Harvey Korman is gone and so is comedy with heart

He died at 81. This is very sad news. I loved Harvey Korman. He was brilliant comedic performer with a pitch perfect sense of camp.

My favourite memory of him is as the (Jewish) Fairy Godmother in a Carol Burnett sketch asking the knight in white armor, “You vanta blintz prince?” As one of the only Jewish kids in a small town, this scene would send me into its of giggles anytime anyone in our family quoted it. It was a fast love affair with the ridiculous, camp, comedic large life that felt right to me and that I saw almost nowhere else.

His passing has prompted me to watch a whole lotta video clips of him on the Carol Burnett Show and in Mel Brooks movies. Mel Brooksis one of my few heroes (I pour a kiddish cup for him at Seder).

I had two, no three feelings (these may seem like thoughts, but I assure you I felt em :-):

1) Damn, Harvey Korman was brilliant and why didn’t I get to see him in much these last 30 years?
2) There were so many more women that these guys performed with (Carol Burnet, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman) and so much more togetherness in that supposedly more sexist time than i see now
(insert avg. TV sitcom or summer Ferrell/Sandler/Stiller movie here)
3) Wow our comedy (the comedy of MSM) seems less silly, good-hearted and campy than the Mel Brooks/Burnett/Korman era. It’s really distant and snarky-guy based or childish without being childlike.
The stuff of the Harvey Korman era is why I wanted to do comedy in the first place. Time for more fun and comedy with heart!

6 Replies to “Harvey Korman is gone and so is comedy with heart”

  1. Well, I don’t know much about this, other than that generation grew up constricted and repressed, and campy comedy was a fine way to say what needed to be said. I think you mentioned something as much when you did your piece on Law School?

    A lot of the repression that was able to break through was about conformity to the mainstream (heterosexual romance, swearing, dumb bosses and vacuous employees (Mrs. Whiggins?), “7 deadly sins” kinds of stuff…). Based on the anecdotes I was fed as a child, that was all very seriously renegade.

    (And note: post-9/11 kids — under age 7 — are the same generational cycle. We’re in danger of raising repressed kids who are serious all the time, all over again.)

    Things now have pushed further along the axis of nonconformity, it seems. A lot of humor seems to be focused on what it feels like to hate, to be poor, to be ugly or immigrant (or white and dumb…). Now it’s not being a little wacky, it’s actually having attributes that are reviled. But thankfully being female is no longer non-conformist, so I guess that’s one message from the relative dearth of women comedians.

    But you know, other than Ellen (and does she joke about it?) where’s the mainstream queer humor? Where is being queer as a metaphor for all the other ways people feel “you may NEVER approve of the way I am or the way I live my life, but I’m going to have a silly, good-hearted, campy and fun-filled life anyway”? Or maybe that’s what all those home decorating shows are supposed to be? =:/

    Maybe I’m just missing it??

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