Turner Classic Movies ran the Marx Brothers' movie "Duck Soup" the other night. It's a great movie, probably the best farce ever put out on the American movie screen, nilhilstic to the Nth degree and absolutely bizarre. It's also a bit sad to watch, since the Brothers Marx never put out another one quite like it, their later movies being handled by studio bigwigs that apparently decided that the American public was generally too stupid to keep up with the high-speed humor coming out of Groucho's shoe-polished lips, the same mentality that gave us the laugh-track on TV in later years.
Of course, being the only male in the house meant that I was the only human watching the hilarity on the TV in my bedroom. Emily, our border collie/Aussie shepherd without a flock, was also watching it with me, though not exactly getting the jokes like I was. I've long since given up trying to convert my wife and daughters to the high holiness of slapstick. I'm the lone voice, laughing in the wilderness. There's something simply genetic about the male animal's ability to laugh at stuff that makes women cringe or roll their eyes in disgust. Jay Leno had it right a few years back in one of his stand-up routines; seeing Moe on the Three Stooges hit Curley in the face with a shovel IS funny, even if you have to laugh at it alone.
I'm afraid that the Marxian humor of "Duck Soup" would never make on the screens, movie or TV, today in our increasingly conservative, religious and buttoned-up society. The big musical number in the movie, played out in the Freedonian Parliament when Rufus T. Firefly and his allies declare war on their by-now invading neighbor, Sylvania, and the Marxes start doing an all-but-blackface bit with the words, "All God's Children Got Guns" would be lambasted now as anti-NRA propaganda (which, of course, it truly was) and the TV preachers and their elected allies would be denouncing it from their bully pulpits as "Communist" and "Liberal" , something only a Democrat would watch because it made wars look silly and childish. "Oh no", they'd say, "We must protect ourselves and our way of life by killing and imprisoning those who would threaten us, even if we really don't have any proof they are a threat". Anyone who disagrees, or even watches "Duck Soup" would be ostracized and painted as a foolish blue-stater. Everybody's gotta conform, everbody's gotta toe the line, everybody's gotta believe in the path chosen for us by the elected elites (and those who, working behind the lines, got them elected and who whisper in their ears the magic words that get repeated during press conferences and fund raisers).
That's the danger of "Duck Soup": Rufus T. Firefly didn't do things to appeal to the masses, he did them because it appealed to HIM. If graft in government was going on, woe be to the guy who didn't give Firefly his cut. That's what our current leadership doesn't want the masses to know, they want everyone to think that they are clean-cut, church-going and moral; they don't want the electorate knowing that, behind the scenes, they are just as venal, crooked and obscene as Rufus T. Firefly. They don't want us realizing that the Emperor really doesn't have new clothes. I guess it beats a shovel in the face.