Does "timeless comedy" exist?
Memory is a flawed reference. There’s always a risk in looking too closely at something we remember fondly, as it may not be everything we thought it was. The Odd Couple is a property that we all love, whether our favorite incarnation was the movie, the television series, or one of the many revivals of the play. But when we clear away our fond nostalgia, is it still funny?
Fifty-three years is a long time for comedy. A lot of things that make us laugh are of the moment, and they are funny because we recognize a current reference or a topical joke. Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t going to work fifty-three years later. When our cast sat down together for a first reading of The Odd Couple two weeks ago, we wondered if too much time might have passed for the play to earn laughs from an audience today. We wondered...until the third line. And then the first laugh happened.
The laughs kept coming for eighty-six more pages. There were moments when we needed to take a break because we were having too good a time. Some references showed their age, and the prices were funny in their own way (eight-room Manhattan apartments cost more than $250 a month now), but the comedy of The Odd Couple is timeless because it doesn’t come from jokes—it comes from people.
Restaurant names and apartment rents may have changed in fifty-three years, but people haven’t. As long as friends can get on each other’s nerves while still being friends, The Odd Couple will be funny. Sitting around the table at that first reading, we laughed because we recognized our friends and our families and, in all honesty, ourselves. And if you come see our production of The Odd Couple, you will recognize the people in your life, too. And they’ll make you laugh.
by Lee Spilberg
Assistant Director and cast member, The Odd Couple