The Sopranos is the best comedy series of all-time.
You may be thinking to yourself “maybe, maybe not, Maybe fuck yourself.” In any case, I’ll qualify this objectively subjective statement based on the following two criteria:
- No show has ever made me laugh as hard.
- “Drama” and “comedy” are merely two sides of the same coin.
If we’re trying to understand why so many of the comedy balls that used to hang from television shows and movies (particularly the latter) have been clipped, we don’t have to look much further than The Sopranos and genre-identity politics in pop culture.
For something to be a comedy (at least in the way many executives who don’t know anything about comedy think about comedy), it doesn’t have to be inherently “ha-ha funny”. It doesn’t need to just have a lot of 1-2-3 multi-cam sitcom jokes accompanied by a laugh track (You know. The kind that make you want to teabag a hot wok coated with sesame oil?).
It doesn’t have to feel good. The characters don’t have to be likeable. They don’t have to win all the time.
In The Tao of the Bada Bing, David Chase captures the essence of how Tony Soprano best encapsulates what makes The Sopranos the best drama and the best comedy:
What Tony Soprano shows…is that rarely is anything black and white in life. Life is difficult, messy, disappointing. Things don’t work out the way we’d like – our kids make bad choices, our parents are a burden, our friends disappoint or betray us. In that sense, I hope The Sopranos is similar to the foreign films I loved as a young adult for their ideas, their mystery, and their ambiguity.
Ambiguity. Messy. The grey-area. If you were to make a Venn diagram, this would be the sweet spot for both drama and comedy. All comedy (or rather, all good comedy) has at least a touch of “dark”. The best humor comes from our ability to laugh at ourselves. This includes the screw-ups and all.
Comedy, as it stands, is blind to the elements. People don’t generally think of Goodfellas or Casino as comedies, but I’ll be goddamned and dipped in bird twatsone if those movies don’t make me belly–laugh until it hurts. This happens seemingly no-matter how many times I watch them.
So what qualifies a comedy as “dark” anyway?
Is it violence? Death? Mean words? Could it be when bad things happen to good people (or vice versa)? That sounds like life. When the dramatic stakes are high, the potential for comedy is infinite.
Consider the civil war that breaks out in the Soprano family after Uncle Junior takes offense to his nephew goofing on him for being a kooz-snorkeler in season one. Being the insecure, macho-posturing, wrinkle-basket that he is, Uncle Junior projects his own mishegas onto Tony by convincing himself that Tony’s decision to see a shrink was just-cause for a whacking.
“This whole war could have been averted. Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this.”
Tony swallows his pride, makes amends with Uncle Junior, and goes back to being the able and effective leader that he was born to be.
Oversensitivity isn’t good for anyone.
Not for Tony. Not for Uncle Junior. To bring things full-circle, it’s most-definitely not good for our culture.
I’ll be a guinea pig in an experiment. At one point in the series, Paulie refers to Zellman. He’s been acting as Tony’s partner in a real estate scam and Paulie calls him a “Christ Killer” (a reference to Zellman’s Jewish heritage).
Now guess what? This Jew-boy right here isn’t offended one bit. As a matter of fact, I think it’s hilarious. While I hate to dissect comedy like a frog in chemistry class, I can say that this unexpected politically-incorrect slur is funny precisely because it violates a taboo. Context, as always, is everything.
Paulie is pretty much universally agreed-upon to be a hilarious idiot. He’s total id. This is not a guy you’re supposed to take seriously. To laugh at this comment is to understand its context.
For years now many of my friends have told me that my view on political-correctness, that it has gotten out of control, has been nothing but the product of my own imagination.
I find this interesting, particularly in light of a new Pew poll which found that:
“in [the] ‘political correctness’ debate, most Americans think too many people are easily offended”
At a time when the appropriateness-of-language has become a political issue; most Americans (about 59%) say that
“too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.”
All in my head, right?
In today’s political and social climate, the friggin, derp derpin, ciccerone, SJWs really need to lighten up. As it stands, they’ve got a sense of humor comparable to a used diaper getting shish-kebabed by a couple of billy goats. My recommendation for these appropriateness-of-language puritans would be for them to revisit the The Sopranos playbook. To stop being so dramatic. To stop getting so easily offended. But, most importantly, to stop taking themselves so goddamn seriously.