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After JV and Elvis: Comedy minus Cruelty?

Here’s a very thoughtful piece from the legendary Ben Fong-Torres in the wake of JV & Elvis’s departure from the New York airwaves.

I have previously commented on the very real chilling effect of firings like this one and Imus’s, even as these folks overstep the bounds of good taste and say stuff that is unambiguously dumb. Comedy is all about risk, I have noted. And in the course of 20 hours of on-air performance every week, the odds of bad decisions are monumentally high – unless you take no risks and slide to the boring middle.

I’m not making an argument to be stupid, just an argument to take risks. “Talent” is defined, in part, as the ability to know the difference.

Ben makes a distinction between what’s funny and what’s plainly not. And, as Ben says “‘Shlimp flied lice’? How hip is THAT?”

Ben mentions how Conan O’Brien approached similar material in a much funnier way, with no cruelty at all.

Conan is a tremendous talent. And maybe that’s the biggest problem we have in radio. The demand for talent far outstrips the supply.

Sad to say, a career trajectory like Conan’s that begins with the Harvard Lampoon and continues with writing gigs on The Simpsons and SNL rarely includes a stop behind a radio microphone.

And that’s our fault.

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