November 8, 2008

We've had enough British humor.

Variety reports. We liked Borat and some Ricky Gervais, but there's only so much we can take.

Really, it's hard to understand why humor would translate across cultures. There's the initial novelty, but British comedians can't migrate en masse to America. That's not going to work.

When I watch "The Daily Show," the person who amuses me the most is John Oliver, who is British. And yet, if there were an all-British "Daily Show," I probably wouldn't watch.


hdhouse said...

On the oft chance that someone will become a new Monty Python and Keeping Up Appearances will continue, I'll keep up my hopes.

Not sure that Borat types fit any mold that translates into humor.

Bissage said...

A lot of so-called British humor is really English humor and the hardcore stuff will never catch on in the United States because most of us have never heard of Wales.

Unknown said...

Being English and having lived in the US for 5 years I agree that culturally the differences in humor are enormous. One being that British humor is often more esoteric and oddly vulgar (and accepted for it) than American humor. Sure you have David Cross, Patton Oswalt and guys like that, but we have Ross Noble, Eddie Izzard, Frankie Boyle and a whole slew of others who really wouldn't work in the US because the style is just completey different. Basically we use more slang in our language, are more self-deprecating, are comfortable taking the piss out of one another (not medically - it's a figure of speech) and this is reflected in the workplace which certainly is more liberal and less pc than the US.

And for the record in Britain there are tons of network political satire/comedy shows and have been for decades. John Oliver has been on all of them by the way at some point or another. Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and tons of other "panel shows" publically rip the piss out of politicans and policies almost every night. Have I Got News For You in particular has been a platform for political satirists to lambast modern events on network tv at prime time. There is simply much more acceptance for this sort of thing on TV and the radio in the UK. Partly because the office of the President is deemed to be some sort of sacred throne here that must have respect, whereas in the UK no one really bats an eyelid when the PM is called a twat on tv. And Chris Morris pretty much invented the fake news show in the early 90s too.

But hey, have a gander.

Mock the Week


And the finest satire of 24 hour news in history - The Day Today War bit-

Meade said...

I've heard of Save the Wales.

Host with the Most said...

It's the bad teeth.
Dentists should clean up over there.

High Power Rocketry said...

: )


Mr. Forward said...

If we had "The Daily Show" in 1776 we would all still be British.

Bissage said...

What could be more of a stitch than British humor?


By far, the best are to be found in “The Foster Harrington Book of Humorous Legal Anectodotes” (Springwood Books 1988), a veritable treasure trove of side-spliters.

Here’s but a sample:

Johann Ferdinand Beer came to England as a refugee between the wars. He became an English solicitor, and an erudite and fearless one, but to the end of his days spoke English with a pronounced – and memorable – German accent. He spoke so by choice: soon after his arrival in England, he said, he had a consultation with an Accent Expert. “I can give you,” said the Expert, “an English accent for use in Canada, or a Canadian accent for use in England. But an English accent for use in England? That is out of the question.”

You get it?!?!?!

Out of the question!!!!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!1!1!

OMG! I’m dying here!!!

** wipes tears of joy streaming down face **

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!1!1!

Bissage said...

Oh, my goodness that's teh funnay!!!

Hee hee ha ha ho ho hee hee ha ha ho ho!!!!1!1!

My word!

AllenS said...

Benny Hill chasing hot big breasted women was pretty good.

Unknown said...

Nobody in the UK has watched Benny Hill in 20 years. It's a mystery to British people why it's on American telelvision at all. And for that matter Keeping Up Appearances hasn't been on British tv in a decade, and then it wasn't particularly popular.

Palladian said...

"Not sure that Borat types fit any mold that translates into humor."

It's not. Sascha Baron Cohen isn't funny.

AllenS said...

Gavin, I haven't watched Benny Hill in 20+ years. At the time, it was considered pretty racy.

Bissage said...

My crappy spelling misteaks make me want to take a four inch coated deck screw and drive it into my left eyeball but that foreign accent/solicitor joke thing is still hanging in there for me.

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh.


** mops brow **

rcocean said...

British humor is funny. Except when US TV tries to copy it and Americanize it.

They steal the format or idea, then populate it with bland US actors, standard Hollywood jokes, and generally squeeze out all the original and inventive things that made it a hit in the first place.

Unknown said...

The Office and All in the Family were both copies of already successful British shows. Ricky Gervais' version of the former may illustrate that network TV is never as good as HBO and Americans prefer their own version of a show to a better English one.

yashu said...

The relative merits of the UK & US "Office" are debatable. I'd never say the US version is better, since the original is so great, but it's not clear that it's substantially inferior-- beyond the first season, it's become its own, uniquely American animal. A very funny one. (Also a different narrative form, with many long seasons, open-ended, as opposed to the elegance & narrative closure of the UK one-- just 2 short seasons of 6 episodes each.) However, the "Office" is definitely the exception-- most of the other imports I can think of have been miserable failures.

madeleine said...

Having spent many years abroad with no access to American comedy, I've definitely come to love some Brit comedy--Graham Norton, that other guy who can't pronounce rhiotic "r"'s, an insane show called "The Worst Week of My Life", "My Family", "Coupling". Most of these couldn't be broadcast on American network TV. Some of their other comedies are too irritating and completely unfunny. Absolutely--something gets lost in translation. I loved the Ricky Gervais version of The Office, but haven't been able to sit through a single episode of the American version. The great thing about Gervais's Office was the completely un-pc nature of it and all the subtle British bits that you can only "get" if you've been around a lot of Brits. Just my two cents. I miss those shows now that I'm back in States.

chuck b. said...

Well, I love Little Britain, and Little Britain USA.

Anonymous said...

Gavin mentioned "for the record in Britain there are tons of network political satire/comedy shows and have been for decades"

The only US purely political satire/comedy show I can remember was "That Was The Week That Was", hosted by David Frost. Like many shows then & since, it sprang from the UK version, starting shortly after the Kennedy assassination, with Frost being the only holdover from the UK (per TV guide, which like Reader's Digest and Life was in every middle class home then).

I was 11 years old, an avid Mad reader, and was all over this show like white on rice. My parents worked in (NC) state government and had been journalists so politics was proper conversation in our house.

I can't think of another purely political satire TV show in the US afterwards until the Daily Show - which is not terribly unlike TW3. The Smothers Brothers Hour only touched on politics but was killed anyway.

Thanks Gavin for dredging up the memory.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

A muzzie or Indian guy with a British accent is hot and makes me horny.

It is the contrast that i like.

I usually want to do them.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I like doing hard core religious muslims. The guilt and regret about being gay is very attractive to me.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

Black people with British accents is equally hot.

I definitely want to do a black with a British accent.

The British accent on a black is so unexpected and interesting.

British men generally have large uncut hogs.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I would do M Night.

AllenS said...

And, who can forget Mr. Bean! Another British comedian that I thought was funny.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I would do Sasha Cohen.

I bet he has a nice long cut jewish hog.

I would like to do Sasha Cohen in his Ali G costume.

Ali G is hot.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I would also enjoy doing an angry unemployed French muzzie who lived in some project and who spoke French.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I just pinched my morning loaf.

I wonder if there is a world record for the most loaves pinched in a day. Do you think there is? I would be interested to know this fact.

TitusGuessWho'sComingToDinner said...

I would also like to go to Dearborn Michigan and drive through the streets and pick up a Muzzie and have sex with him.

prairie wind said...

Catherine Tate.

Joe said...

As someone who watches a lot of British television, one thing to be very aware of is that most the shows that are successful in the US are their very best. There is a whole lot of truly crappy British television, quite a bit gets canceled fast.

blake said...

We just got through watching the entire series of Spaced. Granted, "entire series" is six hours (shorter than one Peter Jackson movie), but we were laughing pretty hard the whole time, even though we got maybe half the references. Maybe 2/3rds.

The basic humor is more cinematic, though.

As has been pointed out, the American version of a Brit show can be successful, it just has to become its own beast. "American Idol" for example.

"Three's Company" was based on a BBC show, IIRC, "Robin's Nest", nothing like that show, really.

HBO's "Not Necessarily The News" was remade from "Not The Nine O'Clock News". I liked the American version quite a bit, and it ran for years.

"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" was great on both continents. The English version was more literate. They actually had a segment called "Authors" where comedians told a story in the style of an author (which Clive assigned them, they didn't even get to pick!): Can you imagine? But the American show was very funny, and featured most of the same comedians.

I've heard the Brits have tried taking American shows and remaking them for British TV; I can't recall which ones and have no idea if they were successful.

So, no, I haven't had enough British humor (we won't even go into the movies, like the recent Death at a Funeral and In Bruges).

Unknown said...

Here's the test - this is prime time network tv in Britain. You would never ever see this on regular US TV.


Ann Althouse said...

Okay, I just watched 2 episodes of "Little Britain USA." I'd been avoiding that on HBO On Demand. But it was pretty funny. Thanks for the tip chuck b.