Tired Pop Culture References Without A Punchline

There’s a disturbing trend that I’ve seen in comedy over the last few years.  Pop culture references have always been part of the game, but in the past it’s usually with some twist or original thought or punchline.  But lately I’ve seen things that people seem to think are funny simply because they make a pop culture reference.

I was shown this yesterday…


Ok, we get it… There’s a combination Taco Bell/Pizza Hut.  With outstanding rhymes like “Pizza Hut butt”.   There’s no joke, and yet people seem to think this is hilarious.

This from Wikipedia: “In March 2009, Dan Deacon referred to “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” as “a track that will last the ages” in XLR8R magazine. Death & Taxes magazine described the song as “an existential meditation on consumer identity in corporate America” and “both feverishly juvenile and somehow profound.”

How exactly did they come up with that?  There’s no commentary on consumer identity.  It’s two guys talking about being in a fast food place.  With one line.  Repeated over and over.  I get that they’re skewering hip-hop, but could we write maybe one or two more lines?

If someone yammered the same sentence at you for 2:30, would it be entertaining?  Even the best one-liner is going to be tiresome after the first 30 seconds.

Here’s another example:

Once again, I get that we’re making fun of hip-hop.  But does it have to last for 3 whole minutes?  And there’s no commentary.  It’s satire, but without the joke.  And this is one of the top selling songs on iTunes comedy channel.  Without the video it doesn’t really stand as anything but an annoying song.   Lonely Island has done a few other interesting things.  Their new video “Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions” is pretty good.

Here’s the way I look at these things.  If they were to sing these songs without the aid of a video to a comedy club audience, would they get a laugh?  Without a doubt, no.  Maybe in the first 30 seconds, but it would die quickly.  I’ve always thought that the video should enhance what is already a funny song.  Not just be some dopey novelty song with a flashy video and a guest star.

It’s not just music though.  Movies are tossing out their fair share too.  Here’s a clip from “Epic Movie”.

So, where’s the joke?  In comedy, this is called a mix.  Take a character or situation and place somewhere you don’t expect it.  Of course, there’s usually a joke or idea that goes along with it.  This is just throwing the reference out there without any sort of idea behind it.

It’s really lowest common denominator comedy.  They seem to think that the consumer can only handle a simple repeated idea that references some meme of the time.  If there was some sort of commentary to it that led to a deeper level, it might be interesting.  But satire isn’t satire unless it’s ironic.  And these simply aren’t.

Wait.. I’ve got one… Picture this set to a hip-hop beat with a guest appearance by Justin Timberlake and Will Farrell.

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Guaranteed hit.

Phil Johnson
www.RoadsideAttraction.com


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