It's often said that many Americans don't get and/or like the British sense of humor, and the reason quoted is usually the cultural difference in the use of irony and sarcasm. But is it true? What about the Simpsons, M.A.S.H or Friends - they all ooze irony and sarcasm. What do you think?
Might post example of British humor so we know what you are talking about.
I am neither American or British and I love both styles,slightly preferring American stand ups..really depends though.
Thank God for youtube as TV Programmers seem to dictate to a large degree what we can watch
Being a New Zealander and steeped in more British influences,my fellow countryman generally seem to prefer British ,except when it comes to sitcoms,then its USA all the way.
Interesting post btw.
P.S Flight of the Concords (Kiwi comedians)have a good following in the states. So I think its more a personal preference rather than culture. Just my thoughts.
Personally, I find that there are amazing American and British TV programmes and films that I love and those that I hate - I think the distinction is more about personal tastes in both instances.
American? I love the Simpsons and MASH. I hated Cheers - I watched a few times and couldn't see any possible appeal. I've briefly looked at other ones (can't remember their names) and hated them.
British humour for me is typified by Only Fools and Horses, the Carry On Films and older programmes. My pet hate of all time is the programme, "Keeping Up Appearances," as - in my opinion - it is the most annoying, irritating and unbelievable piece of crap ever produced.
I'm not a big TV fan, which is why the programmes I refer to are all probably out of production a generation ago but thought I'd throw in my tuppenceworth
For me, I really do love British sense of humor. I loved the Monty Python humor, and I still like the dabble of humor in Skins, Misfits, IT Crowd and Sherlock.
My view as a Brit in Florida. Irony isn't used anywhere near as much by Americans generally in everyday life and can be interpreted as mean-spirited sometimes. There are the US comedies that use 'smart humour' (Seinfeld, MASH etc), but lots more that don't. Humour is linked to wider culural outlook. Brits tend to be more miserablist and see life as a little absurd on the whole, compared to their more upbeat and literal American cousins, who tend to have more of a you-can-get-it-if-you-really-want approach to life.
I think Paul makes an interesting point about the use of irony in daily like being reflected in the entertainment industry. My personal experience is that my dry sense of humor is often completely lost in America. The Brits have a way of not letting you know they are trying to be funny, whereas the Americans spell it out a bit more. I can't imagine a comedian like Jack Dee really making an impression over there for this reason, but then Eddie Izzard did really well on his tour of the states (Knolyourself - these 2 comedians give a good representation of the two opposite ends of the spectrum of British comedy, to answer your post). And I heard that the office did well in some award ceremony or other, and a lot of people weren't really impressed by that. Funnily enough, people here generally rate the American version as better than the original English series - me included!
And the outlook on life point is quite valid also. One thing I like about Americans is their generally enthusiastic approach to things. Maybe because we spend so much of our lives complaining about the weather, it's slightly tainted our ability to have an optimistic can-do attitude!
I'm not a Monty Python fan at all. Does that mean Brit humor is lost on me? I just don't like it. I do like dry humor/irony and can dish it out when I'm in the mood.. which has been more often recently.
I think many Americans are simply too serious, lighten up and laugh, it's much healthier than moping around about things we can't control.
Seinfeld, Friends, even Lucy are all laugh out loud funny every time I watch them.
Right now Mad Men is one of my favorite works of satire. It's insightful, humorous and sophisticated in a warped 60's kind of way.
A funny Simpsons parody of the opening of Mad Men
Not being a Monty Python fan doesn't mean Brit humor is lost on you at all:-) it's pretty old now, and to be honest, lot's of younger Brits don't like it at all. I also don't find it nearly as funny as I used to. People often think of old classics like Monty Python as being representative of British Humor. But to me it's the same as associating England with red phone boxes, bad food, policemen with truncheons, top hats and a cup of tea at 4pm;-)
And Mad men is great!
British humor is usually defined by the use of irony and, probably even more so, understatement. Britain is also a bit more of a monoculture, being a smaller country with far less of a sensibility towards immigrants. America has vast regional differences, and the impact of immigrants has made it more difficult for Americans to automatically assume others will understand them when using irony & understatement.
To Ethan's point: Americans need to spell out "we're going to be ironic and exaggerate now" in a way that seems ham-handed to Brits, but it's done as a way to change the mood and expectations of the audience. In my experience, Yanks can appreciate and dish out irony and understatement as well as Brits, but it's not the default as it is in Britain.
As a Brit I think that Americans totally 'get' our humour, I see examples of it on American TV programs all the time.
My husband and I totally get British humor! We were totally surrounded by it when my husband worked for a British company for two years. My husband has a veddy British joke about a Lord and his manservant . it's just a little gamey, so I'll just quote the last line (you've probably heard it),
His Lordship says to his manservant "Jeeves, get me my baggy tweeds and let's see if we can smuggle it into town".
Quality humor writing is usually appreciated by most. Some of the more pedestrian sitcoms target a less sophisticated audience and won't appeal to everyone. That being said, there are still differences in how different cultures perceive humor. In the old days of commercial aviation, when a single movie was shown to all of the passengers, I used to notice that people on international flights would sometimes laugh at different scenes.
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