I never got Jerry Lewis. I don’t think he was funny. So what? My kids don’t get Jerry Seinfeld. Since when do we have to share a collective sense of comedic taste? My daughters don’t see why I laugh at a show “about nothing”. Certain kinds of humor are generational. I laughed at Hee Haw because it was ridiculous, not because it was funny.
If a joke transcends generations it’s still funny when it is delivered well, long after it was first conceived. That’s when we’re talking genius level comedy. Shakespeare wrote funny stuff; really funny jokes. If the material is delivered right, what was funny in 1600 can make an audience laugh in 2017. Neither Jerry Lewis nor Jerry Seinfeld will still be funny in four hundred years. That’s what sets genius apart. Do Jerry Lewis’ jokes age well? No, they do not. Jerry Lewis, for all the good he did to raise billions for children with Muscular Dystrophy, didn’t tell jokes that will stand the test of time. God bless him for his philanthropic work. His comedy won’t be remembered. Now, Dean Martin could sing. Music, like a good balcony scene, will be recited forever.
If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Shakespeare the first member of the Rat Pack?