1/24/08 - george meyer on comedy

Today's encore excerpt gives us a glimpse of George Meyer and his theories of humor. Meyer was the long-term head writer for 'The Simpsons', as well as a writer on 'Saturday Night Live', The National Lampoon and 'Late Night with David Letterman'. He has been called 'the funniest man behind the funniest show on television':

"(Meyer) remembers being particularly struck by a parody of 'Dennis the Menace.' He told me, 'It was a cartoon that showed Dennis coming into the house holding a skull, and the caption was something like, 'Hey Mom, look what I found in Mr. Wilson's head.' That absolutely put me away. The next day, my stomach muscles hurt from laughing. I felt like I'd been worked over by bullies.'

"Meyer still admires that cartoon, because, he says, it led him into a significant insight about humor. 'It jumps a step, and to me the best comedy always jumps a step', he explains. 'Dennis could have said, 'Mom, I killed Mr. Wilson and here's his head', and Mrs. Mitchell could have said, 'Oh Dennis,' or something like that, and I still would have thought it was pretty funny, because part of the humor for me was simply that a kid had killed an adult. But, Jesus, what a great joke. Michael O'Donoghue'—he late writer for National Lampoon and 'Saturday Night Live—used to say that humor had to be startling, and I agree with that. It has to reframe reality in a way that is exciting."


David Owen


'Taking Humor Seriously'


The New Yorker


March 13, 2000


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