Humor has changed because our society has changed. An intolerant and conservative society, gives comedians lots of taboo subjects to use as fodder for humor and promote edginess. In a more permissive society, comedy has to push the envelope because tolerance levels are low and nothing is taboo.
We now live in a nation with 55% out of wedlock birth, 24 hour porn, Real Housewives talking about blowjobs and vagina grooming at 10 in the morning. We are also slowly getting dumber and dumber everyday. So what does a society find edgy and funny when very little is taboo? Meanness and stupidity.
Much of comedy has become insults and kicking people while they are down. We revel in the pain of others and understand that any subject is fair game because we are now an enlightened, progressive society. Today, the three stooges would have to really gouge each other's eyes out to get a laugh.
Sure, there are many clever witty comedians (see below) but this is not about them, this is about us. Look at what we value in society now: talentless celebrities, non-singing singers and success without accomplishment. Why would we want to think about humor or find something clever? That takes too long. Let's just make fun whoever has fallen down, or is defenseless, "Lindsay Lohan is a ho!" (chortle chortle).
Seth MacFarlane was doing comedy for a new generation, one that wasn't in that theater and one whose movies are never nominated for awards. He tried to blend the new humor with the flair of old Hollywood and what we got was something neither generation had any use for, the comedy equivalent of a rotary phone with a Twitter feed.
So what do we do? We can't go back to comedy that thinks we don't have genitals and gay people don't exist. But neither can we go on to a world where calling a nine year old a cunt is supposed to be funny.
Or maybe we should look at those men and women who always knew how to be progressive, edgy and intelligent at the same time. They knew that relaxed morals still meant all the troubles of a relationship, that a family blended, fractured or broken is still a family. And they knew where to draw the line and what a funny line it was: