Make 'em Laugh

Updated Fri, Dec 30, 2011 3:09 pm


Make 'em Laugh (Ecore Presentation)
Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in January
Did you hear the one about PBS airing a comedy series? It’s no joke, but it is funny. In January 2009, presented the series MAKE ’EM LAUGH: The Funny Business of America, a six-hour comedy epic showcasing the most hilarious men, women, and moments in American entertainment and why they made us laugh. Hosted by America’s favorite funnyman, Billy Crystal, the documentary explores the currents of American comedy throughout a century of social and political change, illuminating how comedy has tackled and poked fun at our political system, race relations, gender issues, and the prevailing American standards and taboos in everyday life.
January 3
Slip on a Banana Peel: The Knockabouts
Physical comedy and slapstick have always found rich soil in America. From the mastery of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to the computer-generated antics that helped transform Jim Carrey into a human cartoon, slapstick has evolved into a sophisticated art, stretching the boundaries of time and space. This episode explores the comic genius of teams like Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, and the Marx Brothers, and the one and only Lucille Ball.
January 10
When I’m Bad, I’m Better: The Groundbreakers
In the ongoing war against hypocrisy, conservatism, political correctness, prejudice, prudery, censorship, sentimentality, liberalism, extremism, and complacency, it was always the comedian who led the first wave of attack. Rather than using risqué jokes and four-letter words simply to get a rise out of an audience, the most audacious comedians – from pioneers like Mae West and Moms Mabley to 60s and 70s bad boys like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin – invoked what the First Amendment of the American Constitution calls “freedom of speech” to bring the biggest and most dangerous laughs to the American public.
January 17
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: The Wiseguys
America loves the wiseguy who defies convention by speaking the truth no matter the consequences. Whether in the form of the curmudgeonly W.C. Fields of the 1930s or today’s Larry David, who manages to aggravate everyone within reach, the wiseguy (or gal) always gets the last – and funniest – word. Along with classic smart-alecks like Groucho Marx and con men like Phil Silvers, other legendary names in this episode’s “Wiseguy Hall of Fame” include Jack Benny, Paul Lynde, Joan Rivers, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock.
January 24
Sock it to Me?: Satire and Parody
Americans have always loved to make fun of the world around them using the slings and arrows of parody and satire. Whether it was Will Rogers, Johnny Carson, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert poking a finger in the eye of the government, or Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks and the “Saturday Night Live” gang lampooning the latest blockbuster, generations have reveled in the anarchic tradition of mocking American life, politics and preoccupations.