I may have mentioned once or twenty dozen times that I grew up with a strict catholic mother. While she enjoyed comedians like Bill Cosby, she didn’t seem to “get” the comics that would cross the line. Her idea of “edgy” was the fact that she could laugh at a black man’s jokes.
While I’m grateful I grew up with shows like The Cosby Show… in many ways, it was a gateway drug to other comic-led shows like Roseanne. Which my mom hated (I believe she called it pure trash) but my dad and I LOVED!
Unlike my mother, my father has a fantastic sense of humor. Hearing his big belly laugh brings me SUCH joy, and always has. Especially when it’s humor that crosses the line.
My dad and I would sneak-watch SNL together — taped on a VCR one of us would program (we were the only ones in the house who knew how!) While my mom chuckled at Hans and Frans (ie — fairly vanilla sketches) many of the jokes went too far, or just flew over her head. If she caught us watching SNL, or even Roseanne, she’d stomp in screaming “Enough! Turn it off!” just as we were laughing our asses off at an unfiltered joke. God forbid we laugh at something so profound, we wish we thought of it ourselves!
I have a vivid memory of my dad coming home from a trip with the gift of Wayne’s World, the week it was released on VHS… he was so excited to share the movie with me and my sisters, but my mom stomped all over his joy and lost her mind over it. It was a big wake up call. I knew we got the jokes… and she didn’t.
While my mom would appreciate the family-friendly Robin Williams movies… she wasn’t a big fan of stand up comedians, or seeing people like Robin simply going off on talk shows like my dad and I. For us, seeing Robin cross the line was appointment television, and still was for me right up until his passing! My dad and I would laugh our asses off at the same jokes.
*interrupting editor’s note* I started writing this piece after Robin passed… and now that Joan has sadly joined him, I feel inclined to share more.
My mom wasn’t a Joan Rivers fan… I remember my mother specifically getting upset when she would guest host The Tonight Show. She’d complain about “That Joan Rivers is no Johnny” with her dad, my old fashioned Grandfather. Maybe on some level, that was *their* bonding moment.
But, my dad got the jokes. And so did I.
Female comedians were so rare for a VERY long time. And to see one that would frequently cross the line and never apologize for it… well, she was practically the polar opposite of my “what-will-people-think?!” mother. So I loved the shit out of Joan… and the many ladies that followed in her footsteps.
I’m a pop culture DORK… I should probably be in a 12-step program. And I hate death… but I try not to get my panties in a wad over people I don’t know personally. But Robin and Joan felt like a big part of my life. This space probably wouldn’t exist without their influence on me. Momma Needs A Beer?! People still don’t get it. But I’ve learned to get over it, because the people that DO get it are my people. The ones with a sense of humor. The ones that get the honest, occasionally bitchy jokes… that are partially therapeutic, because laughter *is* the best medicine.
The careers of other comedians I adore wouldn’t exist without Joan and Robin’s influence either. Sarah Silverman, Louis CK, Roseanne, Chelsea Handler, Jim Gaffigan, Whitney Cummings, Kathy Griffin, Maria Bamford, Russell Brand, Amy Schumer, Janeane Garafalo, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler… seriously. Think about it.
Comedians like the ones I listed off the top of my head above have shocked me into belly laughs… and have inspired me to ignore those voices in my own head that attempt to shut my mouth when I feel the urge to say something shocking, offensive or questionable… but hilarious. My mind is pretty much like a 12yo boy after 2 beers. Ok, so all of the damn time. I’m a sick and twisted chic.
I know I censor myself more than many comedians. And I actually wouldn’t call myself a comedian. Ever! But, I do get the humor. I get it. And I’ll forever be grateful for my dad crossing a few tiny lines to help me laugh my way through an occasionally difficult childhood with a controlling mom who seemed to lack a sense of humor.
So thank you, dad, for letting me peek inside the wonderful world of edgy belly laughs. And thank you Robin and Joan for paving a very funny path often imitated, but never duplicated. You’ll forever own a piece of my funny-loving heart. Rest in peace Robin and Joan…