Marx Brothers, Comedy, anti-Semitism, challenging students today with humor | Dr. Robert Weir #68

Marx Brothers, Comedy, anti-Semitism, challenging students today with humor | Dr. Robert Weir #68

Marx Brothers, Comedy, anti-Semitism, challenging students today with humor | Dr. Robert Weir #68 

Groucho, Zeppo, Gummo, Chico, and Harpo--also known as The Marx Brothers--not only changed the way we think of comedy, but they helped shape our modern notions of cinema as well. Does their biting wit and chaotic humor hold up today? I absolutely think so. In fact, I think we need a lot more humor today to help us break the tensions that we feel on a daily basis--and our guest agrees. Dr. Robert Weir is a retired history professor who most recently taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He's a former senior Fulbright scholar to New Zealand, a past president of the Northeast Popular Culture Association, and the author of 11 books and numerous other academic works. We talk about comedy today, do college-age students get the humor of the Marx Bros, the anti Semitism that they faced, and the origins of their rise to stardom. If you have never seen a a Marx Bros. film, drop everything and go check out A Night at the Opera or my personal favorite, Horsefeathers. In fact, you stay here and I'll drop everything and go watch a Marx Bros. film. 

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Book link:


00:00 Teaser

01:16 Introduction

03:22 Start of conversation

06:25 How did the Marx Bros. become a cultural interest?

10:17 Did the humor catch on with your college students?

16:08 My approach to education with my students

19:15 How did their mother impact the Marx Bros. showbusiness careers?

23:46 Pioneers in "talkies" or early cinema with sound

28:27 Some feedback from the Catholic Telegraph for the Cocoanuts. (It sounds like the setup for a great Groucho zinger.)

33:51 How did anti-Semitism impact their careers?

45:54 Before Jim Halpert was breaking the wall, Groucho was showing how it is done by bringing in popular culture. 

49:02 The Marx Bros. did NOT want the music in the film, which sounds absurd. 

52:15 Why was Harpo silent? 

58:23 Margaret Dumont reminds me of Bea Arthur--owning every scene she is in with nothing more than a look.

1:01:06 Why was Horsefeathers an unpleasant film to make?

1:04:14 Is the speakeasy in Horsefeathers a reflection of reality or a political statement?

1:06:56 What did writing this book teach you about comedy?

1:10:09 I get asked about my favorite form of comedy. Things get chaotic.

1:11:40 Concluding thoughts and I even throw in a few of my own Marx Bros.-inspired jokes.


Head over to the website to learn more about me and to contact me.


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#comedy #grouchomarx #humorous

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