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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will the Future Kill the Comedy of Today?

Posted by Jacob Schraer on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 2:28 PM

In an essay at Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz wonders if future generations will be able to appreciate The Simpsons after his son asks him, “Dad, why is that funny?” Trying to explain one innocuous joke means referencing dozens of fated cultural touchstones. He concludes:

They referred to things that were current or that felt that way, thanks to syndication or shared childhood viewing experiences. Circa 2011 that's no longer the case. "Krusty Gets Kancelled" is one of the greatest of all "Simpsons" episodes, but if it were a poem, it would need to have nearly as many footnotes as "The Waste Land" — and the further away from its original air date we get, the truer that's going to be.

Seitz goes on to argue that this isn't unique to The Simpsons. Many of today's comedies, in particular animated sitcoms, rely on Academic Decathlon-level knowledge of pop culture, both current and old. Will the classic shows of our childhood be gibberish to future generations?

I believe that The Simpsons has enough narrative cohesion (at least in the earlier seasons) that it will make sense to people in the future. As a kid I managed to enjoy early Warner Brothers cartoons which were filled with contemporary satire that was over my head. I still loved it. Something like Family Guy, on the other hand, is almost sure to lose relevance. Thoughts?

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