just been through watergate. the idea we could laugh at the
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people making the news is a pretty nice formula. >> let's take a look at the top story, shall we? >> anwar sadat buys himself an inflatable child. this story and more coming up on "weekend update." >> "weekend update" initially was about irreverence. it was about a middle finger to the powers that be. >> for on the spot report, let's good live to lorraine newman at the blaine hotel. >> it was cathartic for people who saw the hypocrisy in the establishment. i don't think people took "update" seriously. it was a relief. >> first man to walk on the moon neil armstrong lost a finger when he jumped from a truck and caught his wedding ring on a barn door at his home. while jumping out of the truck the former astronaut was quoted as saying, one small step for man, one giant step for -- oohhhh! aahhhh! >> it was a joke basket is what it was. you know. but it became less and less that way. >> it became more personalized. as it went on. much less about a character doing the news, and by the time you get to dennis miller, it was dennis miller. it wasn't about character, it was about them speaking their minds. >> new york city st. patrick's
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day parade was yesterday, and for the first time in the parade's history, a homosexual contingent marched. so it is a gaelic thing. >> it's a thing that's constant and constantly changing. >> i'm norm mcdonald and this is the fake news. >> times have changed since i first sat behind this desk. for example, i used to be the only pretty blond woman reading the fake news. now there's a whole network devoted to that. >> news is such a joke in and of itself now i can see why things like "weekend update" have survived. the thought of funny news was what made it so appealing back when news was serious. now that news is entertainment, you're watching "weekend update" for news. >> it's probably not great that that transition happened. it probably should have stayed.
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the news should have kept getting better and better. but "weekend update" definitely made a transition into the news. >> there's a growing trend among some parents toward homeschooling children because they believe that mandated vaccinations for public schools are unsafe. this is expected to lead to another new trend, dying of polio. >> they have the opportunity to tap into things that are happening right this second and cutting through the bull [ bleep ] of it in a way that the regular news can't do. >> "the daily show" with jon stewart arrivals on the scene when the traditional evening news is starting to deteriorate. >> let the healing begin, it's "headlines." >> all of a sudden there was what was the beginning of a 24/7 news cycle. you can take the form now because everybody is beginning to understand the form and satirize it. >> in 1993 jordan retired for the first time saying he had enough with the nba grind and needing more time with his family. after spending more time with
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his family, he quickly decided he hadn't had enough of the nba grind. >> when jon took over "the daily show," it was much more driven by pop culture and parody and broadcasting. but over time, jon put his laser focus on real issues. >> welcome to our coverage of the democratic national coverage from boston. it's our first night of coverage. the convention kicked off last night. any network can bring you news as it happens. but here at "the daily show," we have taken yesterday's proceedings and digested it, processed it, broken it down to give you highly concentrated what we call turds of wisdom. >> the news can be so heavy, it can be so intense. it's actually very nice to have someone analyze things from a different point of view. >> he became people's go-to guy to explain the world. you'd watch the news, then you'd watch jon stewart. or you wouldn't watch the news and watch jon stewart. he'd have to remind you, i'm not the news! >> there are a lot of people out there who turn to you -- >> i'm not the news.
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>> well, they -- >> i'm a interpretation. a comedic interpretation. >> to be informed. they actually think that they're coming closer to the truth with your -- >> now that's different thing. that's credibility. >> he was able to show you and make you hear what you wish you would have thought of. oh, man, why didn't i think of that? or, that's hilarious, i never thought of it like that. >> he grew a stronger and stronger conscience then felt a responsibility i think to carry it out. but he always slammed a huge joke in there. >> nothing will change with the same people, the same policy that is got us into this status quo. another latin word, status quo, and it stands for, man, the middle class, everyday americans are really getting taken for a ride. >> that's the kind of talk you normally hear right before the pharmacist says, "ma'am, you've got to leave the walgreens." >> it wasn't really about politics, it was about moral outrage. that's what made the show so --
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being dispatched to the scene as we speak -- >> we have a plane crashed into the world trade center -- >> comedy seems pretty inconsequential in the face of a grave tragedy. the whole tone of course of the country changed and naturally the comedy became difficult. >> there was a time in the days after that where people didn't know what to do. the late-night talk shows didn't know how to behave. there was almost a moratorium on
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comedy. >> it's terribly sad here in new york city. >> naturally the whole tone of these shows had changed. there was very little comedy for the next several weeks. most of those channels booked news people like tom brokaw, not comedians. >> 9/11 was obviously a dark, dark moment for our country. but it was an important moment for "snl." the words spoken at 11:31 every saturday night are "live from new york." this was backyard. so it was almost incumbent ton "saturday night live" to play some sort of role in the nation's healing. the question is, when is it okay to laugh again? >> on behalf of everyone here, i want to thank you all for being here tonight. especially you, mr. mayor. >> thank you. thank you very much. having our institutions up and running sends the message that new york city is open for business. "saturday night live" is one of our great new york city
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institutions, and that's why it's important for you to do your show tonight. >> can we be funny? >> why start now? >> it was that saturday night we decided, okay, you know, we're going to be able to do this again. and they slowly brought us through it. i think it's one of the finest moments in "snl" history. >> live from new york, it's saturday night! >> right after 9/11, i had to fly to new york to roast hugh heffner for comedy central. and we didn't know what was going to happen. >> the question becomes, how do you go about joking again, right? you're living in too-soon territory. >> the one and only gilbert gottfried. >> tragedy and comedy are roommates. if you joke about a tragedy, you're kind of beating the tragedy away. so i did a joke, i said, today
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i'll be using my muslim name, hasin beenlaid. >> there's no black or white answer to when it's time to laugh and when it's time to laugh at. >> i wanted to do a joke that totally is over the line. and i said, i had to leave early tonight, i have to catch a flight to l.a. i couldn't get a direct flight. we have to make a stop at the empire state building. i lost an audience as big as anyone in the history of performing. >> somebody said, "too soon!" and that didn't slow gilbert down. that pushed him to a whole new place. >> the sister starts [ bleep ] the -- >> telling the aristocrat's joke. which is like comedic jazz. it's license to offend just for the [ bleep ] of it. and i remember laughing so hard that i was sort of crying. >> it was just such a release. and it was just what we needed. it couldn't have been a better
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time, a better place, or a better person telling it. >> if you missed any portion, i'll repeat it! >> it absolutely had to be done. somebody had to stand up in front of the comedy community and say, it's okay. when it's not okay. but those words must be spoken. >> god bless you! god bless america! >> i thought what gilbert did that night was heroic, and i think it -- ultimately you could say whatever you want to say about whether it was appropriate or not, it made a lot of people in that room feel very good. and that's that. >> i don't believe in too soon. you want a little secret amongst comedians? the minute someone says something is off-limits, all we focus on is, how do i do jokes about that? >> one of the most striking
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choices in those post-9/11 days and weeks was "the onion." they released an issue dedicated to the 9/11 attacks. so at first this seems like a terrible, terrible idea. but when you look at what the writers of "the onion" did, you realize their brilliance. >> they were able to find some sort of common ground. what are we all feeling? and were able to find humor in that. as opposed to making light of something really terrible. and it was this amaze leg cathartic moment. >> it's a beautiful statement about the human species that eventually we will make a joke about everything. because it means that we are defying depression and loss and death and entropy to live. and time will give you the breath to do that. >> i like to test myself. by joking about horrible things and nothing but. one of my favorite ways to test myself? i like to make jokes about tragedies the day that they happen. i don't believe in too soon. i'm on a tight schedule. >> too soon's tricky.
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sometimes it's too soon. but not if the joke's good enough. if the joke's good enough, it's never too soon. >> everyone has their own version of that. but the comedian does not decide. the audience decides. whether it was acceptable or not. >> another malaysian airlines plane was on -- >> too soon, jay, too soon, baby! >> my problem is, it's not too soon. it's i wish i could think of [ bleep ] faster. >> there is a graph that goes on in my head that, the more offensive the subject, the funnier it has to be. >> so 9/11. what's your stance? >> what's my stance on 9/11? oh, anti. it was a tragedy. i mean, we lost 19 of our best guys.
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>> huh? >> that was a joke. obviously. >> if you giggle, if a guffaw takes place, you're busted. because something made you have that involuntary reaction. >> in a way, life is really hard, yet you have to get back to silly at some point. or life is even harder. >> boy, that boston marathon was scary, man. just think about it. you've been training for a year. you finally get to the finish line and somebody screams, run! that is horrible, man. at t-mobile, we're lighting up 5g, and when you buy a samsung note 10+ 5g, you get one free. plus you can experience it on the nation's largest 5g network. so do this. on that. with us. buy a samsung note 10+ 5g and get one free when you add a line.
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for the benefit of all of you who went to sleep last night, watch this chris rock, arguably one of america's funniest comedians and a former "saturday night live" alumnus, was on last night hosting and he did this monologue, very uncomfortable -- >> you finally get to the finish line and somebody screams, run! >> i can't stand it when the left is always telling people their jokes aren't funny, you shouldn't be allowed to say that, i don't want to put correctness in any of its forms. not funny at all. >> because the news cycle in the internet age demands something fresh and new at all times. frequently a comedian who's commenting on the news becomes the news. >> he said what? "30 rock" star tracy morgan must have rocks in his head. >> sarah silverman was on conan
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o'brien and she told a joke, it offended certain members of the asian community -- >> it didn't take long for his tweets to be condemned. >> everybody thinks you have to be burned at the stake if you've said something that is deemed to be offensive by however many thousand people on twitter decided it's offensive. >> i really think that we're at a point in this country where people really need to take the thumb out of their mouth and grow up a little bit and realize there's a lot bigger problems out there than what a comedian did a joke about. >> i mean, you have to feel the same way about comedy. >> yeah, i do this joke about the way people need to justify their cell phone. i need to have it with me because people are so important. >> right. >> you know, they don't seem
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very important the way you scroll through them like a gay french king. there's a creepy pc thing out there that really bothers me. >> the rise of this new politically correct trend is the cover story in the new issue of "the atlantic" magazine. the protective atmosphere on many campuses has become so charged that comedian jerry seinfeld won't perform for some students. >> they're so pc. they just want to use these words. that's racist. that's sexist. that's prejudice. they don't know what they are talking about. >> an opinion echoed by chris rock. when chris rock, jerry seinfeld, and larry the cable guy say you have a stick up your ass? you don't have to wait for the x-rays to come back. >> people are constantly looking for ways to get offended. yeah, i say things that are offensive sometimes. i'm working. i'm trying it out. >> too soon for the celine dion jokes? there goes my michael j. fox routine. i'm not making fun of michael j. fox.
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that's shaky ground right there. >> a comedy club is like a gym for comedians. it's where people experiment. so it is very dangerous to say you're not allowed to make a mistake. >> danger and risk is part of it. there has to be a little bit of fear. that something could happen. >> this is a clean one! >> the only apology should ever be made for a joke is, i'm sorry people didn't find it funny. because maybe you take a swing and a miss but you should never apologize for having a go. >> they wrote a very nasty article about me with the headline, "you cannot joke about rape." ahhhhh. turns out you can. >> the whole politically correct thing going on right now, i'm happy that it's going on but it's nothing new. every couple of decades there has to be this big ugly let's take it all apart and we see what comes out the other side. >> i caught myself a few years
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ago fighting gay. i say gay like that's so gay. i just think, hey, i have gay friends. i don't mean it like gay. i mean it like it's gay. like it's lame. then i stopped myself and said, what am i fighting? i have become the guy from 50 years ago who said, i say colored, i have colored friends. you have to listen to the college-aged because they lead the revolution. they're pretty much always on the right side of history. people are so afraid of change. and they fight it so hard. but if you can't change with the times, it makes you old. and it makes your comedy stale. comedy isn't evergreen. unless it's poop jokes. poop jokes are evergreen, yes. >> none for you! >> it's not the topic that stinks, it was your joke that stinks. if you make them cringe rather than laugh, then you did a bad
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job. >> i'm all about asian men. they're the best. asian men, no body odor. they just smell like responsibility. >> this language police thing that's going on has a lot of validity, but also a lot of issues. there's a kind of a stirring of the pot. but we don't know what's going to settle. we don't know how the soup's going to taste yet. >> if we don't use the right word for the right ethnic group, the right gender, where people get a little too hyped up about it, yes. but those are exactly the waters that comedy should be traveling. >> i will always change. i will always try to learn the new terms. but you've got to give me some wiggle room. and by the way, if you get hung up on words then you're going to let a lot of evil mother [ bleep ] slip through. because evil people learn the correct terms very quickly. a lot of times, the good guys, hey, they [ bleep ] up a couple of words, but listen to their heart. >> having constraints makes comedy better in some ways because it spurs innovation. >> sometimes when you have to work around something, even for a silly reason, it can make
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things funny. >> i love that they are setting this high bar because comedy will always find a way over it. funny wins. >> people were surprised when i told them i was going to tape my special in san francisco. why would you do that? that's the most politically correct city in the world. not when i'm on stage it's not. how can everyone be the best? well, sprint's doing things differently. they're offering a 100% total satisfaction guarantee. while i think their network and savings are great, you don't just have to take my word for it. try it out, decide for yourself. hurry in for exciting holiday deals and save your family money. get both an unlimited plan and one of the newest phones included for just $35 a month. for people with hearing loss, visit
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subject, it's about timing. whether it is people will latch on to it. >> nothing wrong with saying i like something don't take it away from me. but don't give me this other bull [ bleep ]. i need it for protection. i need it to protect me. i need to protect my family. really? is that why they call it assault rifles? >> what we like to do is do funny stuff that creates a stir and any time can you see that lead to some sort of change, you know, you just keep your mouth shut and walk away. >> bam, you're at a gun show. >> social change is a really nice side effect of being really present and really brilliantly funny. the best comedy is driven by a point of view and a point of view isn't just about their own experience but where someone has something to say. >> now, i'm not sure what you heard about me. but i do things a little different than y'all are used to here.
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i just need you to go with me on this one. >> coach, we play football. >> my team, my rules. if you don't like it, don't let the door rape you on the way out. >> good comedians talk about something that bothers them or interests them. then can you do something about it. >> excuse me. joe? thank you so much. thank you. partial birth abortions aren't a thing. thank you so much. >> you cover really challenging material but it's important to bring it back to comedy. if you for one moment think of yourself as important, you are dead. you are out of comedy. forget it. >> the ethical and religious directives for catholic health care services is a slim volume of 72 medical commandments that fit neatly between a patient and her doctor. >> more and more, what you are seeing is people who care about the world being unafraid to bring that into their comedy and saying, do i care about the stuff that really matters?
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if i do, then that's fair game for comedy too. >> john oliver has come out of the jon stewart mold of a very specific sense of humor. he does cover a lot of week's topics from his point of view then turns the show into one topic. which is kind of great. because no one is doing one form like that. >> our main topic tonight terns concerns debt. i would like to talk to you about drugs. our main story tonight is income in equality. a good way to figure out which side you're on is to figure out if you're paying for hbo or stealing it. >> comedy is way to tell people's attention while you tell them important truths. >> i'm not saying the irs is an likable organization, but not everything important the solution. but not everything important is popular. you need that thing working together or everything goes to [ bleep ] real quick. >> the comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to shot world that --
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to show the world that -- >> do you see that this is happening? we didn't make this up. this wasn't a funny idea we had. this is what's happening. >> the constitution isn't the start in super mario brothers. it doesn't make you invincible so you can do whatever the [ bleep ] you want. >> you teach us about things we should know about. it is embarrassing to explain how health care works. >> it is less than ideal. >> comedy brings awareness. it is practice of noticing and there's an effect with john oliver because he is actually creating change. >> the vanity fair new establishment says oliver established himself as perhaps the most disruptive journalist on television. >> are you aware of this thing called the john oliver effect? >> the john oliver effect is like activism which is funny in nature but at the same time illuminating issues that everyone else is missing. once they are illuminated, they are difficult to ignore. >> you say you want to make people laugh more than anything else.
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but it has to be gratifying that you've also made people think. >> i guess so. >> that's a pleasant biproduct. but the main thing is comedy. if you get to the end of the joke and someone is just thinking, you have failed. >> he probably would hate something called the john oliver effect. he is all about doing a really tight well-researched comedy show and beyond that, it's out of your control. >> 39 states hold elections for judge positions. and america is virtually alone in doing this. in fact there's only one other country on earth that does it on this scale. and guess which? you're wrong. it's bolivia. a country you think about so little, you haven't even realized that's not bolivia. this is bolivia. actually, actually, that's still not bolivia. this is bolivia. or is it? or is it? >> the truth goes down a lot easier when a joke is attached to it. it just does. >> it is worth the trip in,
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isn't it? >> just seems so crazy. you seem so powerless. so the comedian who deals with topical issues, giving people who are voiceless, a voice. >> i'll be honest with you, it's beginning to look like i'm not going to get "the tonight show." >> what comedians take on that election? what's that comedian's take on that hurricane? >> we are speaking on behalf of the consumer. the voter. the victim. >> the joke you'll forget. you'll forget the joke. but if it's the right moment and right condition and you acknowledge what just happened, it's a beautiful thing. >> the fact you can take something dark and make light of it is one of the few superpowers people have. >> you remember when a laugh steered you back to sanity and comfort? all of the awful things in the
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world, if they can be mocked then can you handle it. >> what about the adage that comedy plus time equals comedy? >> i don't think there so formula for any of these things. when people contemplate whether something has been enough time or it's too soon or not, again you cannot generalize. >> there are some topics you can never talk about forever. you know? the holocaust. never. >> what do you get when you cross the atlantic with the "titanic"? halfway. now if i had said that in 1912, people would go, hey. >> funny's funny, man. it just doesn't matter. i think i got an aids last to i think i got an aids last today but things like prince dying. three days. >> the bar has been, are you funny or not funny? >> john denver died. joke about it that afternoon. >> people do cliches about timing and tragedy, but i think you have to have a level of discomfort. i don't know if you've seen me with anderson cooper, but i pounce on his discomfort. >> if you're doing a jonbenet
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routine in boulder, colorado, you better be nailing it. xxx it's amazing there was a time when what you said could get you locked up in the prison. >> i accrued a reputation for being irreverent. >> i cuss gratuitously. but subject is another story. >> are there any subjects not appropriate? people say a good comedian doesn't have to cuss. i say it's [ bleep ] rubbish. >> how dirty is too dirty? >> i don't know. >> what you're about to hear will disgust you. >> you have to do it right. dirty for the sake of dirty. nothing worse than that. >> on the show tonight.


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