Something I was thinking about recently is how I don't necessarily mind pretentiousness in comedy. I mean, Tom Lehrer had a kind of pretentious manner, and I love his work. Of course, he was also self-deprecating, quoting his own bad reviews and all, which helps. bethje used to watch the late-night shows quite often, and she said that one reason she much preferred Letterman and Conan to Leno was that the former two made fun of themselves, while the latter seemed to think rather highly of himself. What I think does tend to bug me is smugness, and I came across a good example of this when I last watched The O'Reilly Factor. Dennis Miller appears on his show pretty much every week, and man, that guy is smug. He'll make...well, not even really a joke, but just a reference to something kind of obscure, and then sit there as if saying, "That's right, I know what that is!" I really didn't see much of Dennis during his liberal days, but I get the feeling his style of comedy was much the same. On the show, he made a reference to some hockey player (I forget the name, but I think he played for the Seahawks), and O'Reilly totally indulged him, saying something like, "Hardly anyone will get that!" But wait, doesn't that mean it's not a very good joke? Yes, jokes that not a lot of people are going to get have their place, because they make those who DO get them feel like they belong. But it seems like you'd have to have a fair number of people on the inside to make such a line worthwhile. I don't know. I make a lot of obscure references myself, but not so much to show off my own knowledge as because a lot of things remind me of stuff that I know well, and others might not.
Along the same lines, I mentioned in that same earlier post (I'm getting a lot of mileage out of that entry, aren't I?) that I thought Festivus displays might potentially ruin the joke. The thing is, no one who hasn't seen the Seinfeld episode is going to think it's funny. I feel much the same way when people bring up forty-two being the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I'm a big Douglas Adams fan, but that bit really isn't that amusing outside of context. References like that work sort of like computer subroutines, in that they remind people of something else that was funny, rather than being funny on their own.
And to get back to that happiness meme, what's making me happy today is the prospect of going out to dinner. I still haven't quite decided where, but I'm leaning somewhat toward the Olive Garden.