Maclean’s Jaime Weinman examines the importance of jokes to the patter of sit-coms:
One reason I’ve been thinking about this is that I’ve started to re-examine my own attitude to jokes. I’ve sometimes evaluated a comedy based on the jokes, or how organic the jokes are to the story. I used to pick at Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart and even Woody Allen for the fact that their style of comedy was so one-liner dependent and that the one-liners could often fit into any context. I still think that’s true but I’m no longer sure how relevant it is.
Because, again, even in a lot of comedy that superficially looks like setup/punchline comedy, the one-liners are really just the warm-up to the big moments. They keep the rhythm going and they keep us in the mood to laugh, and so they are necessary to the comedy, but the one-liners don’t _define_ the quality of the comedy, and they’re not, ultimately, what we remember the most. What we remember in a good Larry Gelbart M*A*S*H is not his facility with one-liners but the bigger comic or dramatic moments. The one-liners are a form of comedy punctuation, keeping the comedy rhythm going. They don’t make the show, but they don’t break it either.
Read the whole thing. It’s an interesting take on something that isn’t actually important.