You might have not noticed Tuesday night, but Don Rickles, Steven Wright, Will Arnett, and Brent Weinbach all made appearances throughout the late night talk show circuit. What you might not have noticed is that within the programming of guests across networks that night lies a solid exhibition of a timeline in the history of comedy.
Rare is the occasion in which any art form could be so succinctly displayed from it’s developmental stages to the stages where it’s trying to redefine the form altogether. From the rapid-fire jabs of Rickles to the wry-as-wry-can-get humor of Wright to a landmark character in a landmark series in Arnett to the forefront, trailblazing performance of Brent Weinbach, one can get a sense of how comedy has changed over the last several decades. You can say that audiences got a chance to see the shift from the “classical” to the “postmodern” in comedy, especially with the likes of Weinbach, who eschews from traditional jokes for a more organic, though abstract of style of humor.
Sure, there’s missing links and an appearance by Dave Attell on, say, Late Show with David Letterman might have filled in a big gap, but late night network programming can only be so generous. So, let’s take a spin through comedy history, shall we?