10.27.2015
culture

The Ever Evolving Pot Shtick: 5 Decades of Comics Talking Weed

One property of good weed is that it is a laugh laxative. One hit on a comically conducive strain, and guffaws stream out in a convulsive rush with no push whatsoever on your part. Another funny thing about marijuana is that comedians love it. Some comedians love using weed; even more of them love talking about weed. Because weed is a laugh laxative, whether it’s being used or being talked about.

The stand-up comedy of every decade reflects the society and values of a particular era. All the way back to the days before VHS tape, comedy routines have tilled the marijuana garden in hopes of finding high hilarity there.

ONE PROPERTY OF GOOD WEED IS THAT IT IS A LAUGH LAXATIVE.

Of course, the way the jokes have been delivered and the subversive subtext beneath those jokes, starting in the ’70s and up to the present day, tell a story about emerging and evolving attitudes toward cannabis in the larger, non-comedic society.

So let’s take a look at some classic stand-up routines through the ages, and see how the funny of the day charts marijuana attitudes in five decades of changing times.

1. Cheech and Chong (1978)

In case you didn’t know, Cheech & Chong honed their big-screen act in stand-up comedy clubs. Back in the ’70s, weed was still the drug of the freaky people. Cheech and Chong’s references to marijuana were a pure salute to the counterculture. Their bit, “Let’s Make A New Dope Deal,” parodied the square mainstream—and exposed how absurdly dangerous the possession and use of illegal marijuana was at the time.

2. Robin Williams (1986)

Back in the ’80s, pot jokes were still deeply into having the munchies and trying to share the high with your pets. If Robin Williams’s routine is indicative, the ’80s were a carefree time, the kind of decade when it was really funny to drive super stoned, and watch a cop’s face turn into a cheeseburger because you’re high. Being stoned was all about making you dumb and happy about it.

3. Bill Hicks (1992)

In 1992, pot was very illegal in most places. Hicks pointed out that the main and enduring enemies of marijuana were Republicans and “the man.” Hicks’s routine showed a shift in marijuana attitudes. People were now fighting to make marijuana legal, and Hicks exploited the absurdist reasoning behind why it was still illegal.

4. Dave Chappelle (2007)

Culled from the era of the legendary Chappelle’s Show, Dave confides to an audience why he’s given up smoking out with black people; and prefers to do so with white folks. “All white people talk about when they get high is other times they got high.” Dave’s routine reveals that marijuana has become more ingrained in our culture—but with an air of racial differentiation that examined two separate cultures and their divergent uses of weed.

5. Louis CK (2011)

Louis CK has an amazing insight into the amplified strength of today’s strains of pot: You can no longer take big 1970s jean jacket Bad Company hits. You won’t be able to handle how the air is touching your hand. In summary, CK’s reminiscing and contextualizing illustrates that not only is marijuana perfectly acceptable by a wide swath of the comedy audience, but the weed is also shown as something people consume rather than alcohol.

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