Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comedy test: Do you find this funny?

In the past I've raved about THE HONEYMOONERS. This was a sitcom from the early days of television starring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. Usually the comments I receive on this show vary from "this show is a classic" to "what's the big deal over this crap?"

So today I thought I'd try one of my little experiments. Here's a short scene from one of the episodes. Norton (Carney) tries to teach Ralph (Gleason) how to play golf.

I've seen it a thousand times, maybe two. It still makes me laugh. But how about you? Is this truly funny or a product of its time? LOL or lame? I'd love reactions from all ages, especially younger reader (Generation X through Super Bowl XXX). So if you wouldn't mind taking a couple of minutes, could you please check this out, and let me know what you think? Many thanks. There are no right answers. As always, I have nothing to give away. I'm a cheap blog. But together we may just unlock the secret of comedy. Or not and I move on to something else tomorrow.

Thanks again. And awayyyyyyyy weee go!

Update: There's another major point I want to make with this test. Check back Friday evening for that. Thanks.

182 comments:

Steven said...

I laughed when I saw Jackie walk in with his golf outfit but the rest of the okes were based on Norton playing the role of the idiot and misunderstanding what he's being told. I haven't seen any episodes of the show so I can't sat of Norton always acts this way but I'm just not a fan of a characrter who constantly plays dumb to get laughs on a given show.

Ron Rodrigues said...

I first saw that episode probably 40 years ago and I still laugh as hard as I did back then. It's amazing to think of the many ensemble sitcoms that have taken place inside a New York apartment (and I swear Seinfeld's Kramer was inspired by Norton) - and they all point to the Honeymooners. Great comedy is timeless.

Scott said...

I'm 24, and I only laughed once when Norton addressed the ball. I knew that was coming, but just his voice when he says 'helloooo ball' made me chuckle.

It just seemed really fake and obvious. From the apartment to the clothes to the advice in the book, it was cliched 'wackiness'. Obviously back then it was not cliched, it was probably fresh and new.

It could also be I just absolutely hate the joke of someone playing golf dressing up in plaid and wearing a funny hat.

wackiland said...

Love this - think we should start a list of how many shows "appropriated" it - Gilligan's Island, for one (Mr. Howell as Ralph & Mrs. Howell as Norton).

Next?

Angelique Mechel said...

I've tried to like the show since it's such a classic, but I think it's just not my type of humor. Is it a time period thing? I'm sure 25 years from now people will watch shows like "How I Met Your Mother" and feel the same way (although I don't find that show particularly funny either). Having said that, I've now created/written/produced and act in a comedy web series and can I just say I am in awe of the people that do this every week, whether I find it funny or not.

Annie T. said...

Ken, I'm a Gen X'er and I laughed at Jackie's first missed swing and when Norton addressed the ball. I think it stands the test of time.

Angie said...

I love humor and appreciate slapstick, but this clip leaves me positively cold.

brickben said...

I'm 52 and I still laugh at that scene. I think the older fans know the characters so well that what seems goofy to some is funny to us, simply because of the familiarity we have with them. Imagine someone watching one scene from Seinfeld 40 years from now.
But The Honeymooners was the inspiration for a lot of TV from the Flintstones to The King Of Queens.

Jason said...

Gen-X and I'm with Scott. You see these gags coming a mile off, but the delivery of "Hello, ball!" is genius.

benson said...

I tend to agree with Angelique. But also it may be that I have seen it before. But Ralph is not a real likable character. (though, at times, neither was Sam Malone, and yet I loved Cheers and I liked Sam's foibles.)

I'm not sure it's a generational thing. My kids are teenagers and they love the Van Dyke Show, and rolled when I showed the This is Your Life sketch from Your Show of Shows.

I'm thinking too much. Looking forward to hearing others' opinions.

Verna Buffington said...

Verna said....

Many shows from that era held solid interest and foundation for men!. Funny clothes and sophomoric humor doesn't do it for me...never has. I don't like clowns at the circus and didn't like 3-stooges either(I'm hearing the collective "Awe, she's nuts!"
I prefer wit and clever banter... intelligent humor to mismatched clothing and exaggerated ignorance.

Sorry Jackie. Sorry Art. I sure liked some of the other things you did but "The Honeymooners" not so much!
I'll say it for you.... "to the moon".

Sara Ann Stinson said...

I'm 28, and the clip was a big shrug for me. You see every joke coming from a mile away (especially when Gleason has to remind Carney to give him the pin cushion), none of the jokes seem to build to anything, and both characters are so cartoony. Intellectually I know that the plaid and such weren't cliches yet, set design hadn't yet evolved from its theater roots, and audiences weren't as saturated with professional entertainment and probably didn't anticipate the jokes the same way. But none of that reaches my funny bone, apparently.

Sherri Nichols said...

I'm 47, and I, too, laughed as soon as Gleason walked in with his golf outfit. The rest of it was amusing, not so much for the material (which was pretty much obvious from the beginning) but because of Gleason and Norton.

Sean said...

As soon as I saw "Norton" "Ralph" and "golf" I smiled. Late 30s here and grew up in a market that didn't run the Honeymooners until the "lost episodes" were added to the package. Only knew the show from clips and some of the skits done on Gleason's later color show. There's some bits and full episodes I love (this being a favorite), but there are others I'm sort of, "meh." I lean more towards the Dick Van Dyke Show, but if I stumble across it and it is in a scene with Gleason and Carney going into a riff, I can't look away. DVD and Lucy are like set Big Band arangements, the Honeymooners is closer to jazz.

Irene said...

I laughed at this the same way I laugh at my goofy uncles when they tell stories or make fun of each other. It's such innocent humor and I think it's sad that people my age (I'm 22) expect so much more flashiness and shock. I laughed because the characters are so endearing and do/think the kinds of things that I think when I'm being silly and carefree. Classic indeed.

john brown said...

I am 53. I think funny is funny no matter how long ago it was done.

You can tell from the audience reaction how brilliant Art Carney's line is.

Those two were one of the great comedy pairings of all time. And it was live television. They had one chance to get it right and they always did.

I am not surprised that people who think Dane Cook is funny don't get this clip. That is their loss.

uebergeek said...

I'm a Gen-Xer. When I see Honeymooners, I appreciate the show more than actually finding it funny. I grew up watching the Flintstones and countless sketches on 70's variety shows that appropriated this style, before finally getting to see the original Honeymooners - probably in my teens. By that time, the character types and format were already cliches to me. Even though I consciously realize that the Honeymooners' style was fresh at the time, I don't think I can ever get my mind to watch the show as a viewer in the 50's would have.

But having said that, I wonder why I can today watch sketches and shows that appropriate styles from the 70's - 90's and find myself laughing, even though I know what jokes are coming much of the time. Maybe our brains get programmed early in life for the comedy of our own era? Could be a Darwinian survival skill!

Pamela Jaye said...

age 50, mildly amusing.

Gmajor said...

I'm 42, and I smiled throughout, chuckled at most, and laughed out loud at a couple of moments, especially, "Helloooo, ball!", Norton reading the dedication, and Gleason's following the posture instructions bit by bit.

Honestly, the setup of "Ed tries to teach Ralph how to play golf" sold me before I watched the clip, because i'm familiar with the characters already, having watched it as a kid. Would I find it funny coming in cold, having never seen any of it before? I think so, but it's hard to really know for sure.

I'm a pretty easy audience with most comedy, although there's some newer stuff that sometimes makes me feel like I have some kind of autism that prevents me from getting the joke.

Dan Jones said...

Hey Ken. I'm a Gen Xer. -- It seems to me that if you replaced Gleason with David Schwimmer and Carney with Matt LeBlanc this could have been a scene a scene in an episode of Friends where dumb Joey teaches golf to uptight Ross. So I guess I don't think the humor seems dated... just the presentation.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

42 and I love it, but I'm a lifelong Honeymooners fan.

it was cliched 'wackiness'. Obviously back then it was not cliched, it was probably fresh and new.

Funny, that's how I feel about I Love Lucy, in fact I've used almost those same words. Every once in a while there's line, just a line, where Lucy drops the wide-eyed hysterical zany mask and delivers a sarcastic line that makes me think I could have been an LB fan if she'd had better writers, maybe worked in another era.

Love this - think we should start a list of how many shows "appropriated" it -
Can't think of any off the top of my head, but I'd bet money that at least two Garry Marshall shows did.

Alice said...

I'm 18, and frankly, It didn't merit even a chuckle.
It might have been groundbreaking then, but it's clich├ęd now. I've seen those gags a thousand times. They were funny maybe the first 10 times - the next 990, however, were overkill. This was just adding one more to the tally.

Joe said...

I am 29 and I didn't really laugh once. Every joke was telegraphed and obvious. I have never seen this clip, but have seen other clips from the show and agree with the earlier poster who said they appreciated the show more than actually enjoyed it.

Nathan said...

I'm 49 and I'm sure I saw that for the first time before I was 10 (and many times since).

I always laughed when Gleason and Carney were playing off of each other but I always cringed whenever a scene of them interacting with their wives came on. I know the husbands always got their comeuppance, but the whole macho attitude always put me off.

D. McEwan said...

I'm 59 (NOT 60! 59!!!) I didn't need to watch the clip, as I could just close my eyes and see it again, so many times have I watched it.

What I have never done, is watch it without laughing. It's Art more than Jackie that kills me. His physicality was funny then, is funny now, and shall be funny evermore, world without end, amen.

Same with Laurel & Hardy, I can watch a good L&H film (like SONS OF THE DESERT) a million times, and I will always laugh at the way Oliver Hardy moves and gestures, and speaks.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Early '30s, grew up watching Honeymooners when it was still regularly syndicated in my area. I didn't laugh big at this scene except, again, the "Hello, ball," which is Carney turning an easy joke (and none of the jokes here were fresh and new at the time) into something brilliant just by the way he says it.

I sometimes feel like character-specific moments hold up better than jokes that could work equally well out of context; this scene feels like a sketch, and sketches (like stand-up comedy) are often the first to go bad.

Of course some of the bits here undoubtedly work better in the episode as a whole or even the series as a whole -- Ralph's costume, while an old joke, is much, much funnier because of the contrast with his usual costume and the fact that we know he's so desperately trying to dress up as his fantasy of what a golfer should wear. That's why isolating scenes from a full-length episode, even set-pieces like these, makes them seem less funny than they are. (I don't really remember this episode. If I did, I bet I'd fill in the context and laugh more.)

Patrick said...

I went through a HONEYMOONERS faze a while back. These guys are stock comedy characters. The epitomy of the average Joe from Brooklyn. I live and work in Brooklyn, and I can go to work tomorrow and see a dozen funny schmos doing this scene in real life. Very entertaining daily routine.

Every once in a while Gleason and Carney totally knocked a scene to the moon. Often though they were just grabbin' at stuff. Obviously legendary, but not always brilliant. I personally think the "pool cue" scene between the two of them was so much funnier in another episode. The technique of the slow burn was used to it's max in other scenes. They helped put vaudville into modern terms. They definitely set a mark that several generations went for after they did their short stint.

And this is where I start to sound like an alien creature on this planet. But because the name came up twice in previous responses, here goes... I hear so much from so many about SEINFELD. I really honestly never laughed once at any skit from that show. (I actually performed a cruel experiment on myself once, and forced myself to regularly sit in front of that show until I laughed - at something, anything. It never happened, and now I think I'm permanently damaged, I got nothin' from nothin'.) And Kramer was crude and infantile compared to Norton, or any other slapstick character that came before him. I just don't get the constant broo-ha-ha over anything that came from SEINFELD.

So to hear people say that forty years from now, people might look at that show the way my generation looks at the HONEYMOONERS, just feels like an insult to what Gleason established when he took on this routine. And of course I know the story; SEINFELD had the highest year to year ratings, made the most money, largest following, yada-yada. I already admitted that I'm some kind of alien freak who just doesn't get the whole concept (lifted from Beckett btw) of "the show about nothing". But everyone lifts, right? Except most people are too frightened by the thought of a piece of comic construct coming from the likes of good old Sammy Beckett to even consider that Jerry Seinfeld didn't create the whole precept of his show by himself! ... why bother.

I do appreciate the chance to say my humble comic piece here though. And awaayyy I go ...

Matthew said...

Differences in time periods and what people find acceptable. After twenty years of the Simpsons, I do laugh at this kind of stuff, but only when it's animated. And if you've seen this joke on other shows before, it doesn't really matter that Honeymooners did it first; the first show you saw it on will always get credit. Sucks, but that's life.

Also, it may have something to do with how the slapstick is carried out. I still like Dick Van Dyke, but that usually involved Dick van Dyke tripping, usually not threatening another human being. I have nothing but contempt for Ralph. Maybe it's because my father beat both my mother and myself that I can't abide it, but Ralph is a disgusting human being as far as I'm concerned. He should be in prison, not starring on a sitcom.

Homer Simpson and Pete Griffin don't bother me, but I know they aren't real.

Pamela Jaye said...

ended up watching Went With the Wind from the Carol Burnett show, which I haven't seen since, I don't know when (it was a lot longer than I remembered) and thought it was really funny. (and I'm still 50)

Mike Schryver said...

I'm 50. Some of the humor here stems from our knowledge of the characters, so youngsters who've never seen The Honeymooners might appreciate the clip more if they knew the characters better.
I think The Honeymooners is as near to pure comedy as you can get - 4 people in a room, no need for any additives.

I didn't read all the comments, so sorry if I've repeated anyone's ideas.

Anonymous said...

I know both actors are among the best comedians and I think the material was probably appropriate for the time; the Honymooners were among the first TV sitcome after all, but the humor was so broad and crude it played more like a childrens' sketch to me.

Alan Coil said...

I've never seen even half an episode of Honeymooners. It just doesn't interest me. Probably because I can't stand characters that shout all the time. So...not funny.

That shouting thing is why I dislike Toy Story.

Matt said...

Maybe cracked a smile here in there. I would think the same premise today would need more than funny outfits and obvious punch lines. Not to say it wouldn't include those. I believe audiences are more sophisticated...and thanks to shows like this, which may have been fresh at the time, the bar has been raised. And of course in many cases, even today, the bar doesn't even reach this high.

Mike Schryver said...

I just want to add that "Chef of the Future" is one of the top 5 funniest things I've ever seen in my life.

Rebecca said...

I'm 56, so I was watching when the originals were aired. I never really liked The Honeymooners or The Three Stooges. But if it happened to be on, or there was nothing else to watch (in those days, there were only 3 channels, remember?), I sometimes saw something that made me chuckle. And though every single moment here was actually seen a mile away, I did still chuckle once or twice. Having said all that, I adore Art Carney and always have. I don't think Jackie Gleason was likeable enough to have kept that show going without him.

Jerad said...

30 and this is one of my favorite episodes of any television ever! I need to get a copy of the classic 39.

Anonymous said...

I'm 33, male, SoCal native. Adore the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy. Never liked the Three Stooges. Frequently enjoyed "I Love Lucy." Never seen an episode of the Honeymooners. Haven't seen much of Jackie Gleason.

This clip does nothing for me. Paint drying (or, say, Donna Reed, which is not completely dissimilar to paint drying) is more amusing. All of the clothes they wear are odd-looking, so why should the entrance in golf clothes be funny?

Why this show is so revered is beyond me. Wasn't this contemporary with the first season or so of Lucy? It really suffers by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Holy jeebus, I just looked it up and it came four years *after* Lucy. I have a newfound disrespect for the writers involved.

M said...

Not at all funny to me. I'm 27. Sorry, Ken!

John said...

I think modern audiences can relate to, and you get a more favorable reaction out of, the Carney-Gleason end piece from "Better Living Through TV".

The 'Chef of the Future' routine has something people of today can automatically relate to -- cheap late-night TV commercials feature a crappy product that promises way more than it could deliver -- and avoids the angry, bombastic part of Ralph's persona that many people find uncomfortable to watch (the earlier scene between Ralph and Alice over his borrowing the money to buy the handy housewife helpers and do the TV commercial is also great, but the threat of domestic violence at one point -- even though Ralph immediately apologizes -- does take some people out of the comedy mood).

Tim Susman said...

I'm 41. I knew this routine, but I still laughed at Art Carney's delivery of "Helloooo, ball!" The rest of it got a chuckle--"There's something wrong with this club" and the missed swings--but I should say that I've seen Honeymooners eps that did make me laugh.

esme said...

I'm 19, and thought it was dull except (to echo) when he said "hello, ball." The line was delivered wonderfully. On my "Three Stooges to Marx Brothers" slapstick spectrum, I put it more with the Stooges. Too much shtick.

Robin R. said...

I'm 39, and for what it's worth, not an American (I'm Australian): I can't say I found that very funny - amusing, sure, but not hilarious. But I have seen snippets from the Honeymooners before now that I know I've laughed at - so, I don't know: maybe I just don't like golf jokes! (One observation: Gleason and Carney really seemed to be playing to the live audience here, more than the cameras - I guess that's to be expected at the dawn of the sitcom, but as someone who's used to the performance style of later generations of sitcom actors, I found it kind of distracting.)

DwWashburn said...

Ok, either I don't understand props or I don't understand 1950s living areas. When Ralph shuts the window, why does it pop back up a small bit and stay? Is that how houses were ventilated back then?

Ben said...

I'm 37, and think of myself on the very oldest (eldest?) edge of "generation X". Like others before me, I got a good laugh out of Gleason's entrance, but from there, it seemed to go downhill. Everything seems so telegraphed; who didn't see the "Hello ball" line coming? Beyond the laugh at Gleason's outfit, there were a couple of moments that made me smile a little, but nothing meriting an outright laugh.

But here's the thing: I don't think my lack of laughter was generational in any way. One of my favorite movie comedies is "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (admittedly later than this, but still an "old-fashioned" comedy), and I love listening to old Jack Benny radio shows (every time Frank Nelson appears practically brings me to tears from laughing so hard, and that's just one element). I know the period, I know the characters, but this (and, indeed, every episode of "The Honeymooners" I've ever seen) just doesn't do anything for me.

Mike Schryver said...

D.W. Washburn --

That may not have been a real window, of course, but I clearly remember seeing windows act that way. Maybe the cable things that guide them (sashes?) weren't always weighted properly.

Tim W. said...

I'm in my late 30's (very late), and I watched a lot of older (for me) television as a kid- Leave it to Beaver, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show- shows that were off the air long before I watched them the first time, but two shows I never understood were I Love Lucy and the Honeymooners. I never found them funny. Now it could be that I've never been a big fan of slapstick (I HATED the Three Stooges), I don't know.

That said, I found the clip somewhat humourous, but I never laughed out loud, and had I been watching it on television, I would have turned the channel after the first 30 seconds. I found the humour forced and cliched, although I did appreciate the comic acting.

Catherine said...

I'm 20 and laughed as soon as Ralph came out in that outfit. Some of the show is dated (ie gender roles/ relations) but this only adds to the charm for me, as it is all done in fun and with good heart. Some of the comedic techniques are dated and are cliches today, but they were current when the show was made. My personal style of humor is more on the dry, witty side, but I absolutely adore the in-your-face silliness that you get on these older sitcoms- as much as I hate shows that try it now. The performers were also in another class all together. These shows (The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy) said something timeless about love and friendship- letting us laugh at situations that are just as prevalent today as they were then. The Honeymooners might not be the funniest show ever made, but it never fials to make me laugh, gives me characters I care about, and creates a certain nostlagia in me- both for the period it portrays and for the comedic style it embodies.

A. Buck Short said...

With our 8 year-old, kerosene-powered computer and Fatal Error OS, I stream this stuff with something like a 38-second delay between sound and picture. And still, like others, I especially found the entrance funny, just the golf outfit and body language alone. The rest, more enjoyed than laughed. But as in breaking up with a French farce, I'd have to say something like "After all these years, it's not you Norton, it's me."

Now would you please come a little closer to the screen, I’m not sure I want everyone to hear this – and if it serves as a Friday question, well take my calendar please.

Does anybody know of any joke file software? Yeh, I know the funny comes from character and all that, but sometimes an idea you've saved triggers one that fits. So I don’t mean the digital equivalent of those books with 1,000 jokes by category, etc. I’ve seen a couple or three of those. I’m not talking content software.

More like a digital filing and retrieval system that would not force you to assign some category to a piece of material and then remember what you filed it under – or to file the same idea in 6 or 7 different files or folders in your computer. I’m talking something you'd find by entering any of a series of tags that might come to mind associated with whatever you might be working on. “Three Jews get on a streetcar, and then go into a bar where Dane Cook is doing a set….” (tags: Jews, religion, transportation, alcohol, but not enough alcohol to make Dane Cook funny, etc.).

Any thoughts? Or what system do you use, if any, besides scraps of paper all over the place?

Ed from SFV said...

I'm 50 and my humor was nurtured by afternoons absorbing the Three Stooges on WSBK, Ch, 38 in Boston. I didn't much care for the Honeymooners, but I loved the Jackie Gleason show from Miami Beach on Saturday nights.

This bit is absolutely among my very favorites, though. To me, the humor is found in the bully Gleason (Ralph) being ridiculous in his dress, and in humbling himself by submitting to Norton for advice. Then the customary payoff as he realizes how idiotic he was to lower himself in such a manner.

As others have said, the physical comedy genius of both men is a wonder.

Thanks, Ken.

Don from Vancouver said...

Holy Crap Ben, you creeped me out a bit. Yup, I too am a 37 yr old, Jack Benny loving, M,M,M,M World admirer too.

The entrance was great but I found I was waiting for the bit to really get funny, then it ended. The address of the ball was funny but without a vested interest in the characters, the bit just doesn't stand the test of time. Ken, I'd invite you to visit some of the classic Jack Benny programs- almost all of his shows still stand up today.

Micke said...

Nope, not funny. /22 year old swede

SB said...

I'm 46, and was only fleetingly amused. I grew up in L.A., and while I've seen the Honeymooners, I was never blown away by it (the quiz show ep. I remember as a stand-out).

I always thought of the Honeymooners as more of an NY favorite, while "I Love Lucy" was the preferred classic sitcom for viewers in Los Angeles. Since you are from here, Ken, I don't know how you fit into the equation, but when I was a kid, ILL was playing constantly, while Honeymooners seemed relegated to late night. I've heard "Andy Griffith" has the same loyalty to viewers in the South, and is what they think of as the most classic of sitcoms.

One last thing: for whatever reason, I rarely find golf funny. Love Bill Murray, can't stand "Caddyshack".

Hal Jalikakik said...

My 7-year-old daughter loves what she's seen of "The Honeymooners." But maybe when she's older and wiser, she can start talking herself away from great comedy by rationalizing about what's "dated" or "cool" or "passe" or "Gen-X" or "familiar."

David said...

46-year-old male.

Not funny, for all the reasons others have already said.

sephim said...

Most people my age (34) and younger use Judd Apatow as their comedy yardstick, so you know, because Jackie doesn't say "fuck" when he misses the pin cushion and Art doesn't use the club to make a dick joke, the "kids" just aren't going to get it.

Yes, I realise how insulting this just sounded, but if Seth Rogen had said it you'd be waiting in line to fuck me.

Simon H. said...

This 32 year-old finds it hysterical. Funny is funny, no matter what era it is.

Paul said...

I'm 30, and though I smiled a few times, I didn't physically laugh. The clip's a bit dated and slow-moving.

It has nothing to do with "dick jokes" or other stereotypes of modern generations. TV has just changed. It's easier to see facial expressions and funny things in the background now, and older shows often come across as plain.

Karoline said...

I am 28 and I didn't find much to laugh about in this clip. The jokes, especially those relying on physical comedy were predictable, probably because I have seen them a thousand times in my life already (not on this show, never heard of it until now - in my defence, I am German and have never lived in the US). I guess I simply prefer dialogue based comedy over slapstick routines. I did smile at the comparison between talking to a ball and a fox and at the puzzled pause after "address the ball", so I guess it's really the imbalance between much physical comedy and little dialogue that makes this clip not funny to me.

rita said...

28, not a native speaker of english -- saw the 'adress the ball!' gag coming from a mile away. sorry, didn't make me laugh.

Mac said...

I'm 45 and didn't find that funny. It felt like a forced stage play and you cold see the gags coming.
The bit where Jackie reprimands Norton "Hello ball - huh!"is pure Laurel and Hardy.
Weirdly, I never find Laurel and Hardy dated - they are as fresh and funny to me now as they were when I watched them as a kid, and even then they were decades old.

A_Homer said...

I was one of the younger ones who recalled the show first time, but only really saw it when it was re-run again years later - in the 70s? - and naturally through the filter of the Flintstones.

I think it is a kind of funny that is more a high-wire act where each show is hit or miss depending on the actors skills that day (and it was a great duo, and very good ensemble cast) and that style for me is not so easy to genuinely react to today.

It is not so much sitcom (compared to other series of the time) but more comparable to the cheaper budget of a SNL skit: shot live, theater-like, recurring actors, and basic bare-bones premise. Only Honeymooners was funny more consistently and with more to each episode and didn't parody itself, it was really what it was, they were really what they were, Ralph a simple bus driver, Ed a simple sewer worker.

Opposites play a great part in the humor, and here too. The rotund Gleason was no stand-up comedian but an actor (his definition) and so in the Honeymooners he needed a good setup and directions. The wiry, hyper Carney was the genius who could do a few minutes of "funny business" with just getting ready to read the newspaper. Gleason was thinking all the time while playing - he needed a point why he was in the scene, what was his character doing there - he was the (obviously weighty) presence on the stage, the governor of the set who blocked the scene by where he placed his formidable bulk, and he was watching the clock and making sure the whole thing worked and at the same time, if something went awry in the live broadcast he could keep things on track.

I'm just saying that it was all that experience that came together in the "funny" - not jokes per say, but HOW something is done, just as it was when watching the early SNL shows, and now looking back on recordings decades later, they aren't the same funny. Maybe today it's missing about 50% of that context, but still can be funny in a broad way.

I watch it for the HOW -- how is Ed doing his bits of business, how does Ralph do the reaction this time, and so on. And this is funny, but it's watching for it.

Anyway, I never felt Gleason was himself for the laughs - it often seemed like he let "Ed" do the heavy lifting in terms of time, and "Ralph" just fix on set-ups and some reactions - he was a master of reactions and got the audience each time.

Broadcast live there are lots of live details that they manage with ease - for example, in what script would Ed suddenly have to say "let me close the door" and go and close the apartment door to a room he's been in for five minutes?

sonderangerbot said...

I'm 24. Even though I appreciate slapstick and all that, I didn't find this very funny. As people have already commented you can see the jokes coming miles away and they're not that great to begin with. Still, compared to the Swedish remake "Rena Rama Rolf" (made in the 90's!) it holds up extremely well. As a special treat, check out this very same scene with the great Lasse Brandeby as "Ralph": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_o2h7PUeIA

Rose Vanden Eynden said...

It's still funny. It's immediately funny when Jackie Gleeson walks out in that outrageous golf get-up and starts swinging his club like a baseball bat. It plays on the fact that everyone thinks golf outfits are outrageous and that we all think we know how a golf club should be swung. There are bits of good physical humor (when Ralph first tries to hit the ball) and when Norton gives him directions of how to stand. The "address the ball" thing is still funny, even though we might see the joke coming a mile away. Part of it is the characterizations, too: rather silly, stupid Norton trying to teach impatient, volatile Ralph how to golf. A good bit!

l.a.guy said...

I'm 50, was never a huge fan of the show and this bit did nothing to change that.

I'll stick with "The Dick Van Dyke Show" or "I Love Lucy".

Ironically Gleason was a pretty good golfer.

MadAsHell said...

I'm 50, can see that Art & Jackie are adept at physicality, yet I didn't crack a smile. In a way, it's all in the timing. Gleason keeps doing these big reactions a split second after the impetus for the reaction has occurred. His character reacts far more quickly than anyone does in real life, and, at times, the viewer hasn't had time to react. Seems LABORED.

I'll always love the Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show; could never get into The Honeymooners

Damon Rutherford said...

I'm 33, and I was not impressed. The "It don't mean a thing if you ain't got the swing" was the only intelligent comedic part. The rest was predictable and almost boring.

unless said...

27 here, and like (apparently) most of my cohort, I didn't find this particularly funny. The only bit that made me chuckle was reading the introduction from the book - that's the only joke that really defied my expectations at all.

This reminds me - I watched "The Royal Tenenbaums" with my parents the other day, both in their late 50s/early 60s. This is a film that I considered, at the time of its release, to be the funniest I had ever seen, and it still ranks pretty highly on my list. My dad found it so boring that he went to bed half way through, and my mom, in spite of seeming to enjoy it, didn't really seem to register any but the most obvious of the jokes.

By the same token, I got my sister (ten years my junior) to watch "Pulp Fiction" for the first time a while back. That film pretty well blew me away when I first saw it, whereas she found it "pretty good". She's seen so many films that are derivative of it by now that it only strikes her as an above-average entry of its type. So this line of thinking doesn't just apply to comedy.

And yet, somehow, this isn't true of every older work - I still just about fall out of my chair each time I see "Who's on First?" So who knows?

blogward said...

The part that younger (than 30) people don't get is that Jackie Gleason ('s character) believes himself to be the model of dignity and raw talent, as do most people younger than 30. Norton's superb delivery of those corny, predictable lines is only one part of a deceptively expert sketch. And another clue is in the "I've only got two days" line - there's jeopardy.

Rinaldo said...

I'm 62, and I remember this episode and others from the first airing: The Jackie Gleason Show was a regular part of our Saturday-evening family ritual. I don't really recall what my reaction was then: I'm guessing that I smiled dutifully because my parents enjoyed it, but it wasn't really funny for me, any more than I Love Lucy had been.

And that's how I feel about it now, looking at this clip. Playing it so unabashedly out to the audience as if in a theater is kind of quaintly interesting. Jackie Gleason continues not to reach me, but I've never gotten anything out of The 3 Stooges either (loud and short-tempered doesn't do it for me). But I certainly appreciate Art Carney's finesse with movement and vocal inflections (but "appreciate" isn't quite what we're after, is it?). A couple of times he brings something unexpected to the obvious setups, and I smile. That's about it.

If I remember correctly, the comedy I really appreciated then were the sketches on Sid Caesar. In sitcoms, Dobie Gillis sometimes, but Dick Van Dyke was the one that was really "mine."

Steely Dan said...

I'm 37-years-old. It didn't make me laugh. I've seen it before and it has never made me laugh. I agree with all of those who said that all of the jokes were predictable and telegraphed. I also just find Gleason's performance to be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Too big, too loud, too broad. The same reason I never liked Zero Mostel or the original "Producers" film (or the Three Stooges for that matter).

Before you think I'm just a gen-x philistine, I do love the Marx Brothers, Ernst Lubitsch, and Woody Allen, as well as the writing of P.G. Wodehouse, and Evelyn Waugh. I just like more wit and sophistication when it comes to humor. "The Honeymooners" (as well as the criminally overrated "I Love Lucy") is just too obvious and too broad for my tastes.

As for the person who said that this could have easily been a "Friends" sketch between Ross and Joey, I agree. And I wouldn't have laughed at it then either.

Steely Dan said...

I forgot to add that I also love Jack Benny and his radio and TV show which were of the same time period. Benny: Funny. Gleason: Not Funny.

Anonymous said...

Just to note, its not really a comparison to Dick van Dyke, which is the model for all the modern 60s sitcom. This is at least half a decade if not more before, and what the modern replaced. The difference between 1955 and 61 is huge - Mad Men should have shown us that by now. It IS interesting though, why would a vaudeville sketch, so often included in the modern Dick van Dyke premise, and written by one of the authors from the Golden Age TV classic "Show of Shows" (Reiner), get laughs today, while this kind of shtick from Gleason's show, would not. They seem seperated by much much more than half a decade. At any rate, if you want to compare like with like, the sitcom of the time would be "Make Room for Daddy" with Danny Thomas, which was actually very well done, ages well and had a long run.

Mike said...

"(Alright) What's in the book?" got a chuckle out of me, but the rest just didn't.

Age 39.

Anonymous said...

I only got 1:41 in before Youtube crapped out, so maybe I missed something hilarious at the end. But what I saw was just dull. HONEYMOONERS been parodied and satired so much over the years that the schitck just isn't funny any more. From what I saw it's just a fat guy wearing silly clothes and making golf jokes that were centuries stale when TV was invented.

Since you asked age as well, I missed the bicentennial by three months.

Arlene said...

I'm 53 and this is still funny. When reading about The Honeymooners, I was always amazed that Carney & Gleason did not do much rehearsing. Both are great comic actors. The show was the foundation for a lot of sitcoms.

Tony M said...

Age 44 here. I watched "Honeymooners" on re-runs when I was a kid. I laughed then, but not now. That clip seemed like kid-humor: obvious jokes, goofiness, exaggerated gestures.

What humor remained in that clip to the present day, I credit to the brilliance of the actors, not the writing.

Brian Scully said...

Always hilarious... unlike 90% of what passes for TV comedy today.

danrydell said...

40 yrs. old. I chuckled a couple of times, but really enjoyed it more from a nostalgia point of view. You just appreciate these two guys out there on the stage, doing what they do best.

Joni Rodgers said...

48 yr old writer.

Jackie Gleason slays me. Universally. He hardly has to open his mouth, take a step, raise an eyebrow, scratch his ass -- whatever. I just find him funny.

Plus I love him in The Hustler. Brilliant.

The Curmudgeon said...

I'm not in your target demographic today. I'm not in anyone's target demographic anymore except AARP's. And FloMax.

But I've never been a big Honeymooners fan. I've seen them all a million times... but Gleason was just too much. Of course, I thought Lucy was too much sometimes, too.

On the other hand, I love Art Carney. Always have. "Hello, ball," became part of the language with that scene -- and has remained part of the language to the point where -- if you ask any random kid to "address the ball" s/he will almost certainly do an Art Carney imitation. Even if the kid has no idea who Art Carney is.

The Curmudgeon said...

P.S. -- I second Steely Dan. Benny: Funny. Gleason... not so much.

Burford said...

50's....pretty funny then and now. Probably generational. Stuff Gen-Xers find funny today escapes me.

I was in my 20s before I figured out that the Flintsones was based on the Honeymooners...so many other cartoons were modeled on TV series. E.G. Top Cat = Bilko etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm 35, and I appreciate older comedies, but didn't find this that funny. I guess not knowing the characters (Gleason's character dressing like that is funny) didn't help, but I agree with others, you could completely see the jokes coming a mile away.

Laceski said...

I'm 27 and didn't find the clip funny at all. Not so much as a smirk was elicited. I'd like to think that if I cared about golf at all I might have enjoyed it more, but I'm pretty confident that's not the case. I expected to find it mildly entertaining, but instead found it shockingly unfunny.

Janice said...

I'm 43 - I cracked a smile with the line "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." Everything else was too obvious.

Humphrey Erm said...

Well, I did laugh, well, snicker is more accurate.

19 year old Swede living in Denmark, not sure what the focus test groups say about me, but I enjoyed this scene.

Problem is the laugh track, which often times gets me laughing even if it might not be all that funny. But the scene and characters themeselves were pretty funny, and had I watched the entire episode I'm sure I would have had a good time.

ERIC SCOTT said...

I don’t think this bit holds up very well. But Gleason’s reaction to doing a live commercial on late-night TV, that’s still funny.

Jack Benny’s deadpan reaction, funny today. Will Ferrell’s cheerleading skits, funny. His rock star parody on the Tonight show a few weeks back, not funny. Buster Keaton’s best work, timeless.

I can’t put my finger on why a bit holds up, but I know it when I see it.

I’m 53.

Napa Valley Hobo said...

The whole scene is really just a build up to "Hello Ball." I knew it was coming and it still made me laugh. Other than that there's not much to it.

I'm 39.

Jonathan said...

Loved it. I'm a 34 year old guy, and I saw the Honeymooners as a kid and recently was watching it late night on TBS. Ed and Ralph's relationship is the prototype for thousands of great sitcom pairs from Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble (obviously) to Larry David and Jeff Garlin. I think that it's difficult to ever just see one clip and judge the greatness of a show. What makes this show great is more than the zingers and the prat falls, it's the chemistry between the characters and that just can't come across in a 4 minute bit.

Anonymous said...

Nope. If it had it, it's long gone. It's like Laurel and Hardy without the benefit of originality. Tedious.

49yr old male (who still thinks Philadlphia Story is funny).

Roger Owen Green said...

56: I must have seen it before, because when Carney said "Hello, ball," I knew he would, yet it was the funniest part. Outfit in intro, also funny. I happened to like the line, "It don't mean a thing..." The rest, though, left me cold.

Jackie said...

I have never seen this show before and I did not laugh when the first guy walked in and the audience started laughing. I guess it was an inside joke. But I did start laughing when he tried out the golf-swing.

Overall, I thought it was pretty funny.

For the record, I am female and 30.

Weisenheimer said...

Male, 52. Hilarious!

Many previous posters are wrong: when you can see the punch line coming from a mile away, that makes it FUNNIER, especially with a perfect delivery like, "Helloooo, ball!"

Barbara said...

Was never a huge fan of the show, but wouldn't have dreamt of teaching my young son how to play miniature golf without saying. "hellooo ball!" It was a great 50's comedy moment.

Anonymous said...

I'm 37 and I thought it was funny even with no sound. I've always been a fan of Jackie Gleason though.

scooter said...

I'm 44 and the clip did absolutely nothing for me. Nothing I've ever seen of The Honeymooners has ever made me laugh. It feels like, no, *is* vaudeville. It's played for the back of the theatre, or for families sitting back a safe distance from their shiny new 12" black and white TV sets.

Draugen said...

I'm a big Honeymooners fan, but this was not a funny clip. Not the best work or either man, or of the writers. Lazy work by writers, and hammy work by both performers. You can tell that Art knows the material is weak, and he does a game job in delivering the "Hellooo, ball!" line, but the rest of it is just hack. Put up a different clip, Ken -- golf humor is always lame (Caddyshack being the sole exception that proves the rule).

hollphoto said...

Classic. I'm 61 and started to smile the moment a saw Jackie dressed in the outfit even before I played the clip. I've seen this show so may times that I knew what was coming. Hello ball is a saying that some of my friends use as a sign of mock accomplishment.

I find Modern Family, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, 30 Rock very funny.

The Office, Judd Apatow movies,Dane Cook and Will Ferrell not so much,

Sandisan said...

I'm 39 and I didn't find this particularly funny. Everything was so obvious and telegraphed, and I wasn't amused. I did laugh a bit when Norton addressed the ball, but I think it was the way he said it. All that said, even though it seems obvious now, when it first aired, it might have been less obvious what was going to happen.

sarah said...

a quick light smile at "hello ball" and at the very end, even tho i saw them coming all along. age: early 30s.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Funny is funny. That's all you can say about this. It was wonderful to watch back in the day and it's still hilarious today. Gleason and Carney were the masters. They invented good timing.

gilliebean said...

(31-female)

This all might have been funny the first time we saw it. But I guess I've seen all the newer versions of these joes so many times that it feels old and tired. Perhaps I watched it all in the wrong order?

camillofan said...

Interestingly, I laughed hardest at the stuff I could see coming from a mile off. So much of comedy is in the delivery.

But I wouldn't say I found the bit hilarious, nor can I guess whether I would have done when it was new. FWIW, I'm 49 and female and love Wodehouse and Waugh but have also laughed straightforwardly at my share of "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Gilligan."

Anonymous said...

I'm a 41-year-old male. I didn't laugh at all--I may have smiled once. I've found a few other "Honeymooners" moments funny, though. No question that Gleason, Carney, etc. were pioneers. But not really my taste. I do still appreciate "I Love Lucy", though. I watched a lot of "Happy Days" and other shows growing up, but I doubt I'd find them at all funny today.

"Cheers" & "Frasier" are more my tastes (not trying to kiss up, Ken--for example, MASH always worked better for me in its dramatic moments than its comedic ones). And I have nothing against physical comedy--I love "Get Smart" and "Fawlty Towers". I'm also a big fan of early seasons of "The Simpsons" and all of "Mary Tyler Moore" and "The Odd Couple". Today it's "Better Off Ted", "Modern Family", "The Office", "30 Rock", "Community", "Big Bang Theory", and some "Family Guy". But "The Honeymooners"? Sorry, no.

A. Buck Short said...

Hey guys, it’s a blizzard in Dallas. Hummuna, hummuna, hummuna, hummuna…. They’re forecasting up to 6 inches. But then so was my wife. Rimshot. We just dumped $45 worth of margarita salt on the front walk and pool deck.

Because of the “inclement weather” I have some extremely important work to do at home today; so I just finished deconstructing all 104 prior comments, taking copious notes and writing “nb” and “true” in the margins where appropriate. (Oh, forgot, we’re still in Super Bowl afterglow I meant all “IVC” comments.)

I really enjoyed the insightful analyses, and if the health plan will cover it, I think our group should meet like this every other Thursday. Yeh, it’s a dependency.

Sephim, you are correct. It is not funny when Jackie Gleason says “fuck” after missing the ball. It’s funny when Betty White says fuck after missing the ball. But if not vaudeville, I think “address the ball” has got to be at least an homage to Tex Avery.

Golf bits have to be really funny to get to me, after 2 summers dodging balls mowing fairways – plus having been married at a golf course. But Dan Jones, I think your Gleason/Carney/Schwimmer/LeBlanc foursome is right on. Hey, now let’s do an Abbott and Costello address the ball golf bit with the word “four.”

I agree that, depending how many times someone had seen it in vaudeville, the over the top golf getup may not be that sidesplitting in itself, but because of the bully character wearing it, and especially with the joke also being that’s what this rube thinks golfers look like. (Yeh Jaimie, you wrote it first, but I’m pretty sure I hypothesized it first … nya, nya.) But of course, this is what they thought pseudo-military splendor would be at the Brooklyn chapter of the International Order of the Sons of Friendly Raccoons .

DwW & Mike, in my capacity as middle-aged man, it is incumbent upon me to acknowledge and confirm the mystical window levitation theory. Except the sash is the wood immediately around the part of the window that raises and lowers (the raise. The thing that makes it go up is the counterweight or Sash Balance, which I believe is also the name of the Bolshoi’s legendary lead dancer. But they were probably using some other method, because who wants to make the set any heavier than it has to be and risk as workers comp hernia?

Ed from SFV, thanks for the tear of nostalgia you brought me. I really miss those free over the air movie channels like Boston’s 38 and 56, when I sit down for two hours in front of the MGM “This” network, which I guess is the nearest equivalent. Also the not so old WWII movies the old DuMont network, then WNEW NY used to fill the broadcast day on a budget, “Is everybody scared padre? Or is it just me?” The only reason I’m now chugging Viagra is to facilitate the continuation of Irene Dunne wet dreams.

Speaking of Chef of the Future, does anybody remember the frequency of 50s TV appliance or home product commercials using the phrase, “to help the little lady around the house.” Did it fly then either?

Uh, it’s already friggin’ after noon here. I think I’m gonna need a note going into the office tomorrow.

Greg S. said...

Laughed at the delivery of "Hello Ball" and some of the physicality of both charaters. I hadn't seen this particular bit before, but have seen some Honeymooners. Always found it amusing/interesting, but never liked it enough to seek out more episodes. Grew up watching Three Stooges and loved/still love them, so don't know why Honeymooners doesn't really float my boat. Things I DO find funny that I never saw until after they were well "dated": Three Stooges, Buster Keaton's silent movies, The B&W Maverick TV show, Tom Leher songs, Dick Van Dyke show, Laurel and Hardy movies. More "modern" humor that I like: Monty Python, Seinfeld, Yes Minister, Rockford Files, South Park, Venture Brothers, Frasier, The Daily Show. I am 46.

Buck said...

I have no ideal why my html link didn't take. Try this if you're still ccoon curious.

http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/fiction/fraternities/raccoons.html

alopecia said...

I'm 53, near as makes no difference, and I see The Honeymooners the same I see I Love Lucy: it's theoretical comedy. That is, I see why the jokes and shtick are funny, and appreciate the craft and artistry on display (comedy is hard!), but I'm not even slightly tempted to laugh.

A. Buck says this one blows too. said...

Epistle from the depths of despair.

International Order of the Sons of Friendly Raccoons

If this doesn't take, well it really wasn't worth it 2 comments ago either.

Doktor Frank Doe said...

As with anything, knowing the characters and the general theme of the show and what the characters were all about makes this funny. Those of you that are young and say things like "I saw it coming from a mile away", then glaze over that statement with "You probably oouldn't back then" Well, you're right, back then it was ground-breaking and if you can theorize that, then why make the first damned statement in the first place?

Too many know-it-alls in the world today. This was what TV was all about when TV began boys and girls! It's a history lesson and how you comment says a lot about your own intellect. Good one Ken.

-bee said...

I'm a little older than a Gen-Xer so am not your target here but The Honeymooners is one of my favorite TV shows ever.

When I was a little kid I didn't like it at all - but somewhere in my 20's I started to 'get it'.

"Heloooooo ball!"

Carrie said...

I'm an X-er, and I thought it mildly amusing, but predictable. It's been said before, but the best part is "Hellooo, ball". Great delivery.

Anonymous said...

I'm Gen-X almost Gen- Y (32) I love TV and love to learn the history of it, because of this I have try to watch this show (history of TV tells me is a classic) a few times but can get through more than a couple of minutes. I Love Lucy in the other hand i like and watch.

In this clip I only smile when the man start taking out the pins (she loves me, she loves me not) maybe it's because Valentine's day is around the corner.

JP

David said...

I am 33 and agree 100% with 24 yr. old Scott. I think the reason those who saw and loved this when they were younger loved it is because back then it was unexpected. Today we've been exposed to so much comedy, we already know what's coming. At it's core comedy is all about delivering the unexpected. Everything in this piece, to today's sophisticated audience, was expected.

Birdie said...

Mildly amusing...(I'm 32)

Steely Dan said...

A lot of people here are saying that the reason this isn't funny is because they've already seen all the subsequent variations on this skit done by other performers.

I saw the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" for the first time about 15 years ago. There were at least a half dozen or more jokes in that film that had been appropriated by other shows, movies, and comedians over the years. Off the top of my head I'm thinking specifically of the "mirror gag" about halfway through the film. I had seen that a thousand times before and never laughed once. But when I saw the Marx Brothers do it in "Duck Soup" I couldn't stop laughing. They just did it really, really well.

With this "Honeymooners" scene, the reason it doesn't work for me isn't because I've already seen variations on it. It's because I don't like the way these actors are playing it. Like I said before, it's too broad, too loud, and too telegraphed.

-bee said...

I already posted once, but now I've read so many comments describing The Honeymooners as 'cookie cutter' I feel obliged to chime in again.

Everybody's different, but a big part of why *I* came to love The Honeymooners happened after I keyed into its dark, tragic aspect.

Most narrative TV would have people believe that Americans do not live with a wolf at their door, that the American dream exists for everyone if they just WORK hard enough for it.

Well, working-class Ralph DOES try - over and over again to reach for the American Dream, but is almost always humiliated, slapped back down again to square one. Almost every episode ends with his realization that his only salvation is the unconditional love of his wife and friend, but these relationships are double-edged with hate/fear/resentment (he knows he does not deserve his wife's love, and his friend's happy-go-lucky nature is like a rebuke to his bottomless ambition).

Since coming to love it, Gleason's larger-than-life acting seems to me an aspect of the 'fable-like' nature of the show - with Carney's acting complimenting Gleason's perfectly. I think their interactions are things of beauty - there is just something about the trial-by-fire aspect of Vaudeville that gave comics who came up that way a sort of cracker-jack physical precision that seems to be gone with the wind.

I know a lot of people cringe at the scenes of Ralph yelling at Alice - but I find them fascinating because Meadows is just so BRILLIANT. It's like the louder Raplh yells, the stronger she gets. If you ignore the words and watch the actors you KNOW he would never hurt her (and if he did - she'd be out of there).

Getting back to the class aspect though - I think a more recent show that would be a good frame of reference would be "Roseanne".

Annie said...

I'm 53, lol'd at "hello ball", even though I knew it was coming, grinned at everything else. Not a particular fan of The Honeymooners but of course I'm aware of the show. Still love watching Gleason doing anything, no matter what he's doing. There was something about him.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

To -bee's excellent comment I'd like to add one other thing: I think it's not quite right to say that this (paraphrasing) was groundbreaking at the time but is no longer surprising.

Generally speaking, I think that things that were once groundbreaking tend to remain fairly unique. The jokes in this scene were old at the time, but the unusual aspect of Honeymooners was doing a series about people who are really struggling to get by -- and that is still unusual on American network TV. Similarly, you still hear people talking about how All In the Family got away with things you couldn't do on TV today, and it's still really unusual for a show (especially a comedy) to kill off a beloved character the way M*A*S*H did. Even Seinfeld, which has been imitated to death, is still very different from any of its imitators except Curb Your Enthusiasm. Hell, even the minimalist storytelling of The Cosby Show is still pretty different from most of the zillion sitcoms that followed in its wake.

None of this has much to do with whether something is or is not funny, but I think that something "groundbreaking" stays that way more often than not.

Anonymous said...

I never found The Honeymooners that funny, but I Love Lucy still kills me, so I don't think it's just the era. Some comedy just dates more than others.

Anonymous said...

I present to you

Simon Cowell's TV Debut on some cheesy game show. He had some jacked up teeth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld-a7DYz-cs

Anonymous said...

I had a few small laughs, nothing big. This clip just does not seem funny.

I recently caught a few episodes of the I Love Lucy show and laughed more at those than I did at this.

Ben said...

35, male, Black


I saw the "address" joke a mile away. However, Art Carney's delivery still made me smile. That is just plain old good acting. Otherwise, I did not laugh at all. Perhaps because there was too much build up in your commentary, which is unavoidable.


Like another Gen Xer, as soon as I started watching this, I instantly thought of "The Flintstones," which I watched religiously growing up. And like this person, going back to watch "The Honeymooners" after digesting every episode of "The Flintstones" 50 times a piece did not bring anything new to me. What was once innovative is now mundane. It's like asking a person around my age or younger to watch "Citizen Kane" for the first and then wonder why they don't think it is the best movie of all time like the AFI deems it to be.


I can appreciate "The Honeymooners" and can see how elements are still used today, but otherwise, the show is just OK.

SB O'Donnell Family said...

Physical comedy is timeless no matter the venue. I laughed when Ralph entered in his outfit and when he started whacking the floor with the club. The interplay between the two gents is typically overacted in a vaudevillian style and doesn't age that well, but hey I, I still smiled the entire time.

sanford said...

I think the golf lesson is one of the funniest things on the Honeymooners. I am 63. I haven't seen the episode in a while, but just thinking about it makes me laugh

Artemis said...

I'm a 26 yr old who adores many shows ranging from the original Twilight Zone to the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. In my blog (http://gothamnights.wordpress.com), I recently posted about I Love Lucy, a show I've always adored (and which pre-dates The Honeymooners). I also love I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Scrubs, The Cosby Show, HIMYM and Extras, among others. I confess to a hatred of 70s comedies (yes, even MASH).

Anyhoo, back to the Honeymooners. I hate it. Always have. I'll take any of the aforementioned shows over The Honeymooners, and I love many shows (and movies) from that era and before that era.

That guy said...

Groundbreaking doesn't just mean "the way I saw it first." Calling this bit pioneering ignores the half-century of stage and film comedy that came before it. It doesn't really hold a candle to older Laurel and Hardy, Marx Brothers, or Abbott and Costello bits.
It's also pretty ridiculous to say that people my age (mid-20s) don't "get it" because we're used to shock comedy or dick jokes. That whole "kids these days..." attitude is as played out as this clip.
That being said, Art Carney's delivery is the best part of the scene - imagine what he could do with wittier material.

Dawn said...

I love that scene. Even though I know what is coming with 'addressing the ball' I laugh every time. 52 yr old female here. I generally like the Honeymooners best when it is just Norton and Ralph in the scene. The Ralph/Alice stuff is a little harsh for me - makes me cringe.

Kirk Jusko said...

I'm 48. My earliest memories of the Honeymooners isn't even the classic black-and-white sitcom. It's the musical version that aired in the late '60s that apparently only I remember (unless someone mentioned it in the above comments. Sorry, I haven't gotten around to reading them all) and I even thought THAT was funny. When I finally did see the original series, in syndication in the early '70s, well, they were that much funnier. I'll admit that show didn't have great writing. It was all in the performances. I've seen the "address the ball" gag on many different comedy shows and even cartoons over the years, yet when Art Carney said "Hello, ball!" I laughed once again.

elizs said...

I've always heard that this show is funnier for guys . . . I've never liked it much. Anyway - this clip did make me giggle when Norton starts reading the book, "For Emily..."

Otherwise, it just made me cringe.

I'm in between Gen X and Y (or whatever it's called).

Anonymous said...

I'm 22 and found this kind of, but not so, funny.

I can understand Gleason and the other dude had good comic timing and chemistry. I understand the scene and its comedy were funny and original for its time.

But being consumed be all the different types of entertainment we are today, something like this is just simply out-dated.

In 20 years younger people will feel the same way about "Seinfeld" and "Arrested Development," the two best sitcoms of this generation.

Tanya Melendez said...

I'm 35, and I thought it was brilliant. I was raised on old sitcoms, though - Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, I Love Lucy as well as all of the current sitcoms of the late 70's early 80's... these were standards in my home. Which is why I thought I was going to grow up and marry Hawkeye one day. I was a very lucky kid, I think.

Phil Freeman said...

I'm 38, and I've seen this bit before - I smiled a bit, but didn't laugh. I think it's the performances, 'cause it's not just the age of the material. W.C. Fields' "The Golf Specialist" continues to crack me up - I bought the Criterion DVD with six of his short films just last month.

joe v said...

19, male
i thought it was funny, and even if not, i can appreciate its humor. from Norton saying "she loves me/ she loves me not.." to reading the special thanks in the book, i thought it held together well. i also think every generation has their onwn brand of humor (almost like a generational inside joke, or a "you had to be there" type of thing).

Kate said...

29, female.

I thought the clip was amusing enough, but I wanted to punch the audience in the face. "Hello ball" is funny, but applause-funny? How starved for joy are these people? Did they serve liquor to studio audiences before filming?

Jake said...

How could anyone think this isn't classic comedy?

Kate K. said...

I'm 31 and I giggled a little at the first entrance, but I think it was more laughing at the audience's hysterical cackling than at Jackie himself. After that, no laughing here. But I agree with the posters that said it might be different if I were more familiar with the show.

tesolly said...

I'm 25 and I didn't find it very funny at all. I laughed at the 'tally-ho' part but apart from that I only raised a couple of smiles. I'm wondering if this is because I've seen this scene countless other times in various forms or because maybe I just don't find it funny?

Mike said...

I'm 29. I grew up watching a lot of Nick at Nite so I don't think it's that I don't appreciate humor from this era (though maybe I'd appreciate it less now than I did when I was 10) but I didn't really laugh at this clip. Someone mentioned they could see this same scene having played out on an episode of Friends. But Friends was also a pretty well-respected show. What about if this scene had been on According to Jim? Would people still find it funny? I kind of doubt it.

Snusan said...

"She loves me... " with the pin cushion was funny, addressing the ball was funny, but the rest? Meh... I'm 34.

JAMIE said...

GREATEST SITCOM EVER! HANDS DOWN!

Mia said...

24 - American female here. I'm not a fan of slapstick comedy in general, but I have enjoyed a few older comedies and sitcoms. This clip just confirms what I already suspected: The Honeymooners has nothing for me. Aside from the fact that I don't find it funny at all, I also always found the threats of domestic violence littered throughout the show rather shocking and disturbing as well.

Also, for the record, I never cared for Seinfeld either.

Kara said...

26, female. There were some quite clever bits but nothing that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD AHAHAHA. It's not really my type of humor, though, so I highly doubt that the equivalent set in modern times would have made me laugh. I can easily see how someone else would be entertained, and I appreciate the skill. I'm just not the audience. At all.

Megan said...

I'm 21 and I love this clip and the Honeymooners. I've watched the New Year's marathons with my grandfather and my mom for as long as I can remember and i still find them hysterical. Some of my favorite shows include more "modern" humor like Arressted Development and The Office, but I find that The Honeymooners, as well as The Dick Van Dyke Show, and my personal favorite I Love Lucy, will always be enjoyable to me, even if they do seem dated.

Anonymous said...

I loved it, but I also loved it when the show was in first run (I'm 64).

- said...

Im 29 and I thought it was hilarious. Whats wrong with me? I knew the lines because Ive seen it a few times already but I still laugh pretty hard at it. I think of myself.. I thought of myself as a comedy snob too. What do the cool kids above me think is funny? Anything? Something with a guitar right?

Dat Wukid said...

BORING!!! ps. im 24, this is just "kooky" stuff that is not kooky at all anymore, its a product of its time, in my opinion at least

Robert Camaj said...

I'd have to agree with Scott up at the top of the comments. I am also 24. I thought that Norton addressing the ball was funny bit, if very predictable.

Humor is certainly evolving. We're not only smarter, but our exposure to so much more comedy day-to-day makes the appreciation of older sitcoms a task. We've already heard these jokes millions of times. Appreciating the Honeymooners is more about historical curiosity and respect for our heritage than for getting laughs.

Even when I watch All in the Family or I Love Lucy (both brilliant shows), I can only really appreciate them if I try to put myself in the shoes of a contemporary audience--to try and get at what a person watching the original broadcast might have found funny.

Jimmy said...

I'm 20 years old and I found this scene to be hilarious. Something can be painfully obvious and still be funny if it is executed properly, and I thought that execution was spot-on.

D. McEwan said...

"Rinaldo said...
I'm 62, and I remember this episode and others from the first airing: The Jackie Gleason Show was a regular part of our Saturday-evening family ritual. I don't really recall what my reaction was then: I'm guessing that I smiled dutifully because my parents enjoyed it, but it wasn't really funny for me, any more than I Love Lucy had been."


I found this comment interesting as it is just the opposite of my experience. I'm a little over two years younger than Rinaldo (These last few months ticking down to 60 are trying), and my mother HATED Jackie Gleason. I watched his AMERICAN SCENE MAGAZINE every Saturday Night over her objections, and enduring her weekly "How can you find him funny?" remarks, because I found him hilarious. I had to fight to watch him, and wouldn't have bothered if I didn't love him.

Fortunately, my mother's lifelong adoration of Nelson Eddy left me secure in the knowledge that her taste was abysmal.

Living in upper-middle-class comfort in toney Palos Verdes Estates, CA when The Honeymooners were new, those shows did always seem, to me, to take place on another planet. I could not conceive of actual adults living in such squalid poverty, which is how it read to me in my comfortable world. I knew no one who lived in even a nice apartment, let alone that one-room slum. I was very young, and very naive.

The Singing Exterminator said...

Mr. Levine: I happily found your blog this evening. I am a recovering Television Addict. It's comforting to know that I can now discuss all that I have seen 2,752 times.

Friends refer to me as "The National Treasure of Fandom." In the moments it took me to write these few sentences, images of actors (and lines of dialogue) from Alan Alda to Nancy Walker flashed across my memory. Oy vey! Someday, the following exchange will have been heard at a TV Watchers Anonymous meeting. I've changed their names to protect their anonymity.

Ernie: Hey Bert, haven't seen you in a meeting for a while. What happened, relapse?

Bert: No, re-runs.

CANNED CHUCKLE

OK, the clip. Tonight it did not make me laugh as much as it has in the past. There were those two moments where if I did not laugh out loud, I would think I was dead. That image of Gleason entering the room in an outfit that probably went straight from his wardrobe to a stable at Hialeah and Carney's "addressing the ball". Throughout the rest of the clip I was thinking, "OK, this is nice...glad it's here..time to move on." That's how I viewed it tonight. Another viewing tomorrow could bring up a different reaction.

So, is this funny, sad, a product of its time, timeless, classic, LOL, lame? I ask myself that and I come up with the same answer to every question. Yes! Perhaps, "the big deal over this crap" is that it can mean all things to all people at all times. Is that the secret of comedy?

I have certainly become a follower of your blog, Mr. Levine. A couple of laughs (so far) and some time spent talking about television instead of just watching it. This is all good.

John said...

I'm 30 and I've never seen this show before. As some others have stated, I found the beginning truly funny - Jackie looks great in his golf clothes! The rest didn't make me laugh, but I can imagine it being funny at the time. Perhaps the jokes have been stolen and redone so many times that you've grown tired of them. Thanks for the post, interesting!

Sung said...

Ken, I'm' 38 and for me, the funniest moment was the very last bit. I chuckled throughout, but seeing Jackie Gleason contort himself was just priceless.

I always thought the Honeymooner was very strong on a physically comedic level; both Gleason and Carney are wonderfully expressive with their entire bodies, and their facial gestures are also right up there with the best of them.

As someone who loves Chaplin (and even the Three Stooges from time to time), I found this scene hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

A. Sepinwall said...

I'm 33 and this was just so cliched. I'm betting it wasn't when it aired - it was probably cutting edge then. But now, it just seems stale. I think that's just how comedy works, it has to be fresh - otherwise, the reaction will be like mine was for this: I get why it's funny, it just doesn't make me laugh.

rachel said...

i have to agree with most of the other people my age (mid 20s)- everything was overly-telegraphed and you knew exactly what jokes would come next

I'm in the ballpark that comedy has definitely evolved for the better as the great shows of the 50s/60s/70s have little chance of surviving today

Jago said...

While I can appreciate the Honeymooners, I grew up watching it through the filter of the Flintstones. (I'm 32.) It's definitely vaudeville, and I think had I been there live, I would have been laughing a lot.

As it is, I chuckled when Gleason entered in the golf outfit, and most of Carney's stuff.

I prefer humor that comes out of nowhere. I'm pretty random that way, I guess, but the only way I really laugh when a joke is as telegraphed as "Hello, ball," is if the person nails it. Carney did, in my opinion. But otherwise? I'm too far removed and have seen the generations of comedy that have taken the lessons shows like the Honeymooners taught and have added their own spin. Sometimes, two or three times removed.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I'm in my late 40s, and I discovered The Honeymooners just a few years back. "Hello Ball" always makes me bust out laughing.

God bless Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, wherever they are.

the communicatrix said...

Late to the party, but early to the Honeymooners party (48+, and hey, most of the original viewers have died off), I'm echoing fragments of what other smart/funny commenters have said, I know.

The whole scene is at least as enjoyable as it was when I first saw it--possibly more, owing to the nostalgia-for-simpler-times factor (even if the truth is rather more wobbly).

But that line of Carney's is still bona-fide hilarious. There's a reason certain lines endure, and it has a lot to do with genius of the performer living in the full truth of the moment.

What a fun post!

Rachel said...

36, didn't find it particularly funny except for a few line deliveries. I'm not a fan of physical comedy, and I'm really not a fan of obnoxiously loud comedy either, plus I have an preconceived dislike for the gender politics of The Honeymooners, so there would have had to have been something pretty unexpected to make me actually laugh. Golf clothes? Not unexpected.

Anonymous said...

not that funny. I saw most of the jokes coming, which is not that bad, except the laughtrack gives them a standing ovation. "hello ball" for example, it was pretty obvious, but they seemed to milk it way too much (both with the performance and the laughtrack).

On the other hand, there were a couple of actually funny jokes that didn't have the right setup, like when the guy says "ok, tell me what the book says" at 1:59, that could have been funnier.

btw, the youngest generation is Y, not X, gen X is at least 30 year olds, so not exactly young (at 28 I'm right at the limit)

David said...

I know I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to chime in on something that everyone seems to be saying--that the clip isn't funny because it is too predictable. As a statement about comedy, that is just not true, or no joke would ever be funny more than once. But the opposite is true--the best jokes are funnier the tenth time you've heard them, when you know exactly what is coming. In fact, the older commenters, those who have seen the clip before, and therefore know exactly what is coming, are the ones enjoying it the most. The younger, first-time viewers, those who can see the general direction the joke is going but don't know the exact details, are the ones not liking it.

Also, one of the pleasures of shows like Cheers and Frazier for me was that even on first viewing, you knew what was going to happen. Mistaken identity, lies that snowball, etc. The fun isn't in the surprise, but in the anxiety that is created as you watch the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

after reading the comments, I'm surprised so many people find "hello ball" funny. when the guy says "address the ball", and they react to that, you already know they misinterpreted it as "talk to the ball". If you're gonna talk to a ball, at least say something funny, not just "hello". "hello ball" is beating the dead horse (which was killed by their previous reaction to "address the ball")

Kirk Jusko said...

Yes, the joke is obvious. That same joke performed by anybody else (with the possible exceptions of Gracie Allen and Stan Laurel) wouldn't be funny. It's the way Art Carney says, "Helllooo ball!" that makes it funny.

bobmungovan said...

Short version: 37-year-old man; mildly amusing.

I've seen a bare handful of The Honeymooners, but understand it's place in TV history, for the most part.

John said...

53 Year Old Male: I still think out of the two, at this period of time Carney was the funnier of the two. Gleason would hit his stride in the sixties with the weekly show on CBS. I remember my Dad telling me that he once saw Gleason in the lobby of a unnamed theater on Broadway at intermission. Gleason was standing next to a potted plant, smoking a cigarette. He carefully looked around the lobby and when he thought no one was looking he put the cigarette out in the planter. Kind of out of character, because to me he seemed as if he really did not care what anyone thought about him.

Tyroc said...

I'm 38 and agree that for me Carney is much funnier than Gleason (who comes off so mean most of the time.)

And that the "Hello, ball." joke was the only laugh out loud moment for me. But it is a big laugh.

But still brought back memories of watching this on WPIX Channel 11 as a kid who was staying up too late (11:00 or 11:30pm.) I didn't like it as much as Taxi (also shown that hour but on channel five) but still enjoyed it. Mostly due to Carney.

Definitely dated as can be, though.

jonwood said...

Brought up on TV in England, in more than 40 years I have never seen the show, although I know of it from references in others (Family Guy last week, and King of Queens this). I guessed what to expect from the howls of laughter as the star enters wearing that outfit, so instead of getting the character - either blithely deluded or mis-sold the very thing by an unscrupulous sports store - I could only hear a roomful of writers jostling each other with: "This'll knock 'em out!" and it duly did. But not me, not now.

Bilko, yes, and Laurel & Hardy, so time isn't the factor.

Amy said...

I'm 28 and the only part I found funny was "address the ball...Hello, Ball!". But for the most part, I don't care for the Honeymooners, but I will always Love Lucy!

Anonymous said...

I'm 30 and didn't laugh, but agree that delivery of "hellooo ball" was good. What I was distracted by (as I found it interesting) was how much apartments have generally changed over the years. The apartment in this scene is so sparely decorated - really a room with a few pieces of furniture and a utilitarian sink. I would submit that apartments for people of the same means/class look very different today.

Pamela Jaye said...

Wandering back through, reading later comments.

It's possible that my terseness may have come from lying on my back with a duck on my chest. It's extremely hard to type (on a laptop, at least) when one has a duck on one's chest.

I did watch the Honeymooners a bit as a teen (would have been the 70s) but I always found it
a. depressing - the tenement, the single room. the onl sinle room show I ever could endure was Barney Miller. I'm not sure whether it was the claustrophobia, or just this misery of the thought of living a life like this (I have a room when I was 25, but I was not married and it was not permanent)
b. perception of big scary man. I was a tiny teen with a verbally abusive father. Ralph was a large man who screamed. A lot.
c. I don't laugh a lot of Lucy either. Most of her shtick, which I attempt not to watch, just seems like a spoiled woman, trying to get past her husband, who whines a lot, and then gets herself in predicaments. If I wanted that, I could watch I Dream of Jeannie.
(It should be noted I don't feel like this about Mary Tyler Moore on Dick Van Dyke, which I also have not watched in ages, but at least would not turn the channel if run across ("this man has a thousand bees on his face").

As for the physical comedy,maybe the dislike overrules any enjoyment I might have? Watching Michael J Fox or Zach Braff or even (though it's old to me) Jack Ritter do PC is actually amusing. I think.

I have to wonder about the effect black and white has on my reactions. Seriously.

The Carol Burnett skit was fantastic. Haven't seen the entire thing since I was a teen but I love parody and acute silliness (Tim trying to break Korman up, in other skits, was always a fave)

Address the ball. Can't help it, saw it coming and did not care. I am a big fan of wordplay and taking things literally as evidenced in my love for movies like Airplane (and the Zucker Brothers have spoiled me for much other comedy, although The Big Bang Theory has proved I can still be made to laugh)

I think that's all I have.

Kay said...

I'm 26 and have never seen The Honeymooners before, though I have a fondness for I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show. I thought the whole clip was mildly amusing, and I chuckled at both "What do you expect to find in a pin cushion, chicken noodles?!" and the "addressing the ball" even though I saw that one coming. Might help that I recently took up golf myself, so that adds a layer to the humor for me.

Final result...I am a little more likely to turn the channel if I see an episode of The Honeymooners, but I'm not running out to buy the DVD.

Kay said...

Oh and I wandered over to your site from Alan Sepinwall's blog, and I read your bio after I posted my comment...I just had to tell you that I love all the shows you've worked on, especially Cheers and Wings!

stu said...

I'm 37, have never seen an episode of the Honeymooners (I'm from the UK, don't recall it ever being shown here).

The clip left me stone cold. The slapstick didn't work for me and I have no handle on the characters so it didn't trigger that "Heh, I know just how *that* guy would react!" laugh of recognition.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this blog, so I'm joining the conversation a bit late. As a Gen-Xer I find it funny, but I think you have to know the show and the characters to really get it.

I also suspect that a lot of this is "Jewish" humor and it may be lost on some of the non-Jews in the audience, regardless of age.

I know Gleason wasn't Jewish, but I'm sure the writers were, and there's something quintessentially Jewish -think George's Dad on Seinfeld - in his character. Most Jews have a loud uncle just like Gleason, a schlemeil I guess, and without that personal connection I know I wouldn't find it as funny.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but it isn't rolling-on-the-floor-about-to-pee-my-pants funny. It reminds me a college comedy troop doing an improve scene. But I still laughed and I'm 25.

schmoker said...

"To Emily, whose slice inspired me to write . . ."

Haven't seen this since I was a little kid (all I remembered while watching was the outfit Gleason wore), but I nearly peed myself when Carney uttered the line above.

sophomorecritic said...

I've taken a course on film comedy where we saw Duck Soup, Harold Lloyd, Chaplain, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Sid Cesar, Preston Sturges, etc. etc. etc. and I didn't particularly find this funny.

it's a pet peeve of mine when the laugh track is inflated and i could see each joke coming from a mile away

Emily said...

i'm a tv lover born in '89 of the Frasier / Will & Grace / 30 Rock variety and to be completely honest i didn't find that funny at all. the only part i actually chuckled a bit at was the first time ralph swung and hit the floor. the rest was predictable and cheesy... and not in a good way. also keep in mind that i do enjoy comedy classics like I Love Lucy and I Dream of Genie.

conrad said...

17. What I liked was the antagonistic relationship between the two characters and the jokes that resulted from that - I saw "hello ball" coming as soon as he read "address the ball", so that wasn't as funny to me as it was to the audience, but I found the other guy's reaction funny. I dislike studio audiences, but I wouldn't hold that against something 60 years old.

Favourite part was "he loves me, he loves me not" and when he began reading out the dedication to the book.

michigan said...

Even though I have seen this clip many many times, it STILL is just as hilarious as it was when I first saw it! This is humor at its BEST!!!

Anonymous said...

Those guys couldn't even figure out what they were doing the whole time. Everything they did was wrong! Completely unequipped to play golf or learn how to. The characters are basically fishes out of water.