When time and history change the meaning of a joke in pop culture.

I was watching a late 90s episode of Friends this week on TNT. It is the episode where Chandler and Monica are dating on the sly and they go to dinner at Chander’s boss’s apartment.

Monica is put off because Chandler has a “work laugh” where he cracks up at his boss’s bad jokes.

One joke DID make me laugh.

The boss made some reference about President Clinton…and her husband, Bill!

The joke being the old standard that Hillary was the real president of Bill’s administration.

What made me laugh was the thought of future generations watching on Nick @ Nite wondering what the hell is so funny.

If Hillary wins (big if, natch) history will have made that whole bit obsolete. President Clinton WILL have a husband named Bill. What is so funny about that?

Any other times where history did (or may in the case of my example) change the humor of a joke?

I’m thinking we might get more than a few Simpson jokes because the darn show last so long.

(One that comes to mind is when Bush moved in across the street and one of his deadbeat sons who wanted a letter of reference later used it to become President of the USA).

Seinfeld episode The Masseuse aired November 18, 1993. Elaine has a boyfriend named Joel Riffkin, who shared that name with a nortorious New York serial killer. She wants him to change his first name. While looking through a Football Program, she suggests “O.J”

Seven months later, the meaning of that joke really changed!

There’s the scene in “The Blues Brothers” where they are at the fancy restaurant where their former horn player is now the maitre d’. He’s talking to someone on the phone and makes the statement “No sir, Mayor Daley no longer dines here. He’s dead, sir.”

There are many places in which a President Reagan was used as an example of something so absurd it could only be a joke. This was while Reagan was governor of California, of course.

This reminds me of Back to the Future, where Marty tells the Doc that Reagan is president, and Doc doesn’t believe him. (Not a changed meaning one, though.)

Slight hijack in terms of the category… but there’s a line in a Tori Amos song (“Pretty Good Year”, I believe) reference is made to a character who “burns his cds”… It’s meant literally but I can see people nowadays thinking he’s making cds on his computer.

But only time will tell if the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library will prove to be something similar.

Not exactly a change in meaning but future viewers won’t appreciate the prescience of the line. In an episode of The West Wing that predated 9-11 by almost a year, the fictional White House staff is talking about a terrorist threat and President Bartlett mentions Osama bin Laden by name.

Both Laurel and Hardy and the The Three Stooges had some funny “sleeping in the same bed together” skits. I bet you’ll never see any modern comedy team do that!

My folks and I were watching a McLain Stevenson era MASH episode in reruns early to mid 1980, in which Blake asks Radar what movies are available from HQ and Radar reads him a list that included “Bonzo Runs For President”. We looked at each other and said “How did they know?”

(*or whereever they get those things)

The only Bonzo movie was “Bedtime for Bonzo.” Reagen was already President when that joke was made

Really? He’s literally setting fire to his CDs? Man, completely didn’t get that. (Since it says “Greg, he writes letters/And burns his CDs” I figured both actions were creative ones.)

sorry, no.

Yes there was only one Bonzo movie, but the episode in which the joke was made was written and filmed in the early 70s.

We watched it in reruns in 1980 prior to the election. Carter was president from '76-'80 (well, '77 to '81 if you go by inaugural dates)

As a corrollary(?) to what furryman said, any pre-modern era reference to the word “gay.”

Or “fag.”

Sleeping in the same bed together is still done, but there is the requisite “We ain’t gay, we’re forced to do this” schtick.

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in did an occasional “News of the Future”. I saw a rerun a few years ago that referred to “President Ronald Reagan”. I’m not sure, but the dateline given in the sketch may have been a year when Reagan actually was president. The show ran during Reagan’s tenure as governor of California.

's’posiible - NotF was usually 20 to 30 years “from now” and if that one was 20 “yfn”, it’d have been right on target

See what I mean. That album came out in 1994. I don’t think “burning cds” came into common usage for at least a couple of years.

For that matter, in “Hannibal,” when Giancarlo Giannini is looking at the FBI’s most wanted list on his computer, Hannibal Lecter is right next to… Osama Bin Laden.

How about Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone? Back in the '60s, a portable phone you could use anywhere did actually seem like it was some kind of ultra-cool spy gadget. The joke was that he carried it in his shoe. Now, everybody has a phone they can throw in their pocket or even tuck in their sock if they desire.

Yes, this is true. It was a 1968 episode and they were doing news from 1988, so they got it right.