tv The History of Comedy CNN December 4, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PST
shames quote managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac for the furor's only. there's no words to describe how much i love that anecdote. edward shames was 99 years old. phil mattingly is back tomorrow night. have a great night. now, i don't know if you get all the news here in nashville, but i may say something that's very upsetting to my of you. >> the good thing about doing topical comedy is you look like you're more intelligent than you are. >> let's go to the news and see what we can unfurrow there. >> you have to be smarter than the first thought that everyone had. >> i'm being told that i don't have an ear piece. >> if something happens at 3:00 in the afternoon, and you're going on stage at 8:00 at night,
and you can turn that into a joke, it's a high. >> sometimes when i'm at home late at night on twitter, i think of something, and i say i could end it all right now with these two little thumbs. >> north korea conducted what they claim was a successful test of their biggest nuclear warhead yet. i'm glad they're finally figuring that out.
would someone tell kim jong un they like his glasses and he looks great whether it comes to comedy, you look for something people know about or are talking about, and 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 same time. >> you know, they reintroduce the mcrib every year, it's not big news. >> the power of topical humor is everybody's on the same page. it's already primed and they're laughing already, then your joke has rocket fuel in it. >> the best comedy feels novel, like you have never heard it before. the things that are happening in the headlines give rise to brand new jokes. >> we're bringing you this important bulletin from the united press. white house announces sdjapanes attack on pearl harbor. >> world war ii, it was natural that the biggest comedian in america would participate in the
war effort. >> i would like to stop the show for a few minutes, and explain exactly why we're here. we want you to 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 that the vaudeville rhythms, joke telling rhythms. >> this is bob hope, telling each nazi 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 in a marilyn monroe calendar isn't a luxury, tit's
necessity. >> that topical kind of monologue was something that was brand new. it seems like a simple thing, but that's what bob hope really innovated. >> it takes a lot to mount a big show, long hours into the night, constantly revising the script, revisions necessary from last minute changes in a changing world. >> bob hope was the first guy to utilize a staff of writers to give you topical material of the day. >> he really did invent the idea of the comedian being the head writer, the managing editor and having a bunch of writers. >> the traditionins of stand up comedy in the 50s were derived from vaudeville. those performers like bob hope had nothing more on their mind than just getting laughs, and that was plenty. the guy who really came along and changed all that was mort saul. >> richard nixon is running for governor of california. i realize, some of this material to be topical, he'll be running
something no matter when this show is on, so sorry. >> mort sahl was the first person to talk like a human being on stage. he did for comedy what james dean and marlin brando did for acting, he humanized it. >> the soviet spaceman was invited to lunch by the queen, as you know, put your minds at rest, i probably will not say anything about the queen. she hasn't mentioned me, actually. >> 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 know, you got to always balance your humor or you're going to orchd somebody, mort did not care. >> i'm intolerant, 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 a victim o. f the news. >> the country was ready for something different. it's almost like mort sahl led a revolution that people didn't know they needed. >> are you a bad guy. >> i'm a western union messenger, sometimes there's bad news in the wire. >> mort sahl influenced lenny bruce, richard pryor. bob hope with his large writing staff influenced the format of the late night comedy shows. >> here's johnny. >> it's going to be a good night, i just saw bob hope backstage. we were talking, 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. >> you were looking for not just a take on the news but the actual news because i wasn't reading anything other than the sports and comics, johnny carson is where you would go.
>> i saw the headline in the "national enquirer" this week and the headline article was how eating the right foods can increase your iq. isn't that risky for the inquirer? they could lose all of their readership. >> johnny carson would mock something in the public eye, everyone 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 he said maybe he'll want top autograft my thriller album. >> he wanted to hear what johnny said about anything in the news. you don't care what other comedians say but you want to hear what johnny said. >> 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
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steps down tonight. >> 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, is due 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. don't matter to me. >> 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
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. you know. >> 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. 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. because 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. you know, just some bizarre offbeat thing. so you're not going to just get 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. comedy of character and personality, then a great joke teller. let's see face it, 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. >> 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. 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. it's innovative. my go to toothpaste is going to be pronamel repair.
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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 you can do so 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 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 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 go 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 kind of a parody of a newscast, and it was a joke basket, is what it was, you know. but it became sort of 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 day parade was yesterday, and for the first time in the parade's history, a homosexual contingent marched. so it is a gaelic thing. >> now, every anchor has brought their personality to it, so it's this thing that is 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. 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 arrives 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 needed more time with his family. after spending more time with his family, he quickly decided he hadn't had enough of the nba grind. >> when jon took over "the daily show ", it was a much more
different 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 convention 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. >> 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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police and fire units are 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 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 late night shows
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 cities institutions up and running sends a message that new york city is open for business. "saturday night live" is one of our great new york city 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 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 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 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 amazingly 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. 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. >> 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. thafts that 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. the new sensodyne repair and protect with deep repair has the science to show
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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 got to say, 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 o'brien and she told a joke, it offended certain members of the asian community -- >> trevor noah went from relative obscurity to landing a prestigious post in late night tv. >> 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 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.
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
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 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. >> can there be a case where if you 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 things funnier. >> 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. policewoman ronamel repair.
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. i'm going to talk about something that splits the crowd a little bit. gun control. don't get excited because the other people have guns. >> when you bring a topical subject that's about timing, it's whether it's in the zeitgeist. >> and people are going to tap into it. >> the main thing is i need it for protection, i need to protect me, i need to protect my family. really, is that why they're called assault rifles. >> we like to do funny stuff that creates a stir, and anytime you can see that lead to some sort of change, you know, you just kind of keep your mouth shut and walk away. >> you're on 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 you all are used to here in stewford heights. i just need you to go with me on this one. >> but coach, we play football. >> my team, my rules. you don't like it, don't let the door rape you on the way out. >> good comedians talk about stuff that boltsthers them or interests them, then you can be passionate about it. >> thank you so much. joe, thank you so much. partial birth abortions aren't a thing. thank you so much. >> we cover, you know, 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 of what you're seeing are people who care about the world being unafraid to bring that into their comedy and saying do i care about this stuff, it really matters and if i do, that's fair game for comedy too. >> john oliver has come out of the john stewart mold of just having, you know, a great specific sense of humor. he does cover a lot of the week's topics from his point of view, and turns the show into one topic, which is kind of great because no one is doing long form tonight. >> our main topic tonight concerns death. i would like to talk to you about drugs. >> our main story is income inequality, whether you're currently paying for hbo or stealing it. >> more than ever, comedy is a way to hold people's attention while you tell them important
truths. >> i'm not saying the irs is a likable organization but not everything that's important is likable. think of our government as a body. the irs is the anus. it's nobody's favorite part, but you need that thing working properly or everything goes to [ bleep [ real quick. >> the comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that -- >> do you see that this is happening. we didn't make this up. this wasn't a funny idea that we had. this is what's happening. >> the constitution isn't the star in super mario brothers. it doesn't make you invincible so you can just do whatever the b bleep you want. >> it's embarrassing to have someone explain how things like health care work. >> it's less than ideal, certainly. >> comedy brings awareness, it's a practice of noticing, and there is an effect with john oliver because he's actually creating change. >> the vanity fair new
establishment says oliver has established himself as perhaps the most disruptive journalist on television. >> so 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 everybody else is missing, and once they're illuminated, they're very difficult to ignore. >> you say you want to make people laugh more than anything else but it's got to be gratifying that you have also made people think. >> i guess so. i guess so. that's a by-product, but, you know, the main thing we're doing is comedy, so if you get to the end of a joke and someone is just thinking, you have failed. >> he probably would hate that there's something called the john oliver effect. he's really all about doing a really tight, well-researched comedy show, and beyond that, it's out of your control. >> 39 states hold elections for judges, and america's virtually alone in doing this. in fact, there's only one other country on earth that does it on
this scale. you can 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 was worth the trip in, wasn't it? >> so many things that are going on just seem so crazy. you feel so powerless so the comedian that deals with topical issues, they're giving people who are voiceless a voice. >> i'll be honest with you, it looks like i'm not going to get the tonight show. >> what's the comedian's take on that election, what's the 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 the right condition, and you acknowledge what just happened, it's a beautiful thing.
>> the fact that you could take something dark and make light of it is one of the few super powers people have. >> you remember when a laugh steered you back to sanity and comfort. all of the awful things in the wo world, if they can be mocked, then you can handle it. >> what about the adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy? >> i don't think there's a formula for any of these things, so when people contemplate whether something has been enough time or is it too soon or not, again, you cannot generalize. >> there's some topics that you can never talk about forever, you know, you don't talk about the holocaust, never. >> what do you get whether you cross the titanic with the atlantic, halfway, now if i had said that in 1912, people would go, hey. >> funny is funny. it doesn't matter. >> i think i got an aids laugh today, but then there's things like prince dying, three days.
>> the bar has always been like, are you funny or are you not funny. >> john denver dying, you can joke about it that afternoon. >> people can do the cliches about timing and tragedy, and all that, but i think you have to have a level of discomfort. i don't know if you have seen me with anderson cooper, but i count on his discomfort. >> you're doing a jon benet routine in boulder, colorado, you better be nailing it. my first announcement is one i think you've all been waiting for. >> lying and bull, and flip-flopping since the beginning of time. >> i'm the best. only i need to understand. >> i am mostly pissed off that not enough people are
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