Comedy is dead. Long live Comedy.

Walter Mwasi Williams III
3 min readApr 16, 2023

Let’s keep this short.

Comedy has always had an issue with aging not-so-gracefully. It is an observation probably as old as the art form. It had nothing to do with the “woke” bogeyman fueling this lucrative culture wars racket.

Some younger people presently viewing the 90’s sitcom Friends for the first time, and criticizing aspects of the show, is not a consorted effort to “cancel” it. Younger generations examining, questioning, and sometimes outright condemning previous films and shows that once entertained their parents or grandparents, is absolutely nothing new in the modern age.

I Love Lucy, remains an American hallmark, and its star, Lucille Ball is a celebrated comedic icon. Certainly, most of the series is harmless slapstick and lighthearted. It is also true much of it has not aged well. There are episodes where Ricky, Lucy’s husband, forbids her from buying a dress, changing her hairstyle, or mentions he wants her to lose a few pounds to make him happy.

On the topic of weight and body image, there are multiple occasions where Ethel, Lucy’s best friend, has her weight turned into the punchline of mean jokes by the husbands. Sometimes, Ricky literally punishes Lucy like a small child when she disobeys him. Because societal norms were different, what would rightfully raise immediate red flags now, was played up for laughter back in the 1940s. But these observations are also not new.

I Love Lucy’s era of comedy was outdated by the standards of the 90s. Films like Pleasantville, and a plethora of television shows, including the Simpsons, Rosanne, Mad T.V, In Living Color, and SNL, all parodied the casual sexism, homophobia, racism, and oppression of individuality. Now, many of SNL’s past skits, a majority of Mad TV’s and In Living Color’s episodes, and ironically the comedian Rosanne Barr, all comedy that has aged poorly, with much of it occurring long before 2023. And you know what? It will likely happen to some of our favorite current comedies in the future.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s I. Y. Yunioshi, Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong, In Living Color’s Handyman, Martin’s Sheneneh, the Simpson’s Apu, and other characters based solely on harmful stereotypes have always hurt people. The only difference now is that those people most affected…

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