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Jewish Journal

No Laughing Matter

by Naomi Pfefferman

February 14, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Don't get Howard Rosenberg started on the snobs who dismiss sitcoms as trash.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times TV critic thinks they're an American art form, which is why he's hosting "The Serious Side of Laughter," a panel discussion about television comedy Feb. 17 at the University of Judaism. The panelists -- responsible for some of the biggest yuks on the tube -- include Sam Simon of the groundbreaking animated series "The Simpsons," Judd Apatow of the quirky college romp "Undeclared," Phil Rosenthal of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Larry Wilmore of "The Bernie Mac Show."

The plan is "to discuss the creative process, how hard it is to get comedies on the air and the biggest challenges faced," says Rosenberg, himself renown for a legendary acid wit.

The panel will also dissect the latest sitcom trends, including stand-up comics playing themselves and escalating nooky on television: "The cable channels have no restrictions, so the networks are keeping up," Rosenberg says. Noting that three of the four panelists are Jewish, he adds "We'll raise the question, 'Is there Jewish humor on TV?' And does the style of a show's humor always reflect the ethnicity of its creator?"

Rosenberg thinks so when it comes to "Bernie Mac," which revolves around an African American family: "But then again, I'm just a white Jewish guy from the suburbs," he admits.

He's less conflicted about the relevance of TV comedy. "A lot of the shows are inane, but you can't dismiss as inconsequential something 20 million viewers watch every week," he insists.

For more information about "The Serious Side of Laughter," call (310) 440-1546.

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