Watching comedies these days can be stressful.
Whether it’s Louie or HAPPYish or the new movie While We’re Young (which I haven’t seen yet, nor know if I want to), there seems to be a recurring theme of generational warfare.
In last week’s episode of Louie, Louie encounters a young Asian female store owner at a Broadway Panhandler-type home goods store. When she refuses help him buy some copper pots because it’s near closing time, they get into an argument during which she accuses him of being angry at her because he’s middle-aged and, therefore, not her target customer, while she’s only 24 and already owns her own business. Louie eventually admits that she’s right and she sends him on his way, not caring about the lost sale.
On HAPPYish, a middle-aged ad exec played by Steve Coogan goes into a rage because his new, young Swedish overlords insist he revamp one of his campaigns using social media. As Coogan points out (rightly, to my middle-aged mind), “Why would I want to follow Pepto-Bismol on Twitter?” (Pepto-Bismol apparently thought this was amusing rather than offensive, because they did indeed sponsor a post on Twitter following this episode.)
These comedies tap into a pervasive fear in our society, where corporations have essentially “won” the war with unions, jobs are nonexistent, and baby boomers and millennials are fighting over the few that are left.
Meanwhile, over on Mad Men (granted, not a comedy), SCDP has just been acquired by McCann Erickson and on Nurse Jackie (not really a comedy, either), the fictional All Saints Hospital has just been sold to developers so it can be turned into luxury condos. (Sound familiar, St. Vincent’s?)
No wonder nobody’s laughing!
It seems that if you want to actually laugh at a comedy, you either have to watch a traditional, three-camera, live studio audience sitcom like Hot in Cleveland or Seinfeld. Not coincidentally, both Cleveland (which harks back to the ’90s in terms of style) and Seinfeld (which was actually filmed in the ’90s) carry an air of nostalgia for the relatively carefree Clinton years.
I think the one exception to this rule and, in terms of actual laughs, the funniest comedy on TV today is Silicon Valley. Granted, some credit has to go to the show’s writers and actors, but I think there’s also an underlying comfort factor involved because we know that, no matter how bad things may get for these characters (who work in the highly paid world of high tech), they will eventually land on their feet.
After all, it’s Silicon Valley’s world. We just live in it.