Andrew Sullivan links to an interesting debate about pop culture references in comedy. Matt Zoller Seitz wonders if dense pop culture references will ruin shows for future generations. I have to be on the side of the people who respond to this musing with: “Who cares?”
Something from Marcus Aurelius pushed me toward this direction:
“18. How strange are the ways of men! They will spare no word of praise for their contemporaries, who live in their very midst, and yet they covet greatly for themselves the praise of future generations, whom they have never seen and never will see. Almost as well grumble at not having praise from one’s ancestors!” (Book 6)
To me, it seems a fool’s task to try to make something “timeless.” It’s a waste to ponder what people will think of your comedy tomorrow when you have no idea what these people will be like. Would Shakespeare find “Community” funny? is absurd a question as asking if someone in 2026 will find it funny.
Make something funny for people now and let the people of tomorrow worry if they still find it funny or not.
EDIT 3/13/2011 —
Clarification: I should say it’s a useless question when you’re trying to ascertain the comedy’s value. If Shakespeare wouldn’t understand the cultural context, it doesn’t mean that a comedy would have any less value. The same applies to a hypothetical 18 year old in 2026.
I’m not sure it’s possible to be less rooted in cultural context, even if you cut out pop culture references, but that’s a separate issue.