15 Jokes and Bits from the 2000s That Aren’t Funny Now
Growing up means accepting that your comfort watches don’t always hold up to modern tastes. By all means, keep watching 30 Rock to fall asleep — just understand that the reservoir of jokes you can quote at the watercooler is steadily diminishing.
‘How I Met Your Mother’ Defended Bill Cosby
In 2007, seven years before Hannibal Buress helped bring the allegations against Cosby to the mainstream, Ted says, “I put all your heavy jackets in this box marked ‘winter,’ and all your colorful sweaters in this box marked ‘Bill Cosby.’ Make fun, but America loved that guy for a reason.”
Late-Night Hosts Dumped on Britney Spears
Britney was really going through it in the aughts. It took Craig Ferguson carving out a few minutes in his monologue to make powerful people start thinking: Wait a minute, maybe turning this troubled youth into a punchline is making things worse?
‘Friends’ Rampant Fatphobia
The show made liberal use of fat suits — Monica’s hilarious backstory is that the now-ectomorphic bombshell used to be, gasp, fat! — and even dunked on Danny DeVito’s physique when he played a stripper named “Officer Goodbody.”
Chuck Norris Jokes
The internet has become a sterile, soulless content farm built on top of a pestilent mass grave of once-thriving websites, social networks and forums. And you know what? The popularity of Chuck Norris jokes in the mid-aughts proves that we were never worthy of the robust content democracy we once enjoyed.
Lovable Doofuses Have Lost Their Luster
Chris Pratt was once a doughy improv machine, but reinvented himself as a jacked action hero. In the process, he outed himself as both hard to work with and affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ Hillsong Church. Similarly, John Krasinski got buff, and immediately started rubbing people the wrong way — his tough-guy roles have often been interpreted as leaning suspiciously right-wing, while his pet projects have leaned too far left for his new Punisher logo-wearing fanbase. Then there’s Aziz Ansari — weird guy; who could’ve seen that coming.
Hank Azaria Voiced Apu
Hank Azaria voiced the Indian-American character from 1990 to 2017 — you couldn’t do that today! (Because Azaria has retired from the role and addressed very publicly and honestly why it’s problematic for a white actor to voice a caricature of an Indian-American.)
‘30 Rock’s Ironic Bigotry
There’s a lot of 30 Rock criticism that’s born out of stunted media literacy, to be sure. But looking back, it’s clear that the writers thought they were living in a post-racist and post-sexist world that didn’t exist. Alec Baldwin’s spirited bouquet of offensive Black caricatures, for example, leaves the modern viewer wincing, considering how many Confederate rallies have taken place since the show went off the air.
‘South Park’s ManBearPig
South Park catches a lot of flack, most of it deserved, all of it actively courted. One issue that they got embarrassingly, disastrously wrong was climate change. They created a (wildly popular) character, the mythical ManBearPig, to mock Al Gore and his focus on climate change in 2006. They did eventually produce a couple of episodes reversing course on their climate denial in 2018. Un-canceled, whew!
‘House’ Gave a Platform to Sexual Predators and Transphobes
The 2006 episode “Skin Deep” featured a vigorous philosophical discussion about whether an underage girl was a sexual aggressor in a case of incest. House then uses his medical insight to aggressively (and hilariously!) misgender the victim when he discovers that she has undescended testicles.
‘Friends’ Casual Transphobia
Chandler frequently references his gay/drag queen father, and rarely in any context other than a hamfisted turn-of-the-century roasting. Series creator Marta Kauffman has confirmed that the character is indeed trans, which is like when J.K. Rowling was like “Dumbledore was gay the whole time!”, except more mean-spirited.
Chris Pontius’ Party Boy ‘Jackass’ Bit
Chris Pontius’ “Party Boy” character proves that the aughts’ standards for pranks could be just as low as the TikTok generation’s. The whole bit was that he’d rip off his clothes and dance aggressively at people who did want to be danced upon. It’s boring at best, and definitely leans on homophobic tropes. I’m sure prank fans will argue that it’s a victimless crime (the same way a bully would argue the “quit hitting yourself” gambit isn’t their fault).
‘Scrubs’ Maintained That Racism Justified Homophobia
Donald Faison’s character reasons, “So I’m a little homophobic. I mean, we all got our stuff, right? I bet, deep down inside, you’re a little racist.” Two people reckoning with their own cultural blindspots to find common ground — nice! Hand-delivering racist and homophobic talking points to the nation’s racist and homophobic uncles — oofah.
An Obsession with the Age of Consent
A popular webpage counting down to the Olsen twins’ 18th birthday in 2004; Barney saying “the only reason to wait a month for sex is if the girl is 17 and 11 months old” on How I Met Your Mother in 2006 — America has long been a nation obsessed with ephebophilia.
‘30 Rock’s Casual Nods to Entertainment Industry Monsters
It could be argued that it was brave, at the time, to publicly acknowledge those “open secrets” within the industry — that Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are god-tier trashmonsters. But now that the depths of their depravity are common knowledge, hearing Jenna Maroney joke about Weinstein’s aggressive advances can feel like stubbing a broken toe.
One more time for the people in the back: Dilbert is not the good guy. Everything he does is textbook quiet quitting. That’s not fair to management, to the shareholders or to his coworkers.