Show: The Honeymooners (CBS, 1955-1956)
Character: Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason)
Even sitcom history can be dark sometimes. Though domestic abuse is never funny, we have to acknowledge that to millions of Americans, it once was.
An enduring drama series is common. Drama is based on the most intense of human moments. Sex, lies, war, and death are pretty much the only topics heavy enough to draw a drama's attention. An enduring comedy is far more rare. Comedies send up social issues, comment on the little things in life, and take on the present cultural moment. Culture changes rapidly, and comedy quickly becomes dated.
And we get this, but that still doesn't adequately explain why this line is so beloved. "If your wife nags you, threaten to punch her in the face!" or some similar joke wouldn't find a home in even the most crass comedy acts of today, yet millions of people laughed at the line that quickly became a catchphrase. We're sure there could be a dissertation written about changing domestic attitudes and the sitcom with this show, and this quote, as a centerpiece.