The Fraters Libertas dismiss the Knowing Laugh:
One of many such examples in Mama Mia was this clunker of an exchange between a middle-aged woman and a horny, younger man after he has come on to her:
Woman: Why I’m old enough to be your mother!
Man: Then call me Oedipus!
Oh wait, I get it, Oedipus because he like wanted to have sex with his mother! Yes! I went to college! I’m smart! I listen to NPR! I GET IT!
See, I actually think this sort of thing is funny in its own right, but ONLY IF NO ONE GETS IT. Or at least, hardly anyone. It’s only unfunny when it’s ironic, because you have to be quasi-illiterate not to know that Oedipus was bad in a manner that even Samuel L. Jackson found inimitable.
For example, in the book I’m currently writing, I make use of an Ecoism that requires one to be familiar with both Italian and the idiosyncratic sayings of a particular Italian politician in order to comprehend that I am equating a certain left-liberal individual with a specific body part. This is funny, not because it is true, (although it is), but because it is unexpected in the context of the discussion and because of the dichotomy between the serious nature of the criticism and the crassness of its content.
At least I think it is. I guess I would say that the dividing line is between that which is trying to include (not funny) and that which is designed to seriously exclude. We are all elitists; where’s the fun if one can’t look down one’s nose at the Great Illiterate from time to time, especially those who think they aren’t.