A 2014 Pew Research Center report calls Gen X, those born sometime between the mid-60s to very early-80s, “America’s neglected middle child” or the “Sandwich Generation.” If that’s you, you probably have a rather mixed sense of humor, caught somewhere between the straightforward jokesters of the 50’s and today’s socially conscious (if you don’t believe it, just ask them) 20-30 somethings who are afraid a good belly proves they are shallow.
If you are in your 40’s or 50’s, your brand of funny is about as nebulous as the opinions of marketers and others about you. But first, a scientific test to verify someone is a Gen Xer.
You might be a Gen Xer if:
Some elderly woman yelling out, “Where’s the beef,” still doubles you over with laughter.
You know every Weird Al Yankovic song by heart.
Your favorite sitcom was about absolutely nothing.
Speaking of that, your friends know exactly what you mean when you call someone a “Soup Nazi.”
You know who shot JR.
Two words – Bo and Luke Duke
If you were a 12-year-old boy about that time, add – Daisy Duke
You could outdance Michael Jackson because you watched his “Beat It” video about a thousand times.
You pegged your jeans and used a lot of hair spray.
Three words – Atari, Coleco, and IntelliVision
“Safe sex” meant your parents were gone for the weekend.
You missed your high school plans to get back together at the turn of millennium and party out the night to Prince’s 1999 because you were too busy preparing for the Y2K apocalypse.
Your friends smile when you respond to the latest election results news with,“What you talkin’ bout, Willis?”
You’re still looking for a local establishment where “everybody knows your name.”
Back in my day, cartoons were on Saturday morning. If you slept in until 11 am you missed the Smurfs and you had to eat your Cookie Crisp watching The Love Boat. And we liked it! ~ Dana Carvey
…yep, it’s all relatable (and funny) to a Gen-Xer!
Understanding Gen X Funny Through the TV they Loved
For the “final 4,” Millennials tend to identify themselves more with music than with anything network television. Not so for the Gen X crowd. In a recent not so scientific survey I asked a number of Gen Xers to offer one word that describes the humor of their generation. With the exception of one person who had probably watched The Breakfast Club way too much their immediate response was – sarcasm.
Believe it or not, NBC was the envy of all the other networks in the 1990s because it held a firm monopoly on what made than generation laugh.
Four comedies all that aired on NBC say it all for what makes the 1.5 generation laugh.
Cheers (1982 – 1993)
No two characters from the bar where “everybody knows your name” better reflect Gen X humor than Carla and Norm. Rhea Perlman portrayed Carla Tortelli, the cynical yet wisecracking cocktail waitress who treated customers rather badly. Norm, played by George Wendt, was the bar regular who was greeted by everyone yelling “NORM!” When asked how his day went he would always offer some sarcastic reply and ask for a beer. Boomer actors serving a Gen X audience? Cheers to that!
Seinfeld (1989 – 1998)
Here was a show about nothing whose quartet of characters became the bellwether of Gen X humor by randomly complaining about just about everything. What person from this generation hasn’t called some waiter or checker a “soup nazi” more than once in their life?
Generation Xers probably hate to admit they watched but they did indeed watch. Friends was a top 10 series throughout its entire run. Imagine a sitcom averaging 20 million viewers per episode for ten years straight today. Millennial children were raised watching the show with their Gen X parents and it is filled with sarcasm and the humor that replaced it – angst.
NBC saw its dominance persist into the 2000s with 30 Rock and The Office until YouTubers and reality shows slowly took their place.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
I know it’s out of order but there’s a reason we end up with this one. Long before he became a Hollywood Empire to himself, Will Smith provided the humor that bridged the gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials. You’re a Gen Xer if you find yourself relating to some of these lyrics.
Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Aire.
The rest of the lyrics tell the story of a generation that took all the changes in the world and rolled with the punches. It was the first generation to have TV as a babysitter and divorce more the norm than an unusual event.
But wait, I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, and all that
Is this the type of place that they should sent this cool cat?
I don’t think so, I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the Prince of Bel-Air
Gen Xers know how to laugh. They created the .dot com boom and lived through the .dot com bust. It was about all that got them through.
Now, how can you use these insights to season your marketing with humor that appeals to Gen X consumers?
An agented novelist and full-time freelance writer, Tim G specializes in SEO content writing, full-length non-fiction ghost writing, and has written and developed corporate and educational application training materials.