Is sick humor dead?

American Bystander brings you Michael Gerber's excellent essay on sick humor. Gerber reflects on the recent death of "sick" cartoonist Sam Gross and the rise (and fall?) of the genre explored by Lenny Bruce, Mad Magazine, David Letterman, and Ren & Stimpy.

So roughly ten years after TIME released its famous tsk-tsking of Lenny Bruce and others as "Sickniks," three Harvard boys made Sick humor's collegiate lineage overt by founding The National Lampoon. In his magisterial Going Too Far—a book you should most definitely read if you're still reading this—Tony Hendra refers to NatLamp as "over-the-counterculture." And so it was, until in 1975 SNL upped the ante, turning Sick humor into a purely commercial transaction. Whatever else SNL became later, at its birth it was pure Sick humor. "I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines," said Mr. Mike in SNL's first cold open. The sketch ends with O'Donoghue's character having a massive heart attack…which the immigrant Belushi mimics. Who writes a joke like that? Who thinks a sudden heart attack is funny? People who don't have them—i.e., young people. Sick humor is great, but it's a young person's game, and for all the truths that it can reveal, the revelations brought by old age and infirmity are beyond this style. The clock was ticking.