Intersections and Influences

One of the features on Morning Edition lately has been a series called Intersections: Artists and Their Inspirations. They’ve featured Alice Walker, Patti Smith and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, for example, talking about their chief influences for their art.

I was thinking about this the other day when someone mentioned Groucho Marx, and I thought, “That’s where a significant bit of what I find funny comes from.” This lead to the question: “Who are your biggest influences?”

I don’t mean “real life” people. Obviously, parents, friends, co-workers, etc. will have had a more direct impact. What I want to know is who are the artists that inspired you? Where does your sense of humor come from? Your sense of art? Your musical taste?

It’s tough to limit yourself to a single influence (at least for me), even if you limit the category to music or something. So, I’ll make this a little easier.

List the five biggest influences on what it is that you find funny.

And don’t just list off who you think are funny now. It’s easy to reel of names of shows like Beavis & Butthead, The Simpsons and The Daily Show or names of current comedians. Think about why you find them funny. Who did you see way back in your childhood that sparked the idea that irony or bad puns or silly sounds are funny?

In no particular order, mine are:

  1. Groucho Marx – Bam! Insult! Bam! Retort! Bam! Bad pun! The funniest, wittiest, snideliest guy ever.
  2. Monty Python – Kinda obvious for a geek, but I’d never seen anything like this group of silly people being extremely silly, other than snippets of old Ernie Kovacs shows or Jonathan Winters standup routines.
  3. Mark Twain – The Groucho Marx of literature.
  4. Jay Ward – This was close. The Warner Brothers cartoons – especially Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck – are pretty safe choices for hilarity. But hearing Edward Everett Horton wind up a Fractured Fairy Tale with the most godawful pun is comedy nirvana.
  5. Dr. Demento – I heard more strangeness coming out of my little radio each Sunday than anyone should be allowed. If I missed anything funny growing up, then I got caught up in a hurry by listening to the Dr. Demento Show as a teenager.

Next up: Music

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15 Responses to Intersections and Influences

  1. Scott says:

    I just posted mine, in case the trackback doesn’t kick in.

  2. What I find funny

    Solonor is asking us to List the five biggest influences on what it is that you find funny. I’m a…

  3. Scott says:

    We share one influence, by the way. 🙂

  4. Brian says:

    I’d add Steve Martin and Robin Williams to that list for myself, and take off Twain (I like Twain, but I don’t consider him an influence on my sense of humor). I would also add the Warner Brothers cartoons as a HUGE influence, far more than Jay Ward.

  5. MJ says:

    My biggest influences came from watching TV as a kid…The Carol Burnett Show, SNL, Monty Pythons Flying Circus, Laugh-in, definitely WB cartoons. I also played Steve Martins “Let’s Get Small” album until I wore it out… I used to be able to recite the whole thing.

  6. ThymeWise says:

    Why Do I Think That’s Funny?

    Solonor asks us to think about: List the five biggest influences on what it is that you find funny. And…

  7. Domino says:

    * The original SNL with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players (Aykroyd, Murray, Belushi, etc

  8. Karan says:

    My list would also include Jay Ward, Monty Python, and Edward Everett Horton. I’d add Gary Larson and Ogden Nash.

  9. Ric The Schmuck says:

    Domino hit it right for me, as well…

    Big surprise, that, huh?

    Though I’ll admit that The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonite Show, and Letterman also contributed greatly.

  10. etherian says:

    1) Red Skelton – his humor was never hurtful. He was the only clown in the universe that wasn’t scary. He made me appreciate the disarming warmth of a smile.

    2) The Muppets, originally seen on Sesame Street. When I began watching this, I was babysitting when I was 13. I adored the Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, and Grover. They’re humor always felt like it included everyone. I also loved the silly songs, such as Oscar’s, I Love Trash!

    3) Captain Kangaroo. Dropping ping pong balls and conning the Captain out of a few dozen extra carrots without ever saying a word, is STILL funny.

    4) Coyote & Road Runner. Inventive stupidity. I recall one winter evening in which my family sa down to watch a 3 hour marathon of these cartoons. We were in tears.

    5) Marcel Marceau. I first saw him when I was 9 years old. There’s so much to this memory…. I’m getting lost wrting this. 🙂 Suffice it to say, I’ve never forgotten the magic.

  11. Ric The Schmuck says:

    Gak, I forgot to list The Muppets!
    Thanks, etherian! To not account for The Muppets would be sinful.

  12. Inquiring Minds

    Solly wants to know who influences your humor? Wow, that’s quite a question. He said they’re not supposed to be…

  13. Cableman says:

    Don’t forget about Bill Cosby Stand-up. Now that was funny!!
    And Mad Magazine too…

  14. Solonor wants to know why I’m so twisted.

    OK, that’s not exactly what he’s asking. What he’s actually asking is for folks to list off the five biggest influences on what it is that you find funny. That shouldn’t be too hard I thought to myself, but then I realized that I’ve got quite a list I …

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