(This was written in response to a Reddit question. Lots of people seemed to like my answer, so I thought I'd re-blog it. I think the asker was expecting answers like "1980s - Young Ones, Red Dwarf, etc" - but I decided to answer it in a slightly different way.)
When you were about 14. Everything in comedy seems new to you. You start to understand some of the more sophisticated jokes - and the ruder ones. The call-backs to things that you saw as a kid seem incredibly edgy and help you feel more mature. The kudos of knowing a catchphrase makes up for the awkward change in relationships you're going through.
You catch some older comedy, from before you were born. Now you start to understand more - and the idiots at school won't get your obscure references. You catch some stuff that you don't really understand, but laugh anyway to show how grown up you are.
Some of the older stuff isn't funny at all, but you pretend to enjoy it ironically. At least, you think that's what irony is.
As the hormones take their toll, sometimes all you want to do is laugh until you cry. And being able to make people laugh with a ripped-off stand up routine makes you feel special. You convince yourself you could be a stand up if you try. Perhaps your mates act out a couple of sketches which are deeply inspired by what was in the cinema that weekend.
You probably can convince a parent to take you to see a touring stand up comedian. One that you're not normally allowed to watch on TV - but a theatre or arts club lends them legitimacy. Now you understand what canned laughter is trying to replicate. You might even try to cadge an autograph while saying something clichéd like "I've never laughed so hard in my life." it is true - although you've not lived long. What you don't quite appreciate yet is that you'll never laugh with quite the same intensity as you get older.
And one day, a little later in your life, you'll catch a comedian or sitcom on TV who you think is rubbish. It's all rubbish what they put out as comedy these days. And you realise that comedy truly peaked when you were about 14.