British comedy or real life?
I am a huge fan of the series. It started as Yes Minister and graduated to Yes Prime Minister.
Give it a look. Real politics through the prism of comedy.
Warning: It is a rabbit hole - you may be drawn into hours of youtube viewing.
ps. Be warned, the Cabinet Secretary will elicit visions of your favorite political scoundrels.
An interesting choice GA.
It’s interesting in that the one British Political Satire Comedy that Americans often tell me that they are fans of is ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’; whereas to many Brits, it’s one of the least popular British Political Satire Comedies!
The problem for many Brits is that these comedies are too ‘shallow’, and isn’t written from personal experience. British Comedies that tend to be most popular with the British Public are those like ‘Only Fools and Horses’, where the author (script writers) writes from their own personal experience.
Also, from my perspective, having worked in the civil service all my life I can see from my own personal (insider) experience, flaws of facts in these comedy series (‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’).
However, given the state of the Current British Government ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ do take on a new meaning, making them truer to life, and therefore in that sense more relevant and therefore more humorous.
The British Political Satire Comedies that many Brits find more humorous are much deeper and far dryer British Humour, such as ‘The New Statesman’ and ‘The Thick of It’ (both BBC Comedy series); although, these two British comedy series are probably far too deep and far too dry for many Americans to understand or find funny!
I’ll let you be the judge of that:-
• The New Statesman (A B'Stard Exposed): https://youtu.be/SDa505kpXO0
• The Thick of It (In The Loop - The Full Tucker): https://youtu.be/cIPxLzfw6wU
Your thoughts about different cultural perspectives may certainly apply here Arthur. I couldn't finish either of your linked shows. Neither appeared funny to me. One was over-the-top and the other was under-the-bottom.
Shallow or not, I will stick with my American view that the Yes Minister pair is funny as hell.
I’m not one bit surprised, and I fully understand GA.
I have the same problem in reverse e.g. many American TV comedy series e.g. the American Version of ‘The Office’, I just don’t find funny.
However, one American Comedy Series I do love is MASH.
This difference in American and British Humour is something (without being a Nerd) I have a mild fascination for; and to that extent I do occasionally send YouTube Links of various British TV Comedy Classics to an American contact for his reaction; and more often than not he doesn’t understand them or find them funny.
In this respect, one British Chap on YouTube has done an excellent job at comparing the American version of ‘The Inbetweeners’ to the British version; and it does give some good insight of differences between USA & UK humour.
The Inbetweeners UK vs The Inbetweeners USA: https://youtu.be/XY3-D4R8Oxc
Although in contrast to American TV Comedy, American Comedy Movies e.g. Walt Disney, Hollywood films etc. are almost invariably universal in their humour; and the Brits do generally love American Comedy films.
I also liked MASH. But I don't usually wonder "why something is funny?" Too much work. The laugh is good enough for me.
I did have a brief thought about why you would prefer The New Statesman over Yes Minister, but then I just let it go. ;-)
I have not seen either the MASH or Yes, Minister series.
The first thing the British always talk about is ‘the weather’. The three taboo topics of conversation in Britain (until you get to know the person, to know what is safe to talk about) are ‘politics’, ‘religion’ and the ‘S’ word.
However, with such a wide genre on TV, and with such a wide spectrum of humour, and with not everyone having the same tastes; it’s not unusual for Brits to be analytical in conversation as to why one person likes something and another doesn’t!
The one thing Brits tend not to like in comedy is where something doesn’t require any ‘thought’ e.g. ‘gags’ and ‘slap & stick’ etc. It’s just not that entertaining to Brits (corny, simple, shallow etc.).
What many Brits enjoy, and finds funny, is comedy that requires ‘thought’ e.g. hidden meanings, hidden messages etc.
As regards ‘The New Statesman’, you do need to understand ‘British Culture’ in order to appreciate the comedy.
As regards the Episode which I gave the link for above; what Brits finds funny in the episode (starting from the beginning):-
• The episode title is funny to Brits because in the series the name of the fictitious MP is ‘Alan B'Stard’, which not only rhymes with a four-letter word beginning with ‘B’, but also accurately describes his character; an egocentric MP who stops at nothing to further his career.
• In the episode, a real life TV presenter plays the same role in the episode that he performs in real life on TV; giving a sense of authenticity.
• Strong links to real life British Politics of the 1980s & 1990s. In the first minute, a build-up to the fact that a hard right wing faction (within the Conservative Party) formed a ‘Group’ (in real life called the ERG) following Margaret Thatcher pushing the Maastricht Treaty through Parliament (which was very unpopular with the right wing of the Conservative Party). In this episode John Major (the Prime Minister who took over from Margaret Thatcher in 1992) names this hard-right wing Group the B’Stard Group in honour of Alan B'Stard’ (In real life this group called itself ERG).
• @ 1:20 minutes, mentioned that Alan B'Stard’ (Conservative MP) wins his seat in a by-election with the largest majority win for any MP, in a Labour stronghold in the heart of Wales, is such a ridiculous concept, that it is highly humorous (at least to a Brit).
• @ 1.50 minutes, Alan B'Stard MP describes his name as representing ‘Honesty, Probity and Sincerity’; the very three things he is NOT (and he says it with conviction); all which makes it absurd, and therefore very funny to a Brit.
And that’s just the first two minutes. The next 27 minutes continues (unabated) in the same manner; and that’s why I find it funny.
Other things the Brits love in comedy are ‘threads’ (links across different episodes) and ‘layers’ (stories within stories). For example, a character may do something in one episode that’s not funny at the time e.g. casually put an apple in his coat pocket while engaged in conversation (attention isn’t brought to the act, so you may not notice at the time). However, a month later (three episodes on), while in casual conversation he may put his hand in his coat pocket to find a rotten apple (that he’d forgotten about), little or nothing will be said about it, other than perhaps a momentary facial expression (as he puts the mouldy apple on the table); it’s a small action that’s not funny, unless you happen to remember the incident in the earlier episode in the previous month (to make the link); something which you might not pick up on unless you watch the series a 2nd or 3rd time.
I know I haven’t given a good example, but in good British Comedy, there are always all these little ‘gems’ dotted throughout the series (to be found); and each time you find a new one on re-watching the series, the funnier the series gets. It’s a little like ‘Easter Eggs’ used in Media: - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_egg_(media)
Three other Comedies I love, because of their ‘British ([like] Humour’ are:-
• From the USA “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Scriptwriter, Joss Whedon)
• From the UK “Red Dwarf” (my favourite episode being ‘Back to Reality’), and
• From Canada “The Murdoch Mysteries”
In following the Murdoch Mysteries (which is made in Canada) we were highly delighted when episode 1 of series 3 was actually made in Bristol, England (where I live); so we took great delight in seeing all the Bristol Streets in this episode that we frequently walk.
• Opening scene of the Bristol Episode of the Murdoch Mysteries:- https://youtu.be/7k1fcNh_rvU
So, this is all about "Yes, Minister." The discussion does not look funny to me. I had to watch a whole part to get balanced.
My apologies Miebakagh, I digressed from topic because although ‘Yes Minister’ is a British Comedy, it seems more appealing to American’s than Brits; and I was just highlighting differences between British and American Humour.
That’s not to say ‘Yes Minister’ or ‘Yes Prime Minister’ isn’t funny, but it’s not particularly realistic and therefore doesn’t have the same appeal to a lot of Brits as other Comedies that have more realism.
My main gripe with ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ is that in real life the civil service doesn’t run rings around the Government (as portrayed in the series). In real life British Governments come and go, but the civil service is always there, and as such the British civil service is apolitical (there to provide a service to the Government, regardless to which political party wins the General Election); the 'Servants' of the Government of the Day.
‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ doesn’t portray reality; it just portrays a classic public perception of reality.
As you mentioned you haven’t actually seen ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’, or MASH, a link to a copy of one episode of each is below:-
• Yes Minister - Open Government (Pilot Episode): https://youtu.be/SdVFD1MuPrU
• MASH - Season 10 Episode 02 (Identity Crisis): https://youtu.be/ybsCS7EjkKI
Another example of where public perception of reality differs from real life is the British comedy ‘Bread’. Bread is the classic public perception of people living off the doll (unemployed); it wasn’t the most popular of British comedy in Britain because it’s so false:-
• Bread - Series 01 episode 01: https://youtu.be/GeSmJCya2pk
However, a far more popular British Comedy that covered the same topic is ‘The Liver Birds’; two Liverpudlian (native of Liverpool) unemployed flat mates living on the ‘breadline’, one from a middle class background and the other from a working class background.
The Liver Birds TV Comedy Series is more true to life than ‘Bread’, and as such is more appealing to the British sense of humour :-
• The Liver Birds - Series 2 Episode 3 (The Holiday Fund): https://youtu.be/aina5ZFIrs4
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