There’s this scene in Episode 5 of the first season of Mad Men. Freddy Rumsen, one of the good old boys of the 1960’s fraternity that was the American advertising industry, is talking with his boss, Don Draper and Art Director, Salvatore Romano. Rumsen recounts how he wrangled all the secretaries in the office into an observation room and had them try on Belle Jolie lipstick so he could get ideas for an ad campaign. While most of the other girls fluttered about doing whatever it was women who were suffocated by the feminine mystique and a lack of upward workplace mobility did, Peggy Olson actually came up with a helluva catchphrase. Rumsen was truly amazed. He tells Draper and Romano, “It was like watching a dog play the piano.”
That’s how I think we think about old people.
Our platonic ideal of octogenarians is either all “Get off my lawn!” or sweet and loving elders whose mere presence commands a certain amount of respect or arthritic, semi-senile individuals needing constant attention or some combination of the three. When eightysomethings act outside these expectations – whether it’s by hosting SNL, making sketch comedy ripe with sexual innuendo, riffing on the Jersey Shore, or telling dirty jokes – we like it. A lot.
And that’s part of why Stiller & Meara works. The other part is they’re hysterical.
Yahoo’s latest original web series is created, directed, and produced by Ben Stiller under the banner of Red Hour Films. The show stars his parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara in a kind of redux of the couple’s popular, long-acclaimed comedy routine. Early graduates of Second City, the husband and wife duo are seasoned vets at the art of improv. It shows.
In the first two installments, Stiller and Meara exchange the kind of banter about the internet and the Jersey Shore only 40+ years of comedy training and companionship can produce. It’s a gentle ribbing, complete with jokes about ovulation and kids these days, built on top of an almost tangible foundation of genuine affection. It’s also way more entertaining than any dog playing the piano. This is definitely one web series to watch.