Monday, November 26, 2007

British Humour...

Was watching a couple of British talk shows, sitcoms and dramas. Realised that the British have their brand of humour that is significant different from the Americans. Let's talk about the American's humour, that's something that we're rather familiar with given that our TV is awashed with them. Recall Scrubs, Friends, American Pie... you get the idea. A typical comedy requires fast talking, sometimes slapstick humour and the most essential of all, an everchanging scene. Each scene typically last for less than a few minutes and anything beyond two feels kind of old.

Now, the British humour is rather curious. It's very contextual (you probably wouldn't know what they're talking about if you're not from around here), they are also self depreciating, 'in your face' type, abit dark, lots of dialogue, very little action. The most important of all, most episodes (or shows) are set within one scene. The fact that only a British audience will appreciate it probably explains why we don't see it very much back home. The exception is of course Mr. Bean.

Mr. Bean is a unique production as it allows that particular brand of humour to be depicted using only movements and expressions, which of course is universal. If you can recall, there's very little dialogue to the extent that sometimes I began to wonder whether the character is capable of speech. Most episodes are set within a scene; recall the one that he trys to adjust his television signal and another which he decorates his house. Somehow, the British are able to carry on with that for a considerable period of time... sometimes even beyond 30min.

The British brand of humour can appear to be 'cruel' to those who are unfamiliar with it. We can see that in Simon Cowell, who is the only British judge in American Idol. Last week, he was invited to 'Top Gear', a British talk show. There he is in his element for he and the host were trading insults but it was hilarious. I mean, in a pie throwing competition, it's only funny when pies are thrown to and fro. It becomes cruel when it goes only one way.

For me, I don't mind anything that can makes me laugh.

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::karinuslai:: said...

English humour's just a little more "out there" - American humour sticks with the known formulas of what's funny with some slapstick thrown in. it's the brits who use all kinds of stuff from surrealism to cynicism to wordplay and physical gags (the latter tends to complement the former rather than form the basis of the gag). I just like to summarize brit humour as "random." I think that pretty much about sums it up. they take what's there and just run with it with no idea where it might end up. Americans plan their humour too much. it loses the spontaneity.

C K said...

Very nicely put. You must be thinking of QI when you say that. :)

I was watching Jay Leno the other day. Actually he's not too bad but give me Jonathan Ross any day.

::karinuslai:: said...

oooh i find wossy a little too smarmy - i mean, he's billed really as a talk show host and he's not a very good one because all he does is make his guests uncomfortable. give me parkison over him any day... and haha, no i wasn't thinking QI exactly. HIGNFY, Mock the Week, even Would I Lie to You (new one, pretty good, actually)... it's why you can have comedy quiz panels in the UK but the US can't handle them. and sketch shows: Python, Fry and Laurie, Little Britain etc etc.

::karinuslai:: said...

sorry, parkinson. parky, more like :)

::karinuslai:: said...

actually, if you want to do a direct comparison of the UK and US styles of humour and since you know scrubs, try watching green wing. scrubs is already slightly more uk in its humour (quite surreal at times) but green wing really takes the surrealism to its limits and beats it to death :)

ice bar london said...

I think that monty python and benny hill have a lot to answer for when it comes to American comedy shows. Most of the current generation of writers were brought up on that stuff.

Perhaps you don't see much British humour over in Asia but you still feel it's influence.