View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Last night, Hugh Hewitt, feeling pressure from the All-Star Game, read a short story from Joseph Epstein's new collection, Fabulous Small Jews. It was an unusual thing to do, but refreshing, and if Hewitt's delivery was a little flat, the story wasn't. I have Epstein's older short story collection, The Goldin Boys. I tried reading it a few years ago, wasn't really in the mood, and gave it up. His essays are first-rate, and so accessable. I'm giving it another chance now, and the stories are really pretty good.

Epstein, by the way, has another essay, masquerading as a book review, over at the Weekly Standard. It's about Jerry Nachman's new book about cutting-edge, Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. I'm not nearly old enough to remember these guys in their first run, but I got a taste of Tom Lehrer from my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kessenger, and my parents made sure I heard enough of the rest to appreciate them. I do remember that Mort Sahl had a radio show when I was growing up in DC. And we listened to a Lily Tomlin/Shelley Berman sketch so often I memorized most of it before losing the tape. "Information Cannot Argue With a Closed Mind."

Anyway, Epstein points out that by making fun, often of conservatives but just as often of liberals, these comedians somehow took the starch out of a lot of social conventions, and paved the way for the changes in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the equivalent would be having a group of guys stand up and make fun, real fun, of PC, but you couldn't get that sort of thing on the air.

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