A quick note on how subtle and smart a background joke can be. On the last 30 Rock, the show within a show gets mired in accusations of being un-American. After a face-saving all-American salute unintentionally reveals a number of swastikas, protesters gather outside the offices. I noticed one of the protesters carrying a sign for what looked to be an atypical Bible verse.
That verse - Ecclesiastes 10:19 - reads:
A meal is made for laughter, and wine makes life pleasant, but money is the answer for everything.
It’s a nice little dig at religion using the good book’s own words (and to fundamentalists, God’s). Very rewarding for those who watch carefully. I think one of the great marks for quality comedy is joke density. If the writers have time enough to add background jokes, then the first layer of jokes are probably sharp. Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, on both levels, is turning out to be a first class sitcom.