In Celebration Of The Things That Have Made Us Laugh The Most, vol. 1

Laughing AudienceMad magazine

I bought my first issue when I was eight years old, at Miller’s Drug Store, and it flipped some kind of switch inside me. I’d been reading kiddy comics like Dennis the Menace and Archie, and they were fine. But MAD was something else altogether. It was rude and crazy, and (I later realized) subversive. I only understood about 50% of what was going on, which intrigued me further. I had to crack that code! I became so obsessed my parents had to cut me off for a short time. I never stopped talking about it. Also, my grandmother saw something in one of the issues that offended her. So, there was a two or three month moratorium, early in my MAD career. But I quickly wore ’em down, and read every word of every issue for years.

National Lampoon

I had almost exactly the same relationship with NatLamp as I did MAD, starting around eighth grade. Some stores kept it with the Playboys and Penthouses, and refused to sell it to little booger-rollers like me. Needless to say, that only added to the excitement. And, like with the early MAD issues, I didn’t understand half of it. But the stuff I did get… often blew my mind. John Hughes — who would later become an iconic maker of teen films of the 1980s — was my favorite Lampoon writer of the era. He had a completely different persona back then, and his byline was a welcome thing indeed. Plus, the cartoons were fantastic, and there was a smattering of nudity.

1964 High School Yearbook

This was a National Lampoon spin-off, and it’s one of my favorite things in all the world. It’s a perfectly-executed parody of a high school yearbook, all the way down to the ads in the back and the signatures from classmates. It was edited by Doug Kenney — one of the founders of the Lampoon — and P.J. O’Rourke. There are big laughs on every page, and it’s an amazing thing to behold. How did they do it?? I still flip through it, and wonder how it didn’t take those guys ten years to accomplish. It’s genuinely hilarious, completely wacked-out, and more impressive than the Egyptian Pyramids. You know, in my opinion.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

When I was in Jr. High my friends and I became aware of this insane British TV show that the local PBS station showed every Wednesday night (I think it was Wednesday). None of us had ever seen anything quite like it. Everything was rooted in absurdity, and those guys were going for it. It was a gleeful celebration of the absurd. And every Thursday the Jr. High would be buzzing about the previous night’s episode, everybody repeating their favorite lines, etc. And you ain’t lived until you’ve heard a gaggle of West Virginia hicks shouting in fake British accents for six hours. Eventually I denounced my association with Python, because it all felt so… nerdy. But a few years ago I received every episode on DVD as a Christmas present, and re-watched them. I was right the first time ’round: it’s fucking amazing.

The Andy Griffith Show

I’ve seen every episode, probably ten times each. Maybe more. Who knows? For the first 30 years of my life, this show was on TV constantly. It’s always been a favorite, and I still consider it to be the best (or second-best) sitcom of all time. It’s one of those rare situations where it all came together: the casting, the acting, the writing. It started in 1960, so it’s pretty wholesome stuff. But… that doesn’t mean it’s not also hilarious. The show is full of memorable characters, reminiscent of people we all know. And it’s pitch-perfect. They all act exactly the way we expect them to act, while remaining human. In lesser hands, characters like Barney Fife or Floyd the Barber would’ve been turned into giant catchphrase-spewing cartoons. On The Andy Griffith Show they’re just another part of the tapestry. I still laugh through every episode, and have a tremendous fondness for the program. Especially the early black & white episodes, before Don Knotts left.

George Carlin on HBO

When I was in Jr. High something called Home Box Office was made available to us, via Capitol Cablevision. It offered unedited(!!) movies, live boxing matches, and standup comedy. You know, for a fee. My parents somehow agreed to pay that fee, and for a period of time we had HBO at our house. This was very early, when they only broadcast at night (it came on the air around 4 pm), and showed Car Wash roughly 20 times per month. Eventually my mother heard the word fuck about five times in 15 minutes, and flipped-out. And that was the end of the line for us and HBO. But, before that horrible day I was able to watch two standup specials featuring George Carlin. And I’m not joking… it felt like my lungs were in danger of collapsing from the laughter. I’d never seen anything like it, or heard anyone talk that way. If it had been just 1% funnier, I think I would’ve literally died. At least that’s how it felt at the time… Both those specials are available on Netflix now, and I tried to watch one recently. Here’s some video footage of me viewing it.

And that concludes part 1 of this epic. I’ll try to finish it up tomorrow, with some predictable stuff, and some not-so-predictable. Please feel free to share the things that have made you laugh the most, or comment on mine. It’s all good.

I’ll see you guys again soon!

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  1. Welcome back!

  2. National Lampoon, come for the nudity, stay for the laughs. Same with the drawings in the Python animations. A random bare breast for a 14 year old boy does wonders for loyalty.

  3. I was getting worried….

    I still laugh at my own farts. Because I’m in my tardolescent phase…

    • Funny you mention that… but I carpet bombed a grocery store isle the other day and couldn’t help but start laughing at the thought of somebody walking into the wall.

  4. Stephanie says

    You had me at Archie Comics and Mad magazine. (As opposed to Crack’d mazagine…that’s how they spelled it. Posers). Later, I discovered Monty Python and George Carlin. There seems to be a specific road that ends up getting traveled when you begin reading comics at an early age.

    I continue to proudly wave my nerd flag.

  5. Jeremy in Texas says

    No mention of Smokey and the Bandit or Eddie Murphy Delirious?

  6. I may be the only guy in the world who does not care of Monty Python. I like a lot of British shows – but just not Monty Python.

    • I’m with you on this, Ognir. I always hated Monty Python and thought the entire show was stupid. Never say any humor there at all.

      • Say = saw.

        I dated a guy that loved Monty Python and he would bring over dozens of videos of their shows. I would almost scream after about 4 episodes of that foolishness. I really don’t care for any British comedy so it’s not surprising I dislike Python.

  7. Bill in WV says

    The episode where they abduct the BBC newscaster (John Cleese), desk and all, and load him up on a flat bed truck (BTW, he’s still broadcasting the news the entire time) and run him off the end of a pier, cracks me the hell up, every single time.

  8. I started reading Mad Magazine at the Barbershop while I with my mom for my brother to get his hair cut. I didn’t really discover Nat Lamp until high school, and the humor was a little “male adolescent” for me. Monty Python was on Saturday nights back home, so the Saturday night hilarity started at 10 with Carol Burnett, 11 Monty Python and 1130 SNL.

  9. I used to have a bunch of MAD books. I suppose someone is selling those out there somewhere. I also read Cracked.

  10. Jazzbone Swirly says

    The first couple of Steve Martin stand-up comedy albums, and his early appearances on SNL, were comedy gold to me as an adolescent.

  11. Jerry in WV says

    I remember a British show “The Goodies” that was on Saturday nights, right after Python. I thought it was just as funny. Anyone else ever watch it?

    • I loved The Goodies! Also, The Two Ronnies. All of it was crazy.

      • johnthebasket says

        The Two Ronnies and On The Busses. Watched both with my Dad and both cracked us both up. Rare to laugh equally between generations. I miss the shows, but not as much as I miss laughing with Dad.

        • There were a bunch of episodes of those shows on Youtube. They may still be there.

          • johnthebasket says

            Ognir . . .

            Thanks. I hadn’t thought of On The Busses for 40 years, and there they are on YouTube. Dad started driving bus in 1940 and retired in 1981. Transit humor was big around our house.

            Thanks again. . .

        • Phil Jett says

          I remember watching On the Busses with my Dad. He always commented on the one character having a Hitler ‘stache. I don’t think a character on television could pull that off today.

          • It’s amazing what you can find on YT. I often like to look up old or forgotten shows or movies.

      • Speaking of laughing oneself to death, several years ago I read about a man who did just that, while watching an episode of “The Goodies”. His widow wrote them a letter thanking them for giving him so much enjoyment before he died. I read about this some years back (pre internet). I’m sure the complete story is out there somewhere.

    • You should try the Spike Milligan show “Q”. And his books, especially his WW2 “diaries”.

  12. I grew up reading Mad Magazine because my dad liked it and brought each new issue home. I’m kind of tempted to buy this month’s issue because Weird Al Yankovic is the guest editor and he’s another comedy fave of mine.

  13. johnthebasket says

    William Gaines and Al Feldstein help raise me — that is, they helped inform me about the ways of the world: they were essential in my emotional and intellectual maturity, to the extent that I have matured at all.

    A lady is walking through the Medical Artifact Hall of Fame and asks to see Paul Anka;s gallstones. The tour guide asks her how she knows Anka suffered from gallstones. She replies, “He must have; he has a lot of gall.”

    So in two panels of a several-page bit, I learn about halls of fame (each has an element of bullshit), gallstones (I was previously unaware I had a gall bladder), Paul Anka (I realized for the first time that he DID have a lot of gall), and irreverence (damn, it’s OK to be sardonic or an all-out wiseass).

    Mad was like radiation. The total dose I got between 12 and 18 was cumulative, and, thank God, I never recovered.


  14. V from WV says

    Monty Python Saturday night on PBS was epic.
    HBO had an early series called SRO ( Standng Room Only) featured ( George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robert Klein, Victor Borge, and Robin Williams.). Classic
    Also, my brother’s Cheech & Chong albums were pure gold. Define toy lung splitting.

  15. BBC show that I love…Little Britain. Hilarious!

  16. Welcome back, Jeff! 🙂

  17. revashane says

    My brother gave me a subscription to MAD for Christmas, I was in the 5th grade. Roger Kaputnik, to this day I laugh when I say that name. Mort Drucker was a favorite, I would spend days looking at all the little people he would put in the backgrounds, a whole other story was going on back there. Unfortunately puberty for girls left me with Seventeen mag, nothing funny there. Boys got Lampoon.

    • Every new years HBO would play a huge block of comedy. In 86 I taped Robert Klein, Robin Williams at the Met, Howie Mandel, George Carlin (forget which one but why baseball basketball and football are the only real sports), A rodney Dangerfield young comedians special and one or two others. I ignored it for about 3 or 4 months then one day me and my friend watched it and I was hooked. I could recite the entire George Carlin (Maybe Klaus is gay!!) and learned what an orgasm was because Robin Williams kept saying it.

  18. Thank God you came back. I was starting to get seriously worried. I was mesmarized by the back cover on Mad that you folded into another picture. Yes, I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the socket. Somewhat off topic but still “old TV”, as a young man I loved to watch the yoga chick on PBS. hehehehehehe Also, the painter with the big mustache. What was his name–Bob?

  19. I liked Monty python but loved The Benny Hill show!

  20. I actually googled “Jeff Kay” the other day to make sure something terrible hadn’t happened to you. No obituary popped up so I assumed you were fine. Glad to hear you’re just busy and not dead from a fiery crash on I-81.

    I agree with Mudpup, I loved me some Benny Hill. For some reason I haven’t been exposed to hardly any Monty Python.

  21. JeffInDenver (In Cleveland) says


    Love it. I re-read it every now and then, and send it to people who need a laugh. Even people who don’t normally find poop humor funny tell me they laughed at some point in the story. I can just say “the move” and my kids will crack up.

  22. Having George Carlin in the tv room back in ’75 was pure magic.

    I remember watching a movie called Jeremy, with Robbie Benson and glynis O’Connor.
    On hbo

    • Wow, madz. I thought I was the only one who ever watched that movie. I saw it on a TWA flight from Boston to London in the mid-70’s, my mom sitting next to me (she commented afterward that it was “quite good”). They even showed the sex scene, which says something (good) about the 70’s. I fell in love with Glynnis O’Connor, and was surprised a few years ago to see her pop up on a Law and Order episode (but who hasn’t, right?). She should have been the Helen Hunt of her day, but it didn’t happen for some reason.

  23. Growing up in Canada gave me lots of British comedy exposure. All the previously mentioned ones. I’ll also add Not The 9 O’Clock News. And I believe it was Doctor In the House. This predates On The Buses, as Jack (still a womanizer) was a student doctor if I remember right. Anyway, it revolved around a doctor school, so lots of boob and skirt inuendo to go around. Many more, the Brits at least had a knack for incorporating boobage into tv which suited this young male mind just fine.

    • Doctor in the House was a great show – it was reruns when I lived in the UK briefly in the early 70’s. Etched in my brain is a scene where the guys are trying to help Jack cheat on an exam, so they hold up placards at the window with catchy phrases supposed to make recall of anatomy easier – one of them was “Even Derek Likes Virgins”. I was probably 11 years old but I bust a gut at that one. Good times.

    • Doctor in the House was on weekday mornings when I was in Jr. High. That show was hilarious!

  24. And now for something completely different….

    Some see a blizzard, we see a snow day. Suit up for snow and ice with our Blizzak snow tires.


  25. Franky T. says

    I used to like “The Young Ones” on MTV back in the 80’s.
    The Goodies were great as were Monty Python, Cheech & Chong and George Carlin.

  26. John Goodman as Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski never fails to make me laugh. Even just thinking about him makes me laugh.

  27. Jeff, no mention of Fawlty Towers?

  28. The first time I saw “Airplane” I thought they going to have to throw me and my brother out of the theater. Our ribs hurt for days. It still makes me laugh even now. I take a quote from it just about every day as well.
    “What do you make of this, Johnny?” “Well, I can make a hat, a brooch or a pterodactyl.”
    I also got a kick out of MAD magazine as well. The “fold-in” on the back was always great!

  29. bikerchick says

    I loved MAD magazine. I hung onto them for a while too. But have no idea what happend to them.

    I have to agree about Andy Griffith. I watch it everytime it’s on. My husband just rolls his eyes and asks how I can watch the same shit over and over. I don’t care…I love it.

    I also loved MASH. But only until Trapper left and Henry was killed off. They were hilarious. Like Andy Griffith, the cast was perfect.

    I remember watching Benny Hill with my mother. It was always on late, like after the news or something. I loved his show. It was funny as hell.

    Carol Burnett’s show was one of my favorites too. We watched every Saturday night. My mom always made a Chef Boyardee pizza just in time for the show. Good memories.

    The original Bugs Bunny Show. It’s amazing how much of the humor would never go over today. Have you ever really watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings now? A total waste of air-time.

    • Lew in Bama says

      MASH will always be my dads all-time favorite show. We bought him the dvd box set for Christmas a few years ago.
      I love the Carol Burnett show. Harvey and Tim had me nearly peeing my pants with laughter on a regular basis.
      That was good tv, I miss those days.
      Reality tv makes me want to throw my tv out the window.

  30. Wow! I had pretty much stopped checking for updates, hence late to the party.

    Welcome back, Jeff – I’m glad you’re OK.

    NatLamp, yes. My first issue was “if you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.” I bought the magazine, of course. And kept buying it. It was insanely, hysterically, gasping-for-breath funny all through the 1970s and early 1980s. I read Mad here and there, but it was a couple of orders of magnitude less funny than the ‘Poon.

    My biggest belly laugh of recent years involved playing bridge with some friends. My buddy Frank and his wife -vs- me and another friend. They bid themselves up to five spades (or something ridiculous). My partner leads, Frank lays down his cards… and not only does he have only one spade, but it’s the two! His wife did an all-natural facepalm, and said “what the hell were you thinking!” Meanwhile I’m collapsing on the floor with uncontrollable guffaws. They went down hard, of course.

    TV-wise, SNL was absolutely the king. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was entertaining too, but I was little too young to get the full effect. A few years later I got the Full Monty Python and it was funny as hell, pining for the fjords like.

    And I sure as shit don’t fucking roll on Shabbas.

  31. Jazzbone Swirly says

    I wonder what will be in the May 2 update (?)

  32. revashane says

    I have a six degrees of separation thing going with Jeff that keeps me coming back but with these long absences I find my daily interest waning. Dont want to throw guilt on you Jeff, I’m just bumming.

  33. johnthebasket says

    revashane, Jazzbone . . .

    I always enjoy both your comments, so I hope you’ll indulge me when I say that unless you’re actually driving up to Chinchilla (or Scranton, or Clarks Summit or Throop) every day to check on whether Jeff has updated, it’s only costing you a click.

    What I do know is that when Jeff posts again I’m likely to enjoy the writing. I only visit three or four blogs a day, and I peruse CNN, The Daily Beast, and sometimes Slate. Jeff will almost always be more entertaining than anything else I read.

    So I’m gonna keep making the click investment; I hope you will too. Besides, I understand that Throop isn’t the hot spot it once was: the strippers all moved to Archbald.

    best wishes,