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Intersections and Influences

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One of the features on Morning Edition lately has been a series called Intersections: Artists and Their Inspirations. They’ve featured Alice Walker, Patti Smith and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, for example, talking about their chief influences for their art.

I was thinking about this the other day when someone mentioned Groucho Marx, and I thought, “That’s where a significant bit of what I find funny comes from.” This lead to the question: “Who are your biggest influences?”

I don’t mean “real life” people. Obviously, parents, friends, co-workers, etc. will have had a more direct impact. What I want to know is who are the artists that inspired you? Where does your sense of humor come from? Your sense of art? Your musical taste?

It’s tough to limit yourself to a single influence (at least for me), even if you limit the category to music or something. So, I’ll make this a little easier.

List the five biggest influences on what it is that you find funny.

And don’t just list off who you think are funny now. It’s easy to reel of names of shows like Beavis & Butthead, The Simpsons and The Daily Show or names of current comedians. Think about why you find them funny. Who did you see way back in your childhood that sparked the idea that irony or bad puns or silly sounds are funny?

In no particular order, mine are:

  1. Groucho Marx – Bam! Insult! Bam! Retort! Bam! Bad pun! The funniest, wittiest, snideliest guy ever.
  2. Monty Python – Kinda obvious for a geek, but I’d never seen anything like this group of silly people being extremely silly, other than snippets of old Ernie Kovacs shows or Jonathan Winters standup routines.
  3. Mark Twain – The Groucho Marx of literature.
  4. Jay Ward – This was close. The Warner Brothers cartoons – especially Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck – are pretty safe choices for hilarity. But hearing Edward Everett Horton wind up a Fractured Fairy Tale with the most godawful pun is comedy nirvana.
  5. Dr. Demento – I heard more strangeness coming out of my little radio each Sunday than anyone should be allowed. If I missed anything funny growing up, then I got caught up in a hurry by listening to the Dr. Demento Show as a teenager.

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