While I was surfing for info on my last post on the TV show Rules of Engagement, I came across someone else’s review of the show. They referred to David Spade as a “comic genius”. Really?? David Spade?
Some might argue that the phrase comic genius is an oxymoron, but it got me to thinking about who I would consider a comic genius or as I prefer to call them – comic giants.
What constitutes a comic giant? Above all, laugh out loud, side-splittingly funny. That along with longevity, intelligence, ingenuity and versatility are some of the criteria. Longevity, however, is not enough in itself. There has to be a body of work that stands the test of time.
Most of my giants/geniuses wrote for a fifties comedy program called “Your Show of Shows”. Included in that bunch are Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein), Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Neil Simon (The Odd Couple), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), and Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H*).
Steve Allen pioneered the late night talk show and was the funniest to ever do it. David Letterman patterned much of his show after Steve Allen’s Tonight Show.
Would I include any comics that got their start more recently than five decades ago? There’s only one modern genius that immediately springs to mind and it is NOT David Spade. Steve Martin has proven time and again that he belongs in this group. From stand-up to movies, books, and columns in The New Yorker he has remained consistently funny through a long career.
I suppose I would also have to include Billy Crystal. Yeah, he disappointed me with City Slickers 2 and Forget Paris, but who hasn’t had their clunkers? Easily the best Oscar host of all time. That and When Harry Met Sally put him firmly in the giant category.
I’m sure you have your own list. Feel free to comment, but don’t waste your time trying to convince me to change mine.
COMING SOON: A guide to some of the works that made me include these people in my list and that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen them.