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YEAR IN REVIEW 1995 : COMEDY : Carrey Hoots, Calvin Scoots, TV Gets a Bit Too ‘Friend'-ly

David Kronke is a regular contributor to Calendar

It was the year when the material wrote itself.

Of course, 1995 will be defined as the Year of the Obsession of the Century, and comics everywhere benefited from the judicial spectacle. But we’re not going to succumb and try to slip in a lot of cheap shots at this late date; this is a classy list we’re running here.

Hence, an unethical baker’s dozen of the more relevant people and occurrences in the world of humor in 1995.

1. Jim Carrey continues his hot streak with “Batman Forever” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and makes $20 million a picture--not bad for a guy whose shtick includes a talking butt. Next up: “Cable Guy,” “Liar, Liar,” “The Truman Show” and a “Mask” sequel.

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2. “Friends” becomes the Quentin Tarantino of TV, inspiring a lot of bad imitators. And they each get a million bucks to peddle cola during the Super Bowl.

3. Jay Leno swipes the late-night throne out from under a faltering, post-Oscar-fiasco David Letterman (memo to Jay: Lose the arm-swinging during the monologue and we’d be converts, too).

4. Sad Commentary on Hollywood Decline No. 8,732: Two of the funniest movies this year were kid flicks--"Babe” and “Toy Story.” If only they’d bother to write that cleverly for adults.

5. HBO celebrates 20 years of giving stand-ups high-profile showcases and begins a comedy festival in Aspen with the potential to rival Montreal’s annual schmoozefest, and for his efforts, then-HBO CEO Michael Fuchs is chucked into the street (memo to everyone but Time Warner: A chastened Fuchs, if such a thing is possible, could be an even more valuable asset than he was before).

6. The best comic strip of the past decade ends today: Bill Watterson retires “Calvin and Hobbes,” which is particularly unforgivable because he does it in the middle of winter, depriving us all of one last season of twisted snowman cartoons. The effect on the comic strip world may be incalculable--how many other strips do you read just because you turned to the comics page for Calvin?

7. With no new standout sitcoms, “Seinfeld,” “Frasier” and “The Larry Sanders Show” remain the cream of the crop. Meanwhile, sitcom developers of even minor distinction are getting huge paydays. Also, show runners continue to hire buddies and relatives to write their shows rather than seek out new talent. And you wonder why there weren’t any new standout sitcoms?

8. “Alternative comedy"--basically stand-up comedy with a new-and-improved name that hopes to suggest a hipper attitude and draw people who ordinarily wouldn’t be caught dead in a comedy club--enters the “mainstream.”

9. Harry Shearer’s CD “O.J. On Trial: The Early Years” is the funniest album of the year, outside of Tracy Lords’ disco record. Kato and John Tesh doing “Peter and the Wolf” is the funniest five minutes of the year. (OK, so we finagled a way to get the trial on the list.)

10. The cancellation of the most clever show on TV--"Mystery Science Theater 3000"--is announced. Meanwhile, Comedy Central keeps recycling old stand-up routines ad infinitum. It was that kind of year.*


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