“Timing is everything” is often repeated when talking about comedy. People talk about “comedic timing” and how certain beats within dialogue can add emphasis and make things much funnier. But, there’s another way in which timing is everything with comedy, and that’s societal timing.
Certain sketches or movies are funny because of the time in which they come out. For example, Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin sketches were particularly funny when Sarah Palin’s idiocy was fresh in the public’s mind. Or, the movie, Pineapple Express will lose some of its humor when marijuana is legalized across the country.
There’s no doubt comedy, more than any other genre, is dependent on contemporary culture. Comedy rarely holds up over time. But, I feel like there is another reason comedy doesn’t hold up over time, especially sketch comedy. And this is because they are continually reinventing the format.
In the history of the world, stand-up, late night, and sketch comedy are all fairly new. Sure, the late night comedy format is pretty set in stone, but think of Craig Ferguson who has challenged that structure and often pokes fun at it, or even Jimmy Fallon who adds newness to the outdated Late Night (and The Tonight Show come February).
There is more leeway with comedy than there is with more dramatic forms of entertainment. Screenwriters today still study Aristotle’s Poetics for structure guidelines, but there is no ancient text for stand-up. Trends come and go with comedy. Sketches in the early days of Saturday Night Live would sometimes last up to ten minutes, and now they’re around four minutes.
When we look back on older comedy, it loses some of its humor. So, my question for Two Way Hump Day is:
Do you think the humor is lost because of its dependence on society at the time or because of the loose guidelines in formatting and the ever-changing standards?
You can answer in the comments section below, write your own post and tag it Two Way Hump Day or tweet @oshitbritt.