Sick comedy was a term originally used by mainstream news weeklies Time and Life to distinguish a style of comedy/satire that was becoming popular in the United States in the late 50s. Mainstream comic taste in the United States had favored more innocuous forms, such as the one-liners in Bob Hope's routines. In contrast, the new comedy favored observational monologues, often with elements of cynicism, social criticism and political satire, which audiences at the time may have found controversial.
Lenny Bruce in 1959, guest at the first airing of the Playboy's Penthouse show, reported that Time made an article indiscriminately grouping seven new comedians, labeling them as "sick comics"; they were Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl (an author of political satire), Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Tom Lehrer.
Script doctor Daniele Luttazzi says: "the term sick comedy then ended up being used to encompass a bit of everything: the humor of the Mad magazine as Jules Feiffer, the cartoons by Charles Addams as the monologues by Mike Nichols and Elaine May, the traditional comedy by Shelley Berman and the hipster comedy of Dick Gregory."
When Time magazine labeled Lenny Bruce as a "sick comic", he replied: "The kind of sickness I wish Time had written about, is that school teachers in Oklahoma get a top annual salary of $4000, while Sammy Davis Jr. gets $10,000 for a week in Vegas."
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (September 2014)|
- Daniele Luttazzi (2001), foreword to the Italian edition of Lenny Bruce's (1972) How to Talk Dirty and Influence People
- Lenny Bruce, appearance at the first airing of Playboy's Penthouse, 1959
- Lenny Bruce (2004) Let The Buyer Beware, Disc One, last track Lenny On Playboy's Penthouse (with Hugh Hefner & Nat "King" Cole)
- Lenny Bruce (1972) How to Talk Dirty and Influence People