THE DAY THE LAUGHTER DIED (Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis, R.I.P.)

I’m a fan of both men, but I don’t know enough about either to add anything to the deserved encomiums that will doubtless pour forth on the occasion of their passing within twenty-four hours of each other.

I can speak to what their deaths–like those of so many other icons of their generation–represent, which is the continuing drip-by-drip erosion of the common culture. No comedian working today, not even Jerry Seinfeld, will create a similar sense of loss if he/she passes thirty years from now, decades on from the height of their fame.

I can also say that this is related to why neither man would make it today.

Our current Paradise controls public thought so rigidly that Gregory’s sharp edges (“A southern liberal is one who hangs you from a low tree”) would be sanded away as the price of the ticket.

And, paradoxically, the degree of physical license we’ve granted ourselves in the place of thought would render Lewis’ style of anarchy simply confusing. Hell, it was pretty confusing even when there were limits for him to push against.

It matters not that neither man had commanded much of the public space for years and years. The blazing glory of their youth will live on as part of what the future remembers about us.

The good part.

8 thoughts on “THE DAY THE LAUGHTER DIED (Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis, R.I.P.)

  1. NDJ

    LIKE MANY FOLKS MY AGE, I grew up with Jerry Lewis, seeing his solo movies in color, usually at drive-ins or Saturday matinees. I saw his black & white movies with Dean Martin on television. By the time I was a teenager, he didn’t seem funny any longer.

    I think I discovered Dick Gregory as a political figure, only finding out about his career as a comedian afterwards. By then, JFK, MLK, and RFK had been murdered, the riots and Vietnam were daily events, and Nixon was President. So I didn’t (couldn’t?) find his stuff funny.

    I read Gregory’s interviews and his books (even the ones about food and diet) and even bought his albums. He was a rather amazing man.

    And the beat goes on …

    • I confess I liked Lewis is small doses (still do). But I am a fan of Artists and Models–maybe because it had Shirley MacLaine, but still. And one of these day’s I’m gonna get around to watching King of Comedy–maybe now would be a good time.

      Always liked Dick Gregory’s comedy and he was brave when that counted for something. Kinda nutty later on, but then who of us isn’t?

      Still, they pushed envelopes….and those envelopes no longer exist, so I’m sadder about their passing than I probably would be if the world wasn’t doing a slow burn.

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