Friday, September 25, 2009

What Makes us Laugh in 2009

1 “Family Guy”

1 “Family Guy”
2 Flavor Flav
2 Flavor Flav
3  Fallon and O’Brien
3 Fallon and O’Brien Photo: fox/vh1/getty images

There’s little room for laughs in many aspects of life in 2009, which is why humor’s impact on popular culture is more powerful than ever. We spoke with some top brains in the biz to find out what is shaping this cornerstone of modern entertainment.

Hellllloooo ‘Cleveland’!

“The Cleveland Show” premieres Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Fox. The show follows the titular “Family Guy” neighbor as he moves to Virginia and marries. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim manager of programming Nick Weidenfeld calls it “Seth MacFar-lane’s reign over all of animation. Successful animated shows have created a new Ameri-can vernacular.”

1: The ‘Family Guy’ effect

Sure, “The Simpsons” was the first modern animated series to secure a foothold in primetime and pop culture as a whole. But the pacing of Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” — which scored a nearly unprecedented Emmy nomination for best comedy this year and bore the highly anticipated “The Cleveland Show” — changed the game for the industry.

“‘Family Guy’ changed the way in which an audience reacts to joke-telling,” says Adult Swim manager of programming Nick Weidenfeld. “It has to happen so quickly. You have to have so many jokes per minute. Cutaway, cutaway, cutaway. It’s the same with what ‘The Simpsons’ had done — it’s just ’roided up.”

K.P. Anderson, head writer and executive producer for E!’s “The Soup,” agrees. “‘The Family Guy’ is a quintessential show for handling everything with blistering accuracy but moving off of it so fast that nobody gets crushed by what they did,” he says.

2: The reality effect

The omnipresence of reality TV has changed the forum in which we find humor. When asked what he finds funny, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kenan Thompson first cites the plethora of VH1 reality shows.

“Just the looks of those people are funny,” Thompson says. “I think it’s all Flavor Flav’s fault.”

“You’re going to see more shows like ‘The Office,’ which is based on a reality sensibility,” says Cherie Kerr, a founding member of seminal L.A. improv group the Groundlings. “In terms of the tenor, I think what’s changed is that people have this big voyeurism going on. They like to see things that they can really make fun of and pick on.”

3: The Internet effect

The speed at which news, jokes, videos and all other things pop culture spread has led comedians and writers to adapt to a quicker turnaround for jokes.

“Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien are important voices in the mainstream now because they’re reflecting a generational shift,” says Todd Gold, managing editor of entertainment portal “Their humor is deeply ironic and filled with the pop culture references that make sense to a generation who is consuming media all day.”

It’s a major shift from the previous business model that always looked ahead to syndication.

“Years ago, people would say you can’t do that because things live on in video and on reruns, and in 10 years you don’t want people to watch something that’s commenting on a fad,” says Reader’s Digest humor editor Andy Simmons.

But as Anderson of “The Soup” says, “Everything’s a snack pack these days. You eat it, you throw it away.”

Metro New York, newspaper

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