Students speak on the influence of ’90s comedy

Stephen Acevedo

The ‘90s brought about a new era of comedy, especially in television. Although the majority of current UT students were born in the latter half of the ‘90s, the influence of the decade on comedy did not go unappreciated by millennials.

“I think the most important contribution the ‘90s had to comedy was its ‘Saturday Night Live’ lineup,” radio-television-film sophomore Will Conant said. “The transition to people like Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Rock and David Spade brought a much edgier feel to popular comedy.” 

Since he took over ‘SNL’ in 1995, Will Ferrell has had a hand in nearly every major comedy movement. Writing and acting in films such as “Step Brothers,” “Anchorman” and “Old School” and founding comedy production company Funny Or Die, Will Ferrell has played a huge role in the further evolution of comedy since the ‘90s. 

While “Saturday Night Live” was using sketch comedy to introduce new approaches to conventional humor and catapulting cast members into super stardom, shows like “Seinfeld” were breaking new ground for the traditional sitcom. 

“‘Seinfeld’ did something completely new by giving people a show that wasn’t ending each episode with a resolution to a conflict and moving forward with an overarching story,” Conant said. “It was a show about bad people who never learn and no progress is made. Without Seinfeld laying that groundwork, we wouldn’t have popular modern shows like ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.’”

In addition to adult comedy on television, the ‘90s was also a pivotal time for children’s shows. 

“Nickelodeon was killing it in the '90s,” mechanical engineering sophomore Hunter Markussen said. “[Those shows] are as just as funny to me today as they were to me as a toddler, and they definitely helped shaped my taste in comedy.” 

The quality of ‘90s Nickelodeon shows came thanks to the writers that were being hired at the time. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that there were people writing for Nickelodeon in the '90s that went on to be huge successes in adult comedy,” Markussen said. “Neal Brennan, the guy who created ‘Chappelle’s Show,’ started his career writing for ‘All That.’ The ’90s didn’t just influence the comedy genre itself, but it also primed ’90s kids for what they would find funny later in their lives.”