Politics and the American Television Comedy

A Critical Survey from I Love Lucy through South Park

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About the Book

This work examines the unique and ever-changing relationship between politics and comedy through an analysis of several popular American television programs. Focusing on close readings of the work of Ernie Kovacs, Soupy Sales, and Andy Kaufman, as well as Green Acres and The Gong Show, the author provides a unique glimpse at the often subversive nature of avant-garde television comedy. The crisis in American television during the political unrest of the late 1960s is also studied, as represented by individual analyses of The Monkees, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and All in the Family. The author also focuses on more contemporary American television, drawing a comparative analysis between the referential postmodernism of The Simpsons and the confrontational absurdity of South Park.

About the Author(s)

Independent scholar Doyle Greene is the author of several books and serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Bibliographic Details

Doyle Greene
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 275
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3235-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0829-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

Introduction: Subverting the Medium      3

PART ONE. Is Avant-Garde Television Comedy Possible?

1. American Comedy and the European Avant-Garde      9

2. The Culture Industry and American Television Comedy      29

PART TWO. Deconstructing Television: American Television Comedy, 1951–1966

3. The Humor of Anomaly: Ernie Kovacs      49

4. Say “Dada”: The Soupy Sales Show      78

PART THREE. From Bumpkins to Bigots: American Television Comedy, 1962–1971

5. The Idiocy of Rural Life: Green Acres      99

6. Archie Bunker for President! The Crisis of American Television Comedy in the Counterculture Era      117

PART FOUR. Anti-Television: American Television Comedy, 1975–1983

7. Game Shows of Cruelty: Chuck Barris and The Gong Show      141

8. Situationist Comedy: Andy Kaufman      156

PART FIVE. Is Avant-Garde Television Comedy Still Possible?

9. Damage Control: Comedy-Variety and Situation-Comedy After 1974      195

10. Fair and Balanced Satire: Against The Simpsons      200

11. Comedy Is Not Pretty: In Praise of South Park      212

Notes      225

Bibliography      249

Index      255