If you notice that someone is uncomfortable, references to pop culture can make them feel more at home. This is applicable in an endless amount of situations, and can be thought of as a way to express acceptance of the person into your group, or to invite oneself into their group. For example, if you somehow ended up in Afganistan next week and are able to make a group of Taliban fighters laugh, you could be accepted by them.
Imagine if a person from Afghanistan, who managed to escape the Taliban takeover in August 2021 came to live in your town and you met them randomly- on a night out, in your store, at a football game, etc. A simple pop culture reference could make them feel at home and be something to connect over.
When speaking to someone you've never spoken to before, mentioning a mutually-understood pop culture reference sub-communicates that you're in the same tribe.
The ability to dish out a pop culture reference well requires a good sense of comedic timing and a good understanding of what they would understand.
If we were playing Family Fortune and the question was 'Where's a place that strangers commonly connect?'. 'A bank' would probably not be on the board, so I'm going to choose a bank for the setting of my examples. By the way, if you're aware of Family Fortune, you probably feel a bit more connected to me now. It's like an inside joke- there's two groups: us who know about Family Fortune, and those who don't.