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What's So Funny About Cruelty, Insensitivity, Vulgarity, Obscenity, Sleaze And Raunch?

March 16, 1986

Randy Lewis suggests that hostile comedy is primarily the ken of aspiring comics rather than the "pros" ("The Ugly Side of Comedy," March 9).

Apparently, Lewis has not listened to such pros as Carson, Rivers or Rickles who make jokes about women, minorities, gays, obesity, physical handicaps, mental illness, female promiscuity, old age (in females), ex-wives, ad nauseam. The latter two not only insult society at large, but also pick out members of the audience to insult and humiliate.

Truly great comics need not dump vituperations all over their audiences. Mort Sahl's treatise on suburbia and crab grass and George Carlin's agonizing over packing his "stuff" are terminally hysterical and there is not an insult in the lot. Bill Cosby doesn't need to insult anyone to get a laugh.

In all societies jokes are used as a means of discussing and expressing socially sensitive subjects and attitudes. The humor of hostile comics reflects their personal values and is a clear indication of their own prejudices, animosities and attitudes as well as those of society.

Nega-comics have been around for a long time. Unfortunately there now seem to be more of them--a function of supply and demand in a society that becomes increasingly antagonistic, confrontational and litigious.

D. RICHTER

La Jolla

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