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British Comedy vs American Comedy

British Comedy vs American Comedy

British Comedy vs American Comedy

Both Britain and America pride themselves on their comedy, in the forms of literature, films, tv shows, stand up, game shows, and chat shows, to name a few. The types of humour greatly differ between the two countries though. Britain, for example, has a more widely accepted dry and banter-like humour, and this exists throughout real life and fiction. This doesn’t appear to be the case in America, as humour is more purposeful than natural. Here are just a few examples of these differing types, in British vs American comedy.

1. Lifestyle

Humour is more intrinsic to the lifestyle of Brits. We regularly use sarcasm, irony, and a brash (sometimes perceived as rude) humour in our daily lives. We are known for ‘banter’ and dry comedy, and this is learned from a young age. We expect people to be joking and are often surprised by sincerity. This isn’t quite the case in America, where humour comes less naturally and is more based on trying to be funny than an accidental comedy.

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2. Risks

British comedy takes more risks. From surrealism, irony, sarcasm, to a dry, dark, and brash sense of humour, we risk offence when we make jokes, and are often making fun of others or ourselves. In America most mainstream comedy is played safely, and exists as something that is technically funny but often not uniquely funny.

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3. Character

Linking into the dry and brash sense of humour is the use of character in British comedy. Characters tend to be accidentally funny, and make fun of each other and themselves. Characters are relatable and appear as real to viewers. They could be anyone, and we’ve all met someone like them. We are often laughing at them. American comedy tends to have characters that are trying to be funny, and they tend to fill a certain role in the comedic piece rather than being a unique and original character in themselves.

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4. Language

British comedy is often very clever, with use of language to make intelligent jokes. Using similar sounds and words to make jokes is key to British comedy, with the use of puns and word play being intrinsic. This plays into the British love of language. In America this is less the case, as jokes are more often played for laughs and are more obvious, rather than hidden in dialogue.


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5. TV Shows

Both Britain and America have many beloved comedy shows. America tends to stand out when it comes to animated comedies, while Britain stands out with sketch comedies and fictional shows. Taking Blackadder for example, humour has been intrinsic to British television since the start of popular TV. Take Jeeves and Wooster, Black Books, Red Dwarf, The Office, The IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Miranda, Peep Show, Gavin and Stacey, to name just a handful of the popular British comedy shows. They all have something unique and special about them, and they all make use of the classic British comedy. While American comedy is improving in recent years with shows like Brooklyn 99, there isn’t the same original history to comedy TV shows as there is in Britain, and shows tend to be more like carbon-copies of each other rather than possessing unique elements that make them stand out as memorable.

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6. Films

America arguably has the comedic film down pat, as they produce more films yearly and seem to have perfected comedy in this shorter form. Like with TV shows though, Britain has a strong history of comedy films, take Monty Python for example, and continues to produce unique, hilarious, and beloved films. Take the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy for example, films containing Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the spectacular comedy duo, who produce memorable and beloved films that are incredibly popular amongst Brits.


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7. Panel Shows

Britain again seems to reign victorious of the panel shows, with shows like Mock the Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Have I Got News For You, QI, and Celebrity Juice, all of which contain the core elements of British comedy in making fun of ourselves as individuals and as a country. This ability to find humour in anything is intrinsic to Britain and this is demonstrated in these shows. Chat shows also demonstrate this, as shown by Michael Mcintyre and James Cordon (both British comedians that are popular in America). America doesn’t have anything that matches the British Panel show, arguably due to the vast differences in comedy in the two countries. British humour suits this form while American humour doesn’t tend to.


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Both British comedy and American comedy are special in their own ways, and neither is definitively better than the other (though people will have their opinions). Which form of comedy do you prefer? Write in the comments below.

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