The Universal Notebook: The last laugh

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Nothing is funny anymore. My high school buddies Chris and Earl are both dead now, so I will never again laugh as hard as we once did. The closest thing I’ve had to a good laugh recently is watching three John Mulaney comedy specials on Netflix. 

Mulaney, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer, is a combination of Jerry Seinfeld and George Carlin, a self-deprecating, irreverent baby-faced funny man who conjures humor out of everyday life:

“Some of the things I was anxious about as a kid don’t bother me at all anymore. Like I always thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be.”

Mulaney compares Donald Trump to “a horse loose in a hospital:”

“I think it’s gonna be alright in the end, but no one knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse. He’s never been in a hospital before.”

We know now though, don’t we? 

Mulaney looks like a real buttoned-down straight arrow, but I see he is now in rehab for alcohol and cocaine addiction. I suppose that’s bound to happen to comedians when nothing’s funny anymore. Can’t wait to see how SNL tries to make sketch comedy out of a murderous insurgency of idiots. 

When all else fails to amuse, Carolyn and I watch a few episodes of “Schitt’s Creek,” the hilarious riches-to-rags sitcom created by Canadian father-son team Eugene and Dan Levy.

“Schitt’s” is easily the best comedy series since “Seinfeld.” We watched all six seasons and the very moving farewell interviews and then started watching all over again at the beginning. Rich and vain have never been so funny. It’s like the “Beverly Hillbillies” if Jethro were openly gay and Granny was a former soap star.

For documentary entertainment, we watched both “The Last Dance” and “The Last Czars.” The former chronicles Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dynasty. The latter reenacts the decline and fall of the Romanov dynasty. Little did I know when I watched “The Last Czars” that I would be watching current events.

Since the Capitol invasion, I have been watching the kings of late-night comedy – Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon – pillory the seditious Trump lot nightly. I have also been taking refuge in the stand-up comedy of Hannah Gadsby and Sarah Silverman.

Gadsby, who identifies as an Aussie lesbian on the autism spectrum, is hilarious in a harsh, take-no-prisoners way: 

“We know that boys are at the mercy of their hormones. We’re just culturally incapable of holding them accountable for their actions, so we hold women accountable.”

Silverman is the sexiest comedian alive. If Carolyn were to leave me for another man, it would probably be retired Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. She keeps an autographed picture of Wake on the mantel along with one of his balls. If I were ever to leave her for another woman, it would be Sarah Silverman.

Silverman is at once cute and shocking, a killer combination. She is also the mistress of misdirection:

“When I was in high school, I went out with my father’s best friend. (Pause for shocked reaction.) And that’s embarrassing, you know (wait for it), my father having a 14-year-old best friend.”

Sitting on the couch late at night laughing like a fool is such a relief from the relentless doom and gloom of the real world, where if the coronavirus doesn’t get you the Trump mob might.

The operative word here is “fool.” I take no satisfaction in having the last laugh.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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