Unraveling Late-night Humor (6/99)
In the 1960s and 70s, "new wave" comedians exploded the stilted forms of comedy and explored deeper issues. An album liner note proclaimed, "In night clubs these days you get group therapy, prayer meetings, sociological community. You get thinking." One theorist even referred to standup comedians as shamans – holy persons, healers, priests of a sort.
That sort of thing was also briefly visible on television. But it’s not evident in today’s widely-heard late-night show monologues. A major opportunity for public participation has become a tension-relieving exercise, warping the public’s perception of society and democracy through its constant distortion of what constitutes critical social dialogue.