16 Dead Serious Facts About Comedy Itself
We decided to take a close look at comedy this week—unfamiliar territory for us, we know. That meant going really far into the old history of comedy, not just 1910 old but also fourth century old and even ancient Sumer old. But it also meant looking at shows like The Simpsons and South Park and stars like Danny DeVito and Paul Rudd.
Guiding you all at comedy, we dove deep into the process of standup, including how to write jokes, common mistakes, and how to decide if you’re funny at all. We also interviewed Happy Gilmore director Dennis Dugan for some sweet Bob Barker gossip and found out what happens when comedy gets you in trouble, like when it’s literally illegal.
Here's a look back at the facts we learned this week. These short summaries are not meant to be appreciated by themselves—each one links to a full article we put out this past week with much more info, so click every one that interests you, or we’ll pull you onstage for audience participation hour.
1. Bob Barker had a stunt double for the fight in Happy Gilmore ... but he didn’t use him.
He turned out to be up for anything, including a last-minute swear, the director of the film told us.
2. You’ll have trouble watching South Park’s episodes mocking Family Guy today.
The trilogy has been pulled from streaming ... due to the subplot over depicting the Prophet Muhammad (who never appears in the episodes anyway, thanks to Comedy Central rules).
3. A 1965 joke got a comedian canceled (for two weeks).
Soupy Sales jokingly asked kids to dig money out of their parents’ wallets and send it to him, and parents were not pleased.
4. Comedy is tragedy followed by a third act.
5. Hans Moleman's Man Getting Hit By Football in The Simpsons predicted today’s humor.
It commented on low-brow humor of the time, but it unintentionally foreshadowed the quick, surreal video clips that would be so popular decades later.
6. A comedian won an election by promising Nutella.
Jacob Haugaard ran every year on a joke platform (offering to improve the weather, class up Ikea), till one year, he actually won.
7. The first recorded joke was about farting.
Said this ancient Sumerian engraving: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
8. A slapstick was an actual stick used in the theater.
9. Danny DeVito really gobbled a raw fish for Batman Returns.
Nothing weird about that, he said. “Like nobody’s ever had sushi? It’s the same thing.”
10. An emperor was murdered over a roast joke.
At a feast, Xiaowu joked that he should replace his concubine, as she was almost 30. That night, she smothered him to death with his pillow.
11. It was illegal to joke about President Canaan Banana.
The first president of Zimbabwe knew his name was ridiculous and did not like people making fun of it.
12. Paul Rudd farted in bed during This is 40, and they left it in.
13. Lincoln died laughing, and it was planned that way.
Booth was familiar with that night’s play and chose to make his move during a notable laugh line.
14. The Simpsons Movie planned to bring back supervillain Hank Scorpio.
That didn’t pan out, and they wrote a new villain (voiced by the same actor).
15. Standup comedians are paid basically the same now as they were 30 years ago.
They’re paid by the minute, which sounds pretty cool, until you realize you might perform for only a couple hours total all week.
16. In the 1910s, a prankster used bald men to sneak a swear word into a play.
Their heads spelled the word out, when the overhead lights hit them.