Jack EngelhardJack Engelhard’s classic international bestselling novel Indecent Proposal, which later became a worldwide hit movie, has been republished to meet readers’ demands. His other major works include Compulsive: A Novel, his award-winning post-Holocaust Montreal memoir Escape from Mount Moriah, plus Slot Attendant: A Novel About A Novelist. His website: www.jackengelhard.com
They laugh uproariously when Alec Baldwin does his Donald Trump routine on SNL because 17-year-olds will laugh at anything.
That’s the median age Saturday Night Live goes after, though Frat Humor appeals to anyone who likes humor that is sick, brutal and inflicts pain. In other words, not funny. But so it has been with SNL over the years. Not funny, but now and then the gag writers, themselves Frat Boys and Girls, catch a wave, something topical.
To hector, to badger, to insult, to bully the President is the entire business at hand,
No one, of course, is more topical than our President, Donald Trump. To lampoon him with gentle ribbing, as was the case with JFK, is not enough.
To hector, to badger, to insult, to bully the President is the entire business at hand. Lately even that isn’t enough. They are going after his wife and kids.
Heaping scorn was never the virtue of American Comedy. Times have changed. We have coarsened and hardened ourselves to anything goes.
We don’t care who gets hurt or damaged so long as it gets a laugh. Those were the days my friend when American Humor was gentle and the biggest laugh in the history of Radio was when Jack Benny, known as a skinflint, remained silent when demanded at gunpoint to give up his life or his money.
“I’m thinking…I’m thinking,” he finally said. No one did it like Jack Benny and 100 others when (mostly Jewish) Comedy was King and timing was everything. Robin Williams, explaining to a German audience why their country is so humorless: “Did you ever think [that] you killed all the funny people?”
What’s left? In America we’ve got Alec Baldwin. He dons a wig and the cackling begins. Is the entire country laughing? I don’t think so.
Because Alec Baldwin is no Vaughn Meader and who, you ask, is Vaughn Meader. During the all-too-brief Presidency of John F. Kennedy, Vaughn Meader “was the most famous entertainer in America,” and yes, the entire nation was laughing. That’s because his impersonation of JFK was so right-on and so pitch-perfect.
The entire story of that era can be found in the historical novel “The Days of the Bitter End,” which recaptures the way we were when, to quote further from the novel, “Taking pot-shots at national leaders, including Presidents, was nothing new, except that with Kennedy, the humor was for, not against.”
That’s right. America laughed along with Vaughn Meader and he was so successful that his album “The First Family” broke all records for sales. Sunday night was not Sunday night until America tuned in for Ed Sullivan to catch Vaughn Meader doing his latest JFK impersonation – always funny and never mean-spirited.
That album included take-offs on Jackie and the kids, always hilarious but tasteful. Here’s about that from “The Days of the Bitter End” – “Following the death of her newborn son, Jackie had gone off to Greece alone to spend time to recuperate. There she met shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
“There had to be some good lines there, good, but not offensive, for no American audience would tolerate or forgive a slight against Jackie’s honor.”
How’s that for a change in culture from the past to the present – and speaking about the end of an era, we’ve just lost Fred Weintraub. He was 88. Weintraub founded the Bitter End nightspot in Greenwich Village, “the hub of everything that became known as the 1960s, which featured such iconoclastic voices as Bob Dylan and Lenny Bruce, and yes, Vaughn Meader.”
Nostalgia means we will never see that again.
New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva. His books, including “The Days of the Bitter End,” are available from Amazon and other retailers. Engelhard wrote the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and the award-winning Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah.” His latest is “News Anchor Sweetheart.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com