A friend of mine recently introduced me to British comedy, Black Books, which stars Irish comedian Dylan Moran. It’s a show about a combative and anti-social bookstore owner in England and the strange adventures he gets into with his posse of misfits.
As a fan of English comedy, I fell head over heels in love with Black Books. How could I not? After all, it had the key ingredient that makes every comedy worthwhile: ridiculousness.
In one of my favorite episodes, “Travel Writer,” Bernard discovers his landlord has died and bequeathed her ownership of the building to her cat (Mr. Benson). Bernard then hires an exterminator to turn hitman so he can put an end to the kitty’s rein of tyranny.
I wish more comedies could be like this. Don’t get me wrong, comedy is stupid nowadays, but it’s not that special kind of stupid.
I miss the shows like Monty Python and Seinfeld. They embraced absurdity in their great hairy arms and didn’t give a crap what the critics thought.
Now it seems like comedy resides in one of three camps:
In one camp, you have the Dude-Bro-Comedy wherein the only jokes that are told apply to the lowest common denominator. These comedies include jokes about boobs, sex, weed or other drugs, and gratuitous amounts of body humor.
In another camp, you have the Safe-Comedy wherein you simply tell jokes and plots that have been done so many times before it’s like trying to wear a pair of 30 year-old underpants and pass them off as new.
Finally, you have Societal-Outrage-Comedy, where every joke you tell has to be a way to stick it to The Man (a.k.a old, white, conservative men) or some other sort of issue that people believe needs addressing. The problem with these sorts of comedies is the shelf-life on them is awful. In a mere three years, most of them will be become dated and forgotten.
What happened to comedy for comedy’s sake?
You know, you can be funny without being wildly offensive or resorting to 5th grade humor. It is possible. We have the technology.
You can laugh at something that has nothing to do with politics or the current state of society. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be relatable. It could be wildly ridiculous like a man paying to have an argument with someone:
While many of the jokes used in these shows and movies are ridiculous, they’re also extremely clever in their own right. Unlike some comedies which think their audience is largely comprised of lobotomized baby seals.
Am I an outlier here? Am I the only one that thinks the viewing public deserves something better? Should I just shut up and drink my diet soda?
All I can say is if Netflix removes this British gem, I may lose my mind. Dammit, Netflix, You can take Airplane! by don’t you dare touch my Black Books.