Inside the Generation Gap

30 04 2012

The human brain is wired to enjoy inside jokes (or at least I know the nerd brain is wired this way, considering my audience I think it is safe to generalize this trait).  Just think of the last time you were hanging out with your friends and think of what happened when the inevitable inside joke came up – laughter all around, right?

Inside jokes are built into comedy.  The best comedians will consistently refer back to earlier jokes in their routines and get a laugh, many times louder and harder than the first time the joke is broken in.  You have a connection with the comedian and this produces a good feeling.

I get the same feeling sometimes when I listen to an old song.  I’m not talking about the sentimental feelings one gets when an old song transports them back in time or stirs up almost forgotten memories.  I’m talking about the songs that reference something that sounds obscure to most people, but that I completely understand.

Here is an example from the song Never You Mind by Semisonic:

This is basically a song about a guy who fights with his woman constantly but the details are always sketchy for him.  At one point he is singing about Mr. Spock being on the table and Dr. McCoy being unable to connect his brain.  Now for kids these days, they have no idea what this song is talking about.  But for me, I know they are referencing the episode of Star Trek called Spock’s Brain where Spock’s brain is removed by aliens and Dr. McCoy uses their technology to put it back.  But, in the course of the extremely long surgery, the effects start wearing off and McCoy is starting to forget where all the pieces go.  Viola! This is the perfect analogy to this dude’s troubles with his woman.  The song is full of analogies that get the point across perfectly, but this particular one gets me excited every time I hear it because I means I am an insider.  Only select Star Trek fans would understand the verse.

I find this happens a lot with rap music too. Rappers rap about things that are going on around them and a lot of times this can include references to pop culture.  Now it doesn’t seem like a real big thing when the song is contemporary because everyone and their dog is familiar with the pop culture reference.  Give the song twenty years and a chance to cross the generation gap and suddenly the youngsters have no idea what these old rappers are talking about.  But when I listen to it, I’m thinking yeah, I know what he’s talking about! Meanwhile the young kids might be thinking who knows what he’s talking about but that beat is pretty old school.

As I approach the point in my career where I’m closer in age to the guys contemplating retirement than I am to the kids coming out of college, I’ve seen the fun that inside information can bring to a dull work day.  These kids have no clue about Knight Rider or “Where’s the Beef?” and so it becomes a game between the middle aged guys in the office to see what old piece of pop culture the young ones have never heard of.  When this glaring omission of pop culture is discovered, my friend and I proceed to tell them the tales of our youth. 

The fun is in knowing that I am part of an exclusive club that knows things unknown to the supposedly “hip” young people of my office and the world in general.

It won’t be long before I’m beginning sentences with “back in my day…” while having popcorn tossed into my hair.  It will be great!

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One response

30 04 2012
Mary W.

I agree, there is a certain amount of brain stimulation that comes from suddenly realizing that you are an ‘insider’ to some reference that you would have never even noticed if you had a different knowledge base. It’s pleasant!

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