Bad acting comes in many bags, various odors. It can be performed by cardboard refugees from an Ed Wood movie, reciting their dialogue off an eye chart, or by hopped-up pros looking to punch a hole through the fourth wall from pure ballistic force of personality, like Joe Pesci in a bad mood. I can respect bad acting that owns its own style.
Stars wide of belt often cultivated a gentlemanly grandeur, a groomed refinement that filtered through their fingertips - the dainty fidgets of Hardy's plump digits, Orson Welles performing magic tricks with nimble dexterity, Jackie Gleason lofting a teacup to his lips as if he were Lady Bracknell - or through a fine set of twinkle-toes.
Feature-length film comedy is harder to pull off than the episodic sitcom - it doesn't have the same factory machinery up and running, teams of writers putting familiar characters through permutations - but that doesn't explain the widening quality gap that makes movie humor look like a genetic defective.
What's happening to movie critics is no different from what has been meted out to book, dance, theater, and fine-arts reviewers and reporters in the cultural deforestation that has driven refugees into the diffuse clatter of the Internet and Twitter, where some adapt and thrive - such as Roger Ebert - while others disappear without a twinkle.