The other night I found myself watching an old VHS tape of a Lily Tomlin special called ‘Appearing Nitely’. I had to watch it on my VCR because it was from ’71 and not fit for today’s equipment. (Yes, I was watching something made 21 years before I was born. Yes, I know I need a social life.) For those of you reading this post wondering what this show is, which I can safely estimate is everyone who reads this, allow me to explain; it’s simply a comedy special, a mix of stand up and character comedy. But the composition of the show is beside the point. What matters is the content. Or the general idea of the content. You see, I came to some kind of cosmic understanding at 2 am whilst watching it. Which either solidifies this post as absolute shit or something like an epiphany, I’ll leave it for you to decide. (I do know it’s probably the latter.)
So, as I was saying, content!! The reason I watch her material today is because I find a lot of it is sort of time-defying. She has the ability to create material that does not generalize or apply only to certain lifestyles. Her jokes apply to all of humanity, all walks of life and any identity. Which is a feat on its own. However, since it was 1977, there were obviously moments the humor didn’t carry through for someone groomed in today’s society. Aka, me. But I don’t think it’s because the material isn’t versatile or good, times have simply changed. (I understand this statement isn’t some grand, revelatory epiphany but I’m not quite to my point yet, so, bare with me.)
In 1977, Lily Tomlin was in her late 30’s which meant her teen years were lived in the 50’s. She had been a white woman who had lived through many evolutions and societal shifts but also lived in a time where it was a stereotypical white suburbia. Back then, there was an unspoken assumption that everyone lived the same kind of lifestyle, and for the most part, they did. More often than not, not by their own choice. But think about it; civil rights had only just begun to be taken seriously, homosexuality was still considered to be a mental disorder, men were the bread-makers. There was a particular order to the way society was run. And that’s on the larger scale, when you boil it down even further, everyday life was almost always the same. Parents didn’t get divorced, families lived cookie cutter lives pursuing the American Dream, there were like 4 channels on tv where you sought out entertainment, more men than women were driving the workforce, the list can go on and on. In the 50’s, we openly embraced an oppressive society where differences were discouraged and conformity was embraced.
41 years later, and that universality no longer exists. (Which, if you haven’t guessed it yet, is a good thing.) In our world today, people have more freedom in identity, choice, taste and so on and so forth. Societal pressures still exist, there is no questioning that; but the extent of their control has decreased. The LGBT community has finally been embraced and loved for who they are, no longer forced to live in the shadows. Minority groups are to be admired rather than oppressed. Women no longer fit into a mold men created for them. Men are free to continue doing what they’ve always done, so things are still good for them. At least now they don’t have masculinity being held over them. Society has learned to appreciate all that we used to hide. More people are pushing boundaries, daring to embrace differences rather than sticking to a status quo. And I think that that is just fabulous.
A good writer would have some grand scheme to connect this idea to many things and leave you with some universal understanding of what this means in the grand scheme of things. But, as you guys know, I am not that. For starters, I used a rather obscure reference as my starting point, so I am sure this doesn’t speak to anyone other than myself. In an effort to redeem myself, I’ll give you a thesis statement (of sorts). The other night, when watching a stand-up comedian in the 70’s, a thought occurred to me. Some 40 years ago, people identified more with one another because they had to. Life was very similar to white bread, filled with very few ingredients, over-all pretty bland and molded into a perfect shape. But now that we have developed richer tastes, we no longer rely solely on white bread. (The more I let myself type this out, the funnier I find it. There is no way in hell I am making any sense. Am I going to post it anyways? HYFR!!) So, in conclusion, there is no longer a uniform universality to the world.
Well, just another day in my brain for those of you who subjected yourselves to this one. For those of you who don’t normally read these, I wish I could say I’m usually better at this but I should set the bar relatively low. Before I can fuck over this post any more I should probably give it a rest. Maybe my brain can make sense of something one day. Till then.