With the Exception of Sponge Bob and Jack Black’s Forays Into Children’s Movies

Many thanks to delightful Kacy for guest-blogging today. She has lives in Provo, UT with her hubby and 4 children and can also be found at lightrefreshmentsserved.com and Every Day I Write the Book.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my kids a disservice by sheltering them from funny TV. I let them watch Disney Channel and other children’s programming—which isn’t that funny. But when I was their age (grade school) I watched Saturday Night Live. We stayed up late to watch it and we thought it was great.  One year we got The Best of John Belushi on tape for Christmas. I recall not really knowing who Elizabeth Taylor was, but thinking his impression of her was dead on.

The year I received my Disco Kid record player from Santa, my older sister received Steve Martin’s album, Comedy is Not Pretty. We listened to it and quoted it and then we read his book Cruel Shoes when it came out. I always knew John Belushi died from a drug overdose and that Steve Martin swore. I worshipped them but managed to never do drugs and rarely swear. Last night we started to watch Hancock for New Year’s Eve. Hancock drops the F-bomb in the first five minutes! I was scandalized, turned off the movie, and felt sick for exposing my kids to it. Yet, I remember my very pure and upstanding grade-school self laughing out loud (still do) at some of Steve Martin’s punch lines which include swear words. I don’t know what to make of it.

Maud, Rhoda, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore were standard fare at our house. Tina Fey is their rightful heir. But how can I let my kids watch 30 Rock? I wish I could . . . Can I? I don’t think so. Maybe when they’re older, but—and this is the question that haunts me—by then will it be too late?

Another favorite pastime that I remember with absolute glee was making fun of people and having animated discussions about people we hated. Even though it was good-natured and I don’t think I turned out too badly for it, I never do that with my kids. And yet, some of my best memories revolve around mutual hatred. I remember all of my sisters’ enemies as well as their best friends from school. (Curiously, they are all the friendliest of Facebook users now.)

So are my kids not going to be funny? Will they be less funny than me but more charitable? Will they miss out on the cultural references that I live for? Have I given their lives more meaning or taken it away? Will the lameness of the Disney Channel they are exposed to in their formative years stunt them later? Will Zack and Cody inform their sense of humor for the rest of their lives? I kind of think it will because I know that Two Wild and Crazy Guys informed mine. What’s wrong with me? I care much more about this than how many vegetables they ate today.

Even without this early exposure, my kids are developing bits of quirky senses of humor. So maybe it needn’t be fostered Chevy Chase. For example, Sam once told me that he fantasized about driving up along side of a group of pioneers on their way to Zion to see their reaction to our car and then speeding away. The look on their faces would be priceless. And Ben has been heard to remark, “Is that guy in [Edvard Munch’s] The Scream screaming because his shoes are too tight?”

After a skirmish on Election Day where my 8- year-old daughter was pushed and kicked when she said her parents were voting for Barack Obama, my daughter admitted to me that she had always known her bully was evil because of her ruddy face and that she hated her. I don’t usually let my kids talk in terms of “hating,” but this confession was oddly satisfying for both of us. And Maggie was right about her little archenemy. We laughed and laughed about her ruddy face and from persecution sprang humor.

So maybe they’ll be ok. I just can’t bear the thought of them all riffing on Drake and Josh for the next 50 years. But maybe that’s how my mom feels about us.

36 thoughts on “With the Exception of Sponge Bob and Jack Black’s Forays Into Children’s Movies

  1. I don’t think you have much to worry about with your kids. They will be funny just from living in the same house as you and Christian. Plus, they have a very funny grandma. It’s just genetic.

  2. You can always have them watch your favorites as they get older. It’s fun introducing my older kids to comedy movies I love.

    And I think sense of humor is part of personality. I’m not sure that what you watch or listen to developes your sense of humor as much as it reflects your sense of humor.

  3. I was having a discussion with my children at the dinner table the other day and within a span of 30 seconds each one of them (ages 14, 10 & 6) made hilarious SARCASTIC comments. My first reaction was to be appalled. My sarcasm is not one of my favorite things about myself, but it also somewhat defines me. Then I stopped and thought, oh well. I’ve turned out ok, so will they.

  4. I have to agree with Karen; my parents, who are usually funny people, didn’t “get” the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” At all. I was dumbfounded! But then I realized it was personality –not what they were raised watching.

    And besides, SNL was hilarious back in the day (I think the 90′s were the best, personally), but I’ve watched some of it now, I think 90% of it is just vulgar and crass. Sure, it could be that I’m older, but I think it’s also because they allow so much more crap now. And think it’s funny.

  5. I would have loved to see the pioneer’s face as your son drove off in the car. Although, they might have thought it was a vision. Perhaps it did really happen. Your kids will understand humor because you are funny!

  6. So, great question. I have no reassurances for you. I have struggled with this same dilemma for years–my latest angst comes from the fact that my early 20′s kids love the Colbert Report–And it is brilliant, such intelligent comedy and I am glad they get it BUT they are learning that politicians are stupid and politics is just one big joke. That can’t be good. And to make things worse, they don’t care much for vegetables–I think your parallel is apropos–pop culture is like junk food and I usually don’t have the self control I need. In my MIND fresh things are wonderful and something I really want to be eating but the reality is that stuff prepackaged and easy (and cheap!) is usually what goes in my mouth.
    Turning off Hancock was the right thing to do–even if you learn later that that was the only swear word and that it was an okay movie, the fact that you reacted right then to something inappropriate taught the most important lesson of all.

  7. Isn’t it funny how much our generation worries. My dad had us watching Rambo (weird???) every Sunday night after church and none of us turned out to be highly trained assasins. (yet, anyway) I agree with you on the Disney Channel. Obviously, I don’t want to raise Sly Stallone knock off’s, but is that any worse than Miley Cyrus??
    Anyway, loved the post.

  8. As one who did let her children watch some of the “inappropriate but amusing” fare, I’ll tell you what happened.

    My adult children are VERY funny and a bit too worldly. (My humor can be on the irreverent side too, so maybe it would have happened anyway…)

    “/

  9. We were raised listening to Cosby and Smothers Brothers records. SB can be a little risque (sp?), but it was nothing compared to the Three’s Company & such my parents let us watch. I’m erring on the side of less crassness and vulgarity now for me and my family, mostly. I don’t like most of the elements of my humor influenced by those kinds of things. But, then, I told one of my favorite Halloween jokes to some in-laws (where “sheet” is used for “sh*t”) and they were appalled. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t think it was funny–I even told my self, “President Hinckley would’ve laughed.” I suppose my child, no matter what I shelter him from, is going to pick up on elements like that!

  10. Just think Chuck Klosterman wrote, quite possibly, one of the funniest essays ever on the subject of Saved By the Bell. This is proof that humor can be produced from Disney style television … and your kids are a hoot! Another entertaining post, Thanks!

  11. I really miss our days of mocking and hating people. Listen, mocking and hating got me through some pretty tough times (junior high). I feel the same way that you do now, though. “We don’t make fun of people…we don’t say ‘hate,’” etc. I think it all shakes out in the end. Your kids will be awesome because of your awesomeness.

  12. It is a touch situation. I love 30 Rock, but I’m uncomfortable with episodes like MILF Island.

    A story you might be interested in. Steve Martin, before he hit it big, opened a concert for the Carpenters in 1975 at USU (yah, I know, I’m realllly old). In the first few minutes he dropped the f-word – and received near silence. Recovering quickly, he proceeded to do an entire PG set, not even a mild swear word, and brought the house down. He was great.

  13. I’m so relieved to hear that someone else worries about this. One day my friend was worried about one of her kids and she said, “What if my kids aren’t smart?” and I was like, “Smart shmart, what if mine aren’t funny?” She couldn’t believe I was so shallow. That’s a lie. She believed it, but I think she was still a little disappointed in me. Plus, if all they know is Sponge Bob humor at least they’ll have the underwear jokes totally down, so they’ll have that.

  14. We have no TV connection at all, so my kids they don’t even get Disney, except on vacation. Deprivation, I know.

    And I will be honest. I love it. I do agree that personality is part of humor, but there is also a LOT of good humor found in places that don’t include vulgarity, etc. You don’t have to cut others down to be funny, and I think it’s good for us all to find the humor in life that is uplifting and not at someone else’s expense, or in a way that could offend the Spirit.

    And I have been amazed at the way my kids will pick up on and use humor. One of the ways we enjoy humorous moments is to quote movies we have enjoyed together at just the right time in whatever is happening. And we also just enjoy being silly together.

    If I don’t sound soapboxy enough, I just don’t think that what we were exposed and how “well” we turned out can necessarily be used to justify letting our kids do what we did. I wasted SOOO much time watching sooo many inane shows. Seriously. It makes me sad, actually, to think about it.

    But our world has changed, and the opposition these kids face is soberingly strong. Elder Holland just talked to the youth about all that they have to work against, and he recognized that they have to really own their faith a lot earlier than earlier generations. My very strong opinion is that pop culture has so very little to offer and really can bring subtle -and sometimes not so subtle- stuff into their lives that, imo, can dull their spirits. And waste so. much. time. that could be spent even just reading, playing, and interacting in positive ways with others.

    I’m not saying that no TV is the Only Right Way to do things, so please don’t misunderstand me as going there. But I do think that caution in this regard, as you have already clearly taken, is warranted and very important.

    [end rant]

  15. You let your son drive?! That’s a lot worse than letting him listen to swearing comedians. Stop it now and tell him that the cannot zoom past those pioneers until he’s 18.

  16. I’ve been wondering about the Disney Channel. It isn’t funny, and the kids are all annoying. After reading this, I think I will block it, and start showing SNL tapes from the 70s.

    I’m not kidding.
    Very much.

  17. I think kids come the way they are. I mean I watched the classics on SNL (Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, etc.) and grew up on Carol Burnett and Tim Conway too but I’m not nearly as funny as you are.

    Somehow I’ve got serious kids, a really funny kid, a kid who thinks he’s funny and three kids who after Christmas break suddenly forgot how to do math, so go figure!

    Thankfully we don’t have cable (I know), so we are spared from too much Miley. I guess I’ll have to hope all the rest works out in the wash.

  18. I’ve got a sitcom going on at my house. Not my words, other people. They come, they’re entertained and overwhelmed and they either never want to set foot again, or want to join the family.

    All seven of my kids are like this. It can be exhausting.

    Strange thing, a lot of their humor I recognize as mine.

  19. I think Sue really got what you were trying to say. Her comment is really honest and helpful.

    I think talking about this issue is much more interesting than talking about how to get our kids to eat more vegetables.

  20. Don’t poo-poo Sponge Bob for its groundling humor. I have watched the show several times and it has some great moments in timing, absurdity, and nuanced humor.

    But, what do I know: me and my kids just watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long Blog….

  21. Dr. Horrible is hilarious. As are many things I have to rethink when I have kids around. All those 80′s movies I thought were so funny, turn out to not be so when the wee ones are around. Why is that?

  22. So Kacy, you get that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek, right? And I’m really only thankful about the no cable thing when it comes to Miley, because I just don’t get that.

    She-bop–you know the other phenomenon that gets me is how something you didn’t realize had a lot of bad language in it when you saw it in the theater can be a bit shocking when you watch it at home. I don’t know if it’s the expectation (like those are words you usually wouldn’t hear in your home) or what, but it’s kind of disconcerting.

  23. Like – Goonies and Ghostbusters… where did those words come from? I know I have a horrible memory but WOW.

    You know – when my children were younger we watched different things. They also had different interests. I will admit – I like the 3 Stooges (don’t shoot), Abbott & Costello, classic comedy,… and we have Bill Cosby on LP (according to my husband the only way to listen to his routines). We feel this is just as much as part of their artistic education – but it came as they were probably interested in even sitting and ready to watch and listen to it.

    Will affect how funny they are… hmm… I think my middle child is RE-learning more about being funny by taking theatre – mostly he’s learning he’s funny when he relaxes.

    All in all they’ve learned that we can laugh together.

  24. We let our kids watch portions of funny things we love, editing out major sections of inappropriateness. We do this because DH and I quote from these things so often our kids wonder what we’re talking about so we show them. They know Bill Cosby as “The Chocolate Cake Guy”. When my son’s teacher mentioned his excitement over Monty Python I was a bit embarassed with the realization she thought we were OK with our 5 year old viewing all of it (including Monty’s love of the female form).

    Our oldest daughter grew up with us asking-
    “Guess what?”
    “Chicken Butt!”
    “Guess Why?”
    “Chicken thigh!”
    Yes, more stuff stolen from SNL. So another time people thought we let our youngsters view the whole of inappropriateness. Then one day we realized our daughter thought her nickname was Chicken Butt! We backed off on the reference after that, clearly we used it too often.

    My fondnest memory of inappropriate viewing as a child was Grease. The movie made my heart soar! Not until I was an adult and watched it again did I understand the adult tone of the movie. I caught none of that at 9.

  25. (We’re cable-free too. And for the Miley reason alone, I am grateful… :P)

    My kids are hilarious all on their own. I don’t think TV shows are responsible for any of it.
    It comes from our daily conversations and interactions with each other. They just see things in a humorous light. (So, hm…. maybe my husband’s and my own childhood TV habits played a role… But I don’t really think so. My humor comes from my family, mainly my dad, and he NEVER watched/watches TV.)

    Great discussion. I’m loving all the comments.

  26. I don’t think a good sense of humor necessarily develops because of exposure to comedy on television nor does lack of exposure to comedy indicate that a sense of humor will fail to develop.
    President Hinckley probably never watched an episode of SNL or Steve Martin (that’s just my assumption) but what a witty man with a great sense of humor.

  27. I think Sponge Bob is super funny. And the year we didn’t have TV was our most somber yet. Just kidding! I love all these comments. I need to get some [carefully selected] Monty Python into my kids right now.

    My 11 year old is getting old enough to think Disney Channel is dumb and my 8 year old knows other people think it’s dumb but she still likes it. My 6 year old was disadvantaged in that he never watched “baby shows” because his older siblings had already grown out of them. My 11 year old, however, will still stop and stare whenever Blue is on screen.

    Also, what about the obnoxious level of kids on shows today? Will that effect our kids’ obnoxiousness? Hello–Caillou (gag).

  28. loooove sponge bob over here. i used to act appalled, but why? it’s funny.

    we had 30 rock on the other night and my kids wandered into the room and i freaked out and turned it off. they stared at me in wonder and bewilderment… anyway, what i’m trying to say is that i just don’t think they get it. i remember watching grease all the time when i was little and only realizing (in college) that the entire premise was about a girl giving up her virtue.

    ick.

  29. I am anti-Sponge Bob, all things Disney Channel, and various “kid” cartoons. And I LOVED SNL growing up, but agree with Cheryl that it just ain’t what it used to be. I’m sure part of why SNL worked for you was that you were born with a funny bone in the first place. I think exposing our kids to humorous situations, and continually giving them chances to tweak their brain intellectually, gives them the opportunity to develop their sense of humor themselves. My 4-year-old, with no prompting from me, has recently started telling jokes. Sure, they don’t make sense, but I love that he really tries to use words like “avoid” and “camouflage” when telling them–words he got from the PBS cartoon, “Word Girl.”

  30. How could they NOT be funny when they have such a funny mom for a role model? No worries there.

    I worry about my kids missing out on things that I did when I was young – like disappear for the day on my bike, walk around downtown DC to kill time, take the bus to McDonalds as a result of finding a little cash in a coat pocket (although I assume children DO still rifle through coat pockets looking for treasure)….

    I also watched a lot of SNL before I even understood half the jokes. My kids are very young, so it’s not an issue now, but I think I probably will let them watch things that aren’t necessarily “age appropriate.” Here is why – I seriously think that kids are happy enough to come up with their own explanations for things they don’t understand and then move on. I have a clear memory of watching the Blues Brothers with my parents and my aunt when I was about eight. I had no idea what a condom was and asked “what’s that?” when Jake was getting out of prison and his personal possessions were returned to him. No one answered my question, and I just assumed that it had something to do with bad hygiene. The music and physical comedy were far more entertaining than the unidentifiable condom. And swear words? I’ve never been a potty mouth.

    But I respect your decision to monitor what your children watch. It’s so much easier to not bother – and I admire parents who are consistent with rules and values. A funny mom with strong moral convictions about parenting? I say lucky kids!

  31. I appreciate your desire to cultivate the funny. But most likely, it’s going to go on without you. Maybe parents are more “into” their kids than our parents were, you may feel like you are with your kids more than they will remember you being. What I am trying to say is most of the time those impression creating formative funny moments usually happen when parents are not there. Parents can make things unfunny even if, personally, they are REALLY funny (as in your case). Like the kids could totally be enjoying “Goonies” and not think much of the language, but Mom walks into the room and gasps and shuts it off and makes a big deal and then it’s not funny anymore… until mom leaves. Make the funny available… then back off.

  32. So my kids are little (5 and under) and they love Tom and Jerry. I too loved Tom and Jerry back in the day. The thing is they laugh the loudest when Tom is getting the crap pounded/exploded/skinned/squished/ect…out of him. I don’t mind so much until I see them doing it to each other and then I have to wonder…

    On a side note – I’m totally going to watch the SNL Steroid Olympics Russian Weightlifter tear his arms off with my kids. What could be funnier?

  33. My kids had grown up on teletubbies and Dora the explorer and then a couple of weeks ago they saw their first Bugs Bunny toons. I didn’t think they would find them funny, but they did. Even my two year old was quoting a Daffy Duck line, especially when the context was all wrong. Too funny.

  34. My kids are mostly in their 20′s. Back in the day I forbade them to watch the Simpson’s. Now, I watch it with them! We do what we can while they are young to protect them from crudity and crassness. We set good examples (like turning off the F word), but at some point, we lose control and they watch and listen to whatever they want. I thoroughly enjoy listening to my children now and wonder how they turned out as they did!

  35. If I remember right there’s really only one scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that needs to be censored, when Sir Robin the Chaste ends up in a predicament. It’s a sad state when todays kids don’t catch the reference when someone says “it’s only a flesh wound.”

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