John Derbyshire says that Peter Sellers isn’t funny any more:
We all know, of course, that humor is perishable, and that what made our parents — or even our younger selves — laugh can leave us stone faced. There are degrees of perishability, though, and the very best humor can stay funny for decades. I thought Sellers was in that league. Nope. His repertoire was narrower than I’d remembered — really just two or three funny voices and a couple of facial expressions.
Yes, I’ve noticed that things that I thought uproariously funny when I was younger (and I don’t necessarily mean a child) no longer so. I don’t know if it’s a difference in my sensibilities as I’ve matured (or at least grown older) or that humor has its own fashion and milieu. I haven’t lost my sense of humor, but it’s clearly changed. I wonder what would happen to it after a couple hundred years? What will I find funny then?
Anyway, as further recent illustration, on a flight back from California a couple weeks ago, I saw The Bellboy, Jerry Lewis’ directing debut, and thought by many to be his greatest work. I have vague memories of my parents taking me to see it in the theatres (the only way one generally saw movies then) as a little kid. I don’t remember particularly enjoying it at the time, but I can say that on the more recent viewing, I not only never laughed, there was only one scene that even elicited a smile from me. I can’t remember what it was, now.
I kept watching, hoping for something actually funny to happen, and when the plane landed before it was over, I had no sense of disappointment, because I’d given up. I was astounded in fact at how unfunny the movie was. I’d always thought that he was overrated, but I hadn’t previously comprehended just how much so. One more reason to think that the French are not just a different nationality, but a different species.
[Update a few minutes later]
Just to show I haven’t lost it completely, this joke (found over on Free Republic) got a chuckle out of me:
An old sergeant once went up to an attractive young woman.
“Ma’am, can you please help a lonely soldier? I haven’t made love since 1955.”
“Oh, you poor thing!” The young woman took the sergeant back to her apartment, where they enjoyed a more-than-mutually-satisfactory romp. Afterwards the woman leaned back and purred at the sergeant:
“For a man who hasn’t had sex since 1955, you certainly haven’t forgotten much!”
The sergeant checked his watch. “No reason why I would have, Ma’am; it’s only 2130.”