Don Knotts' insight into humor's ever-changing landscape

"Comedians are in a tough position now"

CBS Television Distribution

The state of comedy has always been in flux, with people bemoaning "the death of..." this, or declaring "the era of..." that. The truth, though, is that no one blanket statement can be made about comedy. That's true for any period, too. No matter what decade you examine, there have always been conformers and iconoclasts. There have always been folks in comedy who prove the rule, and those who subvert it. 

Today, people are constantly decrying the end of comedy as they've known it. But comedy has always evolved. The biggest difference, now, is that people have the platform to share their opinions. The one true constant is the change that comedy, like all art, is always going through. The people who wish to uphold a bygone era threaten to inhibit the evolution of an entire art form. To say "We should make comedy like it was made at some other time," is to submit to stagnation.

Folks who don't make a living in the field of comedy will be quick to tell you that, today, comedians have their work cut out for them. But audiences' tastes have always changed. 

For proof, here is an excerpt from a 1970 Don Knotts interview in The Idaho Statesman:

"Comedians are in a tough position now. I'm trying to adjust myself to it. They talk of a generation gap. How about the gap in types of humor?

"There are two sides to the fence. You have to stick to a basic humor. There is such a thing. It's funny for everybody."

However, Knotts contended that more pointed comedy was closer to a high-wire act.

"On satire, there's more disagreement. That's because the country is divided."

1970 was a particularly volatile year in American history. The Beatles broke up, the National Guard opened fire on Kent State students, and the War in Vietnam spread to Cambodia. The country was changing, and comedy was changing with it. 

Don Knotts, however, wanted to offer a salve, rather than a mirror.

"My television shows will be like my movies in one respect," he said. 

"Parents and children will be able to watch them together. All my pictures have had a 'G' rating."

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5 Comments

Runeshaper 29 days ago
I give Knotts A LOT of credit for sticking with his 'G' rating. He was a good man.
McGillahooala 29 days ago
This article was heavy on the social lecturing and low on the Don Knotts content.
harlow1313 1 month ago
I like both styles of comedy; Knotts' homespun and Carlin's social observations, and many things falling in between. However, I dislike most comedy shows and comedians. I am selective.
justjeff 1 month ago
For me... in general... today's humor is nothing to laugh at...😋
McGillahooala justjeff 29 days ago
I agree. Smarm is not funny. It is just pathetic. Notable exception: the king of smarm, Paul Lynde.
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