Sitcom jokes that no longer work

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SgtPepper
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Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

Terrible thread title and might lack a bit of mileage, but.....................a couple of days ago I watched an old episode of Only Fools and Horses from the mid 80's. Del, Rodney and Albert were being held hostage in a supermarket with the store manager and a security guard. The phone rings and the hostage taker says "Who's that?" The store manager replies "It's a little difficult to tell at this stage." It got a big laugh from the audience, which is quite unusual for a line not uttered by one of the main stars. :-)
Obviously there are still thousands of people who use phones without Caller ID, but it's a joke I don't think works as it did then and just wouldn't be used.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by fatcat »

Thoughtful topic I reckon, as there has been recent discussions about 'The Life of Brian' and the fact that present generations may not understand the religious connotations and skits now.

GarethR
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

SgtPepper wrote: Obviously there are still thousands of people who use phones without Caller ID, but it's a joke I don't think works as it did then and just wouldn't be used.
TBH, I don't think that's a particularly good example to launch your thread... if a phone is ringing and it either hasn't got a screen or nobody is able to read it for whatever reason (such as the phone is in someone's pocket), surely the joke still works?

I thought you'd be referring to jokes that rely on now-obscure references that won't register with people beyond a certain age, such as the "Living on Limmits?" one from The Young Ones. Indeed, there will be many people who are old enough to remember Limmits who, er, won't remember Limmits, never mind anybody younger.

SgtPepper
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

GarethR wrote:
SgtPepper wrote: Obviously there are still thousands of people who use phones without Caller ID, but it's a joke I don't think works as it did then and just wouldn't be used.
TBH, I don't think that's a particularly good example to launch your thread... if a phone is ringing and it either hasn't got a screen or nobody is able to read it for whatever reason (such as the phone is in someone's pocket), surely the joke still works?
Yeah, but the phone is on the desk under the store managers nose. You could re-jig the scene perhaps but that's not really the point.

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Juswuh
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Juswuh »

On the other hand there must be phone jokes that have only become possible in the last 15 or so years.

SgtPepper
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

Juswuh wrote:On the other hand there must be phone jokes that have only become possible in the last 15 or so years.
Just mention Vodafone, that's always good for a laugh.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

SgtPepper wrote: Yeah, but the phone is on the desk under the store managers nose. You could re-jig the scene perhaps but that's not really the point.
Just use a phone that doesn't have a screen on it, or block the scene so that the screen can't be seen by the characters. Plenty of office extension phones without screens are still in use in companies all over the country.

Seriously, there's absolutely no reason why that joke couldn't still work. It's not a gut-buster, but even in 2013 it's still perfectly reasonable for a phone to be ringing without being aware of who is calling.

Clive
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Clive »

I remember a joke (although quite possibly true) about Orange's advertising tag-line "The future's bright, the future's Orange" not going down too well in parts of Northern Ireland.

I know in the early days of mobile phones that Mercury used to come in for a lot of stick, although topical humour based on products and early technology must have a very short lifespan.

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Beaker
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Beaker »

That is a pretty poor joke, unfortunately using a play on a short-lived product name. Had it been something like Horlicks, it may have endured.

I suppose they’re fortunate they didn’t use the name of another slimming product from the 70’s - 80’s, which had to be withdrawn fairly swiftly due to the rather unfortunate choice of name.

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Richard Charles Skryngestone
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Richard Charles Skryngestone »

Another thing that quickly dates a show is when they keep mentioning the date. If I remember correctly, the first episode of Butterflies tries to show how out-of-date Geoffrey Palmer's character is. So they keep saying "It's 1978" to show how behind the times he is. And not a sitcom, but there's the Not The Nine O'Clock News bit with the record player.
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SgtPepper
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

GarethR wrote:
SgtPepper wrote: Yeah, but the phone is on the desk under the store managers nose. You could re-jig the scene perhaps but that's not really the point.
Just use a phone that doesn't have a screen on it, or block the scene so that the screen can't be seen by the characters. Plenty of office extension phones without screens are still in use in companies all over the country.

Seriously, there's absolutely no reason why that joke couldn't still work. It's not a gut-buster, but even in 2013 it's still perfectly reasonable for a phone to be ringing without being aware of who is calling.
Like I already said, "You could re-jig the scene but that's not really the point".

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by billo »

Alot depends on the knowledge base of the audience - many things once common become 'forgotten' while other aspects such as products etc, then assumed to be common & well known ....have since totally long faded from wider public memory...

I once came across an old newspaper under a carpet that in it's Entertainment section boasted 'Direct from Blackpool Mike and Bernie Winters !!' - in the sixties that was relevant...but these days the old 'Direct from Blackpool' plug just seems quite absurd - today many would ask - so what ??

In Dad's Army for instance they kept things in the period by references to long gone entertainers, film stars & radio shows of the day (even Capt Mainwaring once mentioning the machine gun covered the area from the pier to 'Timothy Whites' - a chemist shop once common that we now know as 'Boots')

Before a 'Hancock's Half Hour' on Radio Four Extra recently the announcer had to explain beforehand who (Sir) Gordon Richards was as Hancock refereced him in the episode....but no doubt many now will never have heard of the famous jockey (BBC Radio assumed not !)

so anything 'topical' re figures or brand names can fast date or be forgotten...

then you get the Politically correct acceptability angle too where say one sexual themed comment or racial /gender stereotyping comment is no longer deemed funny (often these get censored now) ...yet OTHER sexual themed comments and stereotyping of another race or gender are deemed perfectly 'acceptable' & so terribly hilarious (who knows in the future those comments too may later be seen as shockingly sexist, racist, not nice, 'completely unacceptable today' etc...and duly be censored ?)

you CAN'T say the "whatever" letter word today as they did without any thought back then ....
but then maybe now we are saying another "whatever" letter word quite freely...that may induce equal shock, horror & morale high grounded outrage in the future....of course (?)

so as times change what is remembered and deemed acceptable changes (a few changes of order & even "history re-writes" can occur too with those figures/acts/shows that were NOWHERE NEAR that important back then duly deemed to have been SO VERY important today too....)

all these things come into play re how dated idioms like comedy & especially the sitcom later look....and what is felt by people to still 'work' as successful comedy

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

SgtPepper wrote: Like I already said, "You could re-jig the scene but that's not really the point".
Sorry, I'm not being obtuse, but I honestly don't understand what "the point" is. The joke you described could work perfectly well today. There is nothing about it that makes it inherently unuseable in 2013, unless you're going to insist that the phone *must* have a screen and it *must* be positioned so as to be easily readable by the characters - and by doing that you'd be deliberately contriving to make the joke unuseable, which would be just plain daft.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

GarethR wrote:
SgtPepper wrote: Like I already said, "You could re-jig the scene but that's not really the point".
Sorry, I'm not being obtuse, but I honestly don't understand what "the point" is. The joke you described could work perfectly well today. There is nothing about it that makes it inherently unuseable in 2013, unless you're going to insist that the phone *must* have a screen and it *must* be positioned so as to be easily readable by the characters - and why would you do that?
I didn't say it was "unusable". All I'm saying is that in an age when knowing who is on the other end of the phone while it's still ringing is common place the joke doesn't work as it did then and they wouldn't use it. They "could" use it, but I don't think they "would".

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

Unless they simply blocked the scene so that nobody could see the screen while the phone was ringing, of course.

I often leave my phone on the dining table, on the other side of the room to our settee, and there have been numerous occasions where it's started ringing and my wife has said "Who's that?" before I've had a chance to get up, go over and look, which usually leads to a rejoinder from me along the lines of "How am I supposed to know, the phone's over there?"

Not funny, but real life.

SgtPepper
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

"Not funny" being the operative words. Hence why I don't think they would use it. :-)

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

Arguably it was no funnier when it was used in OFAH. Caller ID is irrelevant.

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David Boothroyd
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by David Boothroyd »

There are an awful lot of jokes about inflexible trade unionists in sitcoms up to the 1980s which would be incomprehensible to audiences with no experience of working before 1990. Several entire series included. Even in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by SgtPepper »

GarethR wrote:Arguably it was no funnier when it was used in OFAH. Caller ID is irrelevant.
Now you're just trolling, which might be what be what you were doing all along. Anyway I'm out of here as far as this line of debate is concerned.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Clive »

Were they all staring at the phone when it rang ? Was the store manager staring at the phone when he said that line ? As soon as my phone rings, I still think "Who's that?" and there is no real difference between dragging the phone out of my pocket to look at it's screen, or answering the call to find out..

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Richard Charles Skryngestone
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Richard Charles Skryngestone »

Which series was it that had some episode c 1991 which had a big laugh about some apparently sad character, who was so sad that he had long hair and flares?(cue canned laughter at this 70's throwback). But then the whole Grunge scene exploded.
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David Boothroyd
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by David Boothroyd »

What about the opening titles of Terry and June (first version)? These days if two people were meeting up in Croydon town centre and they were confused about where they were supposed to be meeting, probably both would have mobiles and one of them would phone the other. No chance that both of them would wander around for an hour until they accidentally bumped into each other outside a payphone.

Arguably the Young Ones setup hasn't really worked since tuition fees came in.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Nick Cooper 625 »

David Boothroyd wrote:What about the opening titles of Terry and June (first version)? These days if two people were meeting up in Croydon town centre and they were confused about where they were supposed to be meeting, probably both would have mobiles and one of them would phone the other. No chance that both of them would wander around for an hour until they accidentally bumped into each other outside a payphone.
The ubiquity of mobile phone means that a lot of dramatic/comedic situations are no longer credible, unless beforehand characters have a clearly-flagged up deprivation of their mobile (no signal, dead battery, left at home), or a clear statement that they haven't got one (weirdos!). On the other hand, it does allow stalkers/spies/hiding victims to annouce their presence when they least want it, in a way that's rapidly become as clichéd as stepping on a twig.
Arguably the Young Ones setup hasn't really worked since tuition fees came in.
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Beaker »

I suppose Basil’s aside to the Major in Fawlty Towers - ‘Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie’ would confuse the under 70’s these days.

That said, current references can be an education…. if it wasn’t for Monty Python I wouldn’t have a clue who Billy Bremner or Reginald Maudlin were.
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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by GarethR »

David Boothroyd wrote: Arguably the Young Ones setup hasn't really worked since tuition fees came in.
Students still live together in rented houses to split the cost, though, don't they?

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Scary »

Nelly Boswell getting her home's cordless phone out of her handbag to take a call while at a supermarket checkout got a huge laugh I seem to remember. Nowadays that's normal in fact frowned upon.

The existence of mobile phones would ruin a lot of plots, something like the John Cleese film Clockwise would have a lot of holes if set today

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by Mike S »

I love the fact that I'm still 'getting' Young Ones jokes 30 years later. The Limmits penny dropped relatively recently, even though I dimly recall the biscuits. 'No way Dot' took me a while too, as did the Yellow Pages joke.

I think it all works as esoterica, though -it's no different to 'Euripedes trousers, Eumenides trousers, Medea'. You might not clock the allusions/specifics, but the gags still shine through.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by simon10011 »

In the 2nd series of Bless This House there's an exchange about Sid's son Mike having a job you don't get paid for to which Sid replies
"There's only one job you don't get paid for and the Milkmans Horse has got that" I would've thought that even in 1972 this joke was a little dated. As the only milkman with a horse was surely Benny Hill!

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by ayrshireman »

Richard Charles Skryngestone wrote:Another thing that quickly dates a show is when they keep mentioning the date. If I remember correctly, the first episode of Butterflies tries to show how out-of-date Geoffrey Palmer's character is. So they keep saying "It's 1978" to show how behind the times he is. And not a sitcom, but there's the Not The Nine O'Clock News bit with the record player.
Said ironically in the week that vinyl sales have been their biggest in years, and the first credible vinyl rebirth in years.

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Re: Sitcom jokes that no longer work

Post by ayrshireman »

David Boothroyd wrote:There are an awful lot of jokes about inflexible trade unionists in sitcoms up to the 1980s which would be incomprehensible to audiences with no experience of working before 1990. Several entire series included. Even in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I think the last three and a half years has shown they are making a large comeback.

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