Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the resurgence in so-called "stoner comedy" lately?
You, I'm not the only one. Well there's a pretty good reason for that, but, as usual, let's start with a little history.
Comedy, especially film comedy, has always relied on a certain level of stupidity to work. And I'm not talking about the audience falling for a particularly low-brow joke, I'm talking about stupidity in the characters.
The Three Stooges weren't particularly bright, and Groucho had all the brains of the Marx Brothers, and Abbot & Costello weren't the brightest buttons on the shirt either. Laughs were derived from the slapstick antics of a team of people where one was smarter than the other(s) but none were exactly geniuses. But that sort of "team comedy" fell out of favour with movies in the 60s after Martin & Lewis broke up.
That changed in the 1970s.
Two comedians, one from East Los Angeles and one from Vancouver, Canada took their act, which they had honed in hippie clubs and strip joints since '68, and made the jump to the big screen.
This new team was called Cheech and Chong, and they offered a new take on the old fashioned comedy team with edgier subject matter and a new ingredient.
Marijuana, mary-jane, grass, spliff, blunts weed, thai-stick, pot, dope, chronic, or whatever term is hip these days.
Yep, they're act, part satirizing and part revelling in the hippie lifestyle, used marijuana, and in particular it's effects to great... well... effect.
Now why, you may ask, is marijuana funny, and not, for the sake of argument, heroin.
Well it has to do with what marijuana does to the average brain, and this is backed up by science, and the fact that I've known a few pot-heads in my day. (Though I've never used, any smoke makes me gag)
Marijuana makes people stupid.
Xenu knows how many times I've encountered pot heads doing stupid things and saying stupid stuff. I'm sure you have your own stories to illustrate this point.
Heroin, on the other hand, is just depressing, with overtones of pain, illness, disease, death, and despair.
You might be able to extract a few dark ironic laughs from heroin, but it's not really going to make it into a mainstream comedy sub-genre.
Pot and drug related comedy faded from favour in the early to mid-1980s. Some think the culture turned to the right with the rise of Reagan, but I think it may have had more to do with the crack epidemic and cocaine cartel wars that were turning America's streets into shooting galleries just turned folks off the whole scene as entertainment.
Stoner humour still popped up occasionally, filmmaker Kevin Smith made it a part of his View Askew universe with Jay & Silent Bob, a pair of woefully unsuccessful pot dealers in almost all of his films.
But now it seems to be everywhere, from the now defunct That 70's Show, to Showtime's Weeds, and especially in movies like Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, it's upcoming sequel and Pineapple Express.
Now why is pot-humour making a comeback?
Has society become more accepting of the old herb?
Probably not, what folks laugh at on screen rarely equals what they'll tolerate in real life. But there is another answer.
And that answer is political correctness.
Yep, it's true.
You see, back in ye olden days, when times were particularly insensitive, minorities were often portrayed as stupid, and often held up as a target of ridicule.
This sparked a backlash against blatantly racist humour in mainstream movies, but it also cut anyone but white males from playing "stupid" in movies and television without sparking a complaint or boycott from one group or another.
But there was a way out.
And her name was Mary-Jane.
Marijuana was the perfect excuse for characters of all ethnicities to play stupid. It was self-inflicted stupidity, that was chemically induced, and not bound to any ethnic or religious type.
Besides potheads don't boycott over pot jokes. They just sit there, giggle, and ask for more potato chips.