The New Wave Hits the Mainstream
The new wave of satiric comedians hailed from college campuses and cellar nightclubs, such as San Francisco’s “the hungry i” (named for its “hungry intellectual” clientele). These comics attracted younger, more affluent, more educated, more self-consciously “hip” audiences than those for whom comedians trained in vaudeville performed. Critic Ralph J. Gleason commented that the new comedy “bears a strong resemblance to jazz. It is rooted in the same dissent, nurtured in the same rebellion and articulated in the same language in which the priorities of the Establishment have no standing at all.” When the new comedians reached the mainstream through comedy albums and appearances on television variety shows, they often had to moderate their iconoclastic material to suit national tastes. In adapting, they relied on comic talent that transcended politics, and in so doing, became part of the mass culture they once had satirized.
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