I think it’s funnier now.
In the first ten years or so, the emphasis was on Bart and his hoodlum ways. I personally didn’t think that was very funny. In fact, I thought it was a bad influence on children.
But after about ten years, the emphasis switched to Homer. That’s when I started watching regularly. Many of the plots were excellent, and all of them ended with Homer and Marge staying strong in their commitment to each other and to their children.
The Simpson children are still very much involved in the plots. Probably the best episode ever was the one where Lisa dug up an angel. I love the part where her mother tells her that she feels sorry for her because she can’t believe in God. That’s heavy stuff. This episode is one that teachers of religion should show their students and require an essay!
To me, these later episodes are a whole lot funnier and deeper than the early episodes which mainly involved Bart acting like a juvenile delinquent and making farting noises with his armpit.
I think the best humor makes you not only laugh, but cry as well. Red Skelton was probably the best ever–Freddy the Freeloader was so funny, but so very very sad. He was truly a master of true comedy–he always wore both the sad and the happy masks.
Charlie Chaplin’s “little tramp” was the same kind of character–funny, but pathetic–we laugh as we watch, but we brush away tears.
And I think that Harpo Marx was good at it, too–he was hilarious but also child-like and touching in his innocence–watching Harpo do his stuff is like watching an angel perform.
Benny Hill also did some lovely sketches which were funny but tragic at the same time. E.g. while all the other men danced with beautiful slim girls, he could never partner with a beautiful girl, no matter how hard he tried to be debonaire and clever and dashing. Or he couldn’t hold down his job because he kept falling into a pie, or tipping the water cooler onto the boss’ head, or pulling the secretary’s dress off–how many of us can identify with feeling stupid and clumsy and knowing that everyone is laughing at us, even though we are crying inside because we’re fat and soft and not really bright?
(BTW, Benny Hill supported financially five families with disabled children–paid ALL their bills–and no one knew this until after he died. He gave away tens of millions of dollars to charity, but he himself always lived in the same small house that he grew up in, and he took the bus to work because he didn’t own a car, and he brought his lunch in a paper bag. He would walk right by the hundreds of people who waited to catch a glimpse of him, and they wouldn’t even recognize him because he looked like a regular man in regular clothes–nothing fancy about him. Those who worked for him state that he was a wonderful boss–he was very good to the people he worked with.)
Anyway, that’s what I think the later episodes of the Simpsons are like–funny, but extremely thought-provoking and tinged with the tragedy of human frailty and mortality. This is one reason, BTW, why Family Guy is not in the same league with the Simpson’s–I’ve only seen a few episodes of FG that were funny/sad. Most are just “body humor”–kind of gross and weird and funny, but nothing that will make you blink back tears.