The Marx Brothers, revisited

I recently saw Noah Diamond’s spot-on re-creation of the Marx Brothers’ magnificent 1924 stage show I’ll Say She Is. Unlike their other shows from the 1920s, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, this one never made the transition to the big screen, so most people would never have seen it.

Amazingly, yet somehow not surprisingly, it was side-splittingly, laugh out loud funny. Amazingly because the show is 92 years old. Not surprisingly because, well, it’s the Marx Brothers.

Most comedy from the early 20th century does not age well. Intellectually, you can usually work out why it was supposed to be funny, but understanding why something could be funny is not the same as finding it funny.

Yet, remarkably, the Marx Brothers’ humor does not age. Decades may come and go, but their best work somehow never seems to dim with the passing years.

What is it about them that makes this so, I wonder. What, precisely, is different about their work? How did Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx somehow stumble upon an eternal fountain of comic youth?

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