Tonight, PBS debuts a new six-part series entitled Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America that explores American comedy from vaudeville through the current day. It airs locally (in Philadelphia) on WHY.Y (Channel 12) from 9-11 PM over the next three Wednesdays.
Hosted by America’s favorite funnyman, Billy Crystal, the documentary explores the currents of American comedy throughout a century of social and political change, illuminating how comedy has tackled and poked fun at our political system, race relations, gender issues, and the prevailing American standards and taboos in everyday life.Here's PBS serious-journalist Jim Lehrer trying his hand at a few jokes:
The series' website has an impressive array of clips including George Carlin talking about his comic hero Lenny Bruce, Michael McKean on Christopher Guest and This Is Spinal Tap and the below "online episode" about comedy on the internet.
The schedule will give you a better indication of where it is all going. Instead of holding to a strict chronological order, it's broken up by topic:
1/14, 8 p.m. (ET) Would Ya Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Nerds, Jerks, & Oddballs
1/14, 9 p.m. (ET) Honey, I’m Home!: Breadwinners and Homemakers
1/21, 8 p.m. (ET) Slip on a Banana Peel: The Knockabouts
1/21, 9 p.m. (ET) When I’m Bad, I’m Better: The Groundbreakers
1/28, 8 p.m. (ET) Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: The Wiseguys
1/28, 9 p.m. (ET) Sock it to Me?: Satire and Parody