Come up and see MAE WEST tomorrow — — Wednesday evening January 21st — — on the six-part PBS documentary series "Make 'em Laugh: The Funny Business of America" shown on television for two hours back to back.
• • Tomorrow these two segments will air — —
• • "Slip on a Banana Peel: The Knockabouts" — — features physical comedians including Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Jim Carrey.
• • "When I'm Bad, I'm Better: The Ground-breakers" — — focuses on those who pressed the boundaries of free speech, such as Mae West, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor.
• • Filmmaker Michael Kantor began work this project because he was inspired by the 2004 presidential election of George W. Bush. Ironically, his sextet is being broadcast when the United States is groaning under the weight of a grave economic downturn that many have likened to the Great Depression — — a time not unlike the era that produced many of America's most adored laughmeisters who enriched our lives with their comic capital such as, yes, yes, Mae West and W. C. Fields.
• • About the year 2004, Michael Kantor said: "The country was polarized, and the funniest comedy at the time, in my opinion, was 'The Daily Show' ... which made fun of both candidates. I began to think ... that comedy (could) reflect American culture in all its glory and weirdness."
• • Verne Gay of Newsday was not all that impressed with Kantor's banter.
• • Verne Gay wrote: "You have to admire PBS's ambition. This is a vast subject, probably too vast for a single program, even one six hours long. The strange paradox here is that there's too much on display and yet there's not enough. . . . In an effort to slip in references to just about everyone — — or so the illusion would suggest — — comics who deserve a richer, deeper exploration (Richard Pryor) have to make room for lesser luminaries. And just as a portrait starts to fill out (Mae West) ... zip! zap! zing! — — it's on to the next person. That said, this can be a hugely enjoyable viewing experience, and that's probably what viewers want. Sit back. Relax. Laugh."
• • Next Wednesday the final two hour-long segments will air:
• • "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: The Wiseguys" — — looks at curmudgeons and snide humorists such as W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, and Chris Rock.
• • "Sock It to ME? Satire and Parody" — — details comics who mock American life including Will Rogers, Mel Brooks, Johnny Carson, and Stephen Colbert.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •