New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Whatever Happened To Rural Humor On Television?

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/20/2015

Whatever Happened To Rural Humor On Television?

Vicki Lawrence will probably always be remembered for the character of Mama — that endearing old lady who was never afraid to speak her mind — that she created on the Carol Burnett Show.  The character was so beloved that it went on to star in Mama’s Family from 1983 to 1990.  

In the years that followed, Lawrence realized she would never fully be separated from the character, so she learned to embrace it.  After the success of the Carol Burnett Showstopper Special in 2001, Lawrence created a touring production entitled “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show” which was one of the unique shows presented at The Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC Arts) this past season.  

“CBS played that special shortly after 9/11”, recalled Lawrence.  “The world was in such a place that when I put the show together I wanted to take people away from everything that’s going on for 90 minutes and make them laugh.”

The live show is a combination of Lawrence presenting autobiographical material first (and she’s had quite an interesting life) followed by Mama coming on stage.  When Mama appears, all bets are off.  She provides cover for Lawrence to say all of the things she wishes she could say  — many of which the audience probably is thinking too.  It’s anything but politically correct.  As Lawrence has performed the show throughout the country over the years, she’s learned that people still respond to Mama and that seeing the character on stage is a unique experience.

“I can’t think of anywhere where you can actually see a character from television come out on stage live like this,” said Lawrence.  “Maybe a person from a sitcom, but not a character like Mama.  She’s so much fun to write for.  I feel she’s my chance to be Chris Rock.  Maybe she’s not quite as raunchy as Chris Rock, but, in my mind, she’s my chance to cut loose and say everything I’m thinking about and that we’re all thinking about.”



The article continues after this ad

 


Part of the show’s charm is seeing Mama in parts of the country in which you would never expect her to be.  It’s the classic fish out of water scenario. But the main charm lies in Mama’s humor.  Lawrence laments the current television landscape, believing that the humor found on The Carol Burnett Show and Mama’s Family is still loved by many yet rarely understood by the industry.  Considering that Mama’s Family only ran two of its six years on network television (with the rest on syndication), Lawrence speaks from experience.

“On television, the executives are mostly either in California or on the East Coast,” said Lawrence.  “They just are not aware of what’s going on in the real world — in the rest of the country.  Some of our best, most beloved old sitcoms are rural, but they don’t get it.  When my show went on the air, not only did they not understand rural comedy but they didn’t understand a young woman playing an old woman.  It was like a double dose of ‘What are we going to do with her?’

“I think people are hungry for the good old days,” she continued.  “I think comedy was written better back then and I think people just love those old classics — shows you can sit down with your family and watch together.  You can pass them on to your Grandkids without worrying about it.  My granddaughter is hooked on Mama’s Family and there are far worse things!”

The success of stations like MeTV and TVland suggest that Lawrence has a point.  Both stations build upon the concept of classic television that Nickelodeon’s Nick at Night made popular and can be found on many cable systems throughout the area.  Lineups are filled with popular shows from the fifties through the eighties — MeTV even runs  Carol Burnett and Friends show.

In a strange twist of fate, both Lawrence and Carol Burnett performed in New Jersey within a few weeks of each other, further proof that fans of rural humor are alive and well even in the Garden State.  In June, Lawrence says Burnett is expected to see her live show for the first time.  She thinks Burnett might be surprised at how the character has evolved over the years.

“Mama is very hip and with it,” explained Lawrence.  “My intention was to push her into the new century — just throw this old lady from the Midwest into the middle of the modern world and let her comment on the whole thing.  She’s probably edgier now than she ever was, but she’s still the same great character that you can throw into the arena and people buy the way she comments on it.  She’s got that old Southern / Midwestern mentality and values, and that’s the place she comes from.  So, although she’s more modern, she’s coming from the same heartland that she always did.”

If you miss Mama’s Family, every episode is available on DVD and the show still occasionally run on syndication.  With any luck, maybe a television executive will catch Lawrence’s show sometime and hear the laughter throughout the theater.  A character this intriguing deserves another chance in mainstream media.





For more by this author, click here






truTV’s Impractical Jokers Are Headed To The Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Critically acclaimed, world renowned comedy troupe, and stars of TruTV’s hit series Impractical Jokers, The Tenderloins have announced a brand-new world tour titled “The Cranjis McBasketball World Tour – Starring The Tenderloins.”  On the heels of the group’s hugely successful “Santiago Sent Us” tour, “The Cranjis McBasketball World Tour” will feature completely new material and hi-jinx for audiences across the globe. This comedy filled event will make a stop at Prudential Center on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 7:00pm.
Mayo Presents Wayne Brady On August 25
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Multitalented comedian, actor and singer Wayne Brady returns to MPAC for an evening of comedy on Saturday, August 25 at 8:00pm. Five-time Emmy winner and Grammy nominee Wayne Brady is a true show-biz renaissance man. Tickets range from $49-$79. 
The Big Apple Comedy Club Returns To The Newton Theatre On September 21
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Big Apple Club returns to The Newton Theatre with four of New York City's hottest comedians for a show on Friday, September 21 at 8:00pm.  The lineup includes Phil Hanley, Rodney Laney, Kerri Louise, and Matt Ruby. Tickets start at $19.
NJPAC Presents Tom Papa
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents a hysterical stand-up with New Jersey’s own Tom Papa, currently the head writer and a regular performer on Live from Here, on February 23rd, 2019. 
Wellmont Theater Presents Tom Arnold
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- The Wellmont Theater presents Tom Arnold on Saturday, September 22nd at 8:00pm. The comedian recently shot an episode of NCIS: NEW ORLEANS and was in a pair of independent features - BIGGER and SAVING FLORA. His special, TOM ARNOLD: PAST & PRESENT IMPERFECTLY for Comedy Dynamics is up next, along with his own political series for Viceland.


“Hysterical!” Gallagher LIVE! at The Strand Lakewood
Gallagher is joking with patrons in the lobby of Lakewood, NJ’s historic Strand Theater this Thursday, May 24, 2018 evening. In his audacious style, he’s grabbing cameras out of the hands of patrons who want to take great selfies with him, while also taking the time to sign T-shirts for stand-up comedy fans waiting for him at the merch table.
So You Want To Be A Comedian?
“I feel I have the kind of life where people think I’m making things up all of the time, but weirdness is kind of attracted to me,” said Jess Alaimo, a comedian from Monmouth County.  “So, I just go with whatever happens to me.”
The United States of Russia
Rutgers alum, Ben Rosenfeld released his third comedy album in January.  Entitled, The United States of Russia, the album was released by Comedy Dynamics and continues the Russia born, American raised comedian’s style of mixing tales of his immigrant parents and outsider childhood with topics ranging from millennials, terrorism, politics, and adjusting to life as a newlywed.  We caught up with Ben to talk about the album.
“We Came in as Strangers, but Now We’re Good Friends” Taylor Mason LIVE! at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium
It’s a beautiful summer night in Ocean Grove, NJ. As we stroll the boardwalk, folks are leaving the beach after a day of fun in the sun, whereas others are just arriving to enjoy the cool evening breeze.
Bad Hombres Comedy
Bad Hombres Comedy is a comedy group created by Brian Nichols, Paul Salazar Jr. and Bernardo Cubría.  The trio all studied together at the University of Houston and have kept in touch ever since.  Together, they create a weekly podcast and a video web series that satirizes the world we now live in thanks to Donald Trump.






Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


FILM

Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.