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As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, trends and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off the well-dressed comedian.

Ladies and gentlemen, this man is a comedian.

Hard to believe, we know, but once upon a time, this was the uniform for a successful stand-up, right down to the skinny tie and the pocket square. If you had the money, you spent it on a first-class suit and then you traveled from town to town looking like you owned the train. (A trade secret: Puns always sound funnier if the guy telling them is dressed like a senator.)

It’s a professional custom we’d like to dust off…

The gentleman above is George Burns—see the cigar?—but we could point you to pics of Bob Hope and Joey Bishop that also qualify as quite natty by modern standards. Scan through a few back episodes of Ed Sullivan and the comedians will be the best dressed people on-stage. Even Woody Allen kept the dream alive in slightly more disheveled form, but for most of the post-Lenny Bruce era, the only people keeping up the French-cuffed mantle were late-night talk show hosts.

It’s a shame because the professionalism of comics is part of what makes them so funny. It’s a group of grown adults, a whole industry, pouring immeasurable amounts of intelligence and energy into making people giggle. What’s the best way to phrase that poop joke? You’d better believe they’ve thought about it, tried a number of variations, and settled on the right one only after hours of hand-wringing. The well-kept suit is a symbol of all of that absurd craft (crafted absurdity?), and it makes every blue detour that much funnier.

We’re seeing some signs of light—most notably from Aziz Ansari—but we can’t encourage this one enough. We’ve got the cufflinks if anyone needs them.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom