Getting the joke: A look at the humor of “Something Rotten!”

The laugh lines in the Broadway hit “Something Rotten!” flow from different sources.

Some laughs come at the expense of William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), the rock star of his day, here played as a world-weary writer who finds being famous so much more enjoyable than actually coming up with new ideas. Some are pointed at musical theater itself, a veritable feast for fans and geeks who adore “RENT,” “Cats,” “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago,” “Les Misérables,” “Annie” and dozens of other iconic musicals from the Broadway cannon.

The show’s humor, the work of brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick (score), Karey and John O’Farrell (book), director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw and music arranger Glen Kelly, has been tested, vetted and carefully calibrated so that theatergoers can have a good time whether they know a lot or only a little about Shakespeare and musical theater.

“We went broad, purposely,” Wayne Kirkpatrick said. “We referenced not only the musicals that inspired us, but also musicals people would know even if they hadn’t seen them, or maybe they’d only seen the movie. The same with Shakespeare. Everybody knows some Shakespeare lines.”

“There are a lot of what we refer to as his ‘hits’ that everybody is going to know.”

The end result is a show so fresh and funny, audiences of all ages and backgrounds love it.

“It doesn’t matter how much you know,” Nicholaw confirmed. “My nieces and nephews say it’s their favorite show that I’ve done, and they don’t know any of the references.”

“If it works as a musical for people who don’t know musicals or Shakespeare, then I’m happy,” O’Farrell concluded. “It’s about show business and putting on a show.”

“The show works on many levels, but the main level it works on, I hope, is that it’s just a great fun night out.”