In December 1971, in his interview with Pinter about Old Times, Mel Gussow recalled that "After The Homecoming [Pinter] said that [he] 'couldn't any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out. Landscape and Silence [the two short poetic memory plays that were written between The Homecoming and Old Times] are in a very different form. There isn't any menace at all.' " Later, he asked Pinter to expand on his view that he had "tired" of "menace", and Pinter added: "when I said that I was tired of menace, I was using a word that I didn't coin. I never thought of menace myself. It was called 'comedy of menace' quite a long time ago. I never stuck categories on myself, or on any of us [playwrights]. But if what I understand the word menace to mean is certain elements that I have employed in the past in the shape of a particular play, then I don't think it's worthy of much more exploration."
In his "Presentation Speech" of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature to Harold Pinter, in absentia, Swedish writer Per Wästberg, Member of the Swedish Academy and Chairman of its Nobel Committee, observes: "The abyss under chat, the unwillingness to communicate other than superficially, the need to rule and mislead, the suffocating sensation of accidents bubbling under the quotidian, the nervous perception that a dangerous story has been censored – all this vibrates through Pinter's drama."
More recently, in an article elliptically headlined "Cut the Pauses … Says Pinter", a London Sunday Times television program announcement for Harry Burton's documentary film Working With Pinter, Olivia Cole observes that he "made brooding silence into an art form, but after 50 years Harold Pinter has said directors should be free to cut his trademark pauses if they want.…" In Working With Pinter (shown on British television's More 4 in February 2007), Cole writes, Pinter "says he has been misunderstood. He maintains that while others detected disturbing undertones, he merely intended basic stage directions" in writing "pause" and "silence". She quotes Pinter's remarks from Working With Pinter: Exemplifying the frequency and relative duration of pauses in Pinter's plays, Cole observes that "Pinter wrote 140 pauses into his work Betrayal, 149 into The Caretaker and 224 into The Homecoming. The longest are typically 10 seconds."
Pinter's having encouraged actors to "cut" his pauses and silences–with the important qualification "if they don't make any sense" (elided in Cole's headline)–has "bemused directors", according to Cole, who quotes Pinter's longtime friend and director Sir Peter Hall as saying "that it would be a 'failure' for a director or actor to ignore the pauses":
Cole concludes that Sir Peter added, however, that, in Working With Pinter, Pinter "was right to criticise productions in which actors were fetishising their pauses".
Quoting J. Barry Lewis, the director of a recent production of Betrayal, by Palm Beach Dramaworks, Lisa Cohen observes that Pinter has "even entered popular culture with what is called 'the Pinter pause,' a term that describes … those silent moments 'filled with unspoken dialogue' that occur throughout his plays".
Exemplifying Pinter's cultural influence for several decades, a line in "The Ladies Who Lunch", a song in Company, the 1970 Broadway musical by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim, alludes to Manhattanite "ladies who lunch" taking in "a Pinter play", "fashionable" at that time. Yet Pinter himself told John Barber ten years later (in 1980): "'This really is an awful business, this fashion. I must tell you I feel I've been unfashionable all my life. I was oldfashioned from the very beginning, and I'm unfashionable now, really' " (Merritt, Pinter in Play 3, 278n12, 217–18). Company's allusion to "a Pinter play" in "The Ladies Who Lunch" is repeated by London theatre critic Mark Shenton in The Stage, segueing into the pleasures of attending afternoon matinees in general.
Episode 164 of the very popular American television series Seinfeld, entitled "The Betrayal" (originally broadcast 27 Nov. 1997), is structured in reverse somewhat like Pinter's play and film Betrayal. Jerry Seinfeld's comic parodic homage to Harold Pinter, the episode features a character named "Pinter". Since the first airing of that Seinfeld episode and since the subsequent release of films like Memento and other popular works with reversed chronological structures, some media accounts (such as that in the IMDb) refer to Pinter's plot device in his play and film as a mere "gimmick". But scholars and other critical reviewers consider the reversed structure a fully-integrated ingenious stylistic means of heightening multiple kinds of ironies energizing Betrayal's comedic wit, its cumulative poignancy, and its ultimate emotional impact on audiences, and the play has been produced throughout the United States, Britain, and parts of the rest of the world with increasing frequency (Merritt, "Betrayal in Denver"; Merritt [comp.], "Harold Pinter Bibliography" [1987–2004]).
A character in the fourth episode of the second season of Dawson's Creek, "Tamara's Return" (28 Oct. 1998), alludes to Pinter's so-called "sub-textual" use of silence as "a classic 'Pinter' moment". In dialogue between lead character Pacey Witter (played by Joshua Jackson) and Tamara Jacobs (Leann Hunley), his former English teacher with whom Pacey has had an affair, Tamara tells Pacey that an awkward moment of silence between them is "what we ex-English teachers call a classic 'Pinter' moment, where everything is said in silence because the emotion behind what we really want to say is just too overwhelming. … silence is an acquired taste. The more complicated life becomes the better it is to learn to say nothing." When Pacey inquires "Who is this Pinter guy?" Tamara urges him, "Stay in school." Later Pacey tells Tamara that he has "looked up this Pinter guy. Harold, playwright, the king of subtext. You say one thing, but you mean another," wondering further: "Do you think it's possible for us to have a moment without all the subtext?" "Uh, I don't know, Pacey," Tamara replies. "Words have always gotten us into so much trouble." Pacey and Tamara finally agree that "This Pinter guy was really onto something.
Further alluding to Pinter's renowned "pauses and silences", the song "Up Against It", from the album Bilingual, by the English electronic music/pop music duo Pet Shop Boys, includes the lines: "Such a cold winter/With scenes as slow as Pinter" (Tennant and Lowe).
In a book review of Nick Hornby's "debut teenage novel" Slam (Penguin Books), published in Scotland on Sunday (7 Oct. 2007), Janet Christie observes that Hornby is "spot-on with the way a conversation with a teenage boy contains more meaningful silences than Harold Pinter's entire oeuvre yet girls can't resist texting their every waking thought."