What's the difference between American and British humour?

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Firkin

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 9:31am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 1,161 posts

I note that commonwealth countries tend to associate more closely in their sense of humour than we do to America, just count how many are doing the stand up circuit in the UK as opposed to America. I understand we tend to be more subtle and sarcastic, presumable because we're trying to appease more cultural difference. For example the negative stereo types in the Simpsons (Arpoo, Snake) wouldn't be commissioned by a British company.

American sitcom humour seems to be more about shiny happy successful people, like in Friends, where everything is beautiful. But we Brits prefer Del Boy and Bottom, and gritty realism. At least that's how I see it. But can anyone explain the American Roasts. This kind of goes against the up beat positive comedy. Is it simply because America needs to make it clear the gloves are off, but we Brits prefer more subtlety like sarcasm ? American humour seems more obvious to me. I see quality American sitcoms going for what I would consider obvious groaners, but presumable not so in America. What does everyone think ?

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Rood Eye

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 11:18am [Edited]
  • England
  • 4,103 posts

American audiences love success: British audiences love failure.

Although neither of the above statements holds true for every comedian, every comedy film or every sitcom, both statements are sufficiently true to make a lot of sense to most people.

Hancock, Steptoe, the Likely Lads, the Trotters, Porridge, Rising Damp, the Office, the Royle Family, Bottom, Alan Partridge and many other British sitcoms revolve around people who, while in most cases not actually down and out, are nevertheless struggling and failing to achieve the success they think they deserve - and we love them for it!

American sitcoms tend, for the most part, to revolve around people with much better standards of living and with much better chances of achieving their goals.

There are also big differences between stand-up comedians on each side of the Atlantic. In America, there are several black comedians who are sensationally good. In Britain, I can't think of a single black comedian or (apart from Romesh) a non-white comedian in the same league as even an average American black comedian. Why should this be? I have no idea.

It's the same with women comedians. In America, superb women stand-ups are entertaining audiences in clubs and on TV every night of the week. In Britain, we have Jo Brand at the top of the tree (in my opinion), a couple of non-British imports who are very good, and a few British women who are pretty good. The rest are somewhere between poor and dreadful.

When it comes to comedy, America and Britain are two very different countries.

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DaButt

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 12:02pm
  • The Lone Star State, United States
  • 14,049 posts

The letter "U".

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Chappers

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 2:47pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 32,195 posts

I think there's a thread on this already somewhere.

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Paul Wimsett

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 4:17pm
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,405 posts

The number of eps?

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Chappers

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 8:36pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 32,195 posts

English sitcoms are generally funny (humorous) whereas Americans aren't.

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Bob Carolvorderman

  • Wednesday 9th December 2020, 8:59pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 130 posts

Ha ha, Chappers, totally agree. Used to watch Two and a Half Men, now it's just two sad men shagging the corpse that was Charlie Sheen. I think Frasier and Cheers were perhaps the best examples of American comedy.

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john tregorran

  • Wednesday 9th December 2020, 11:21pm
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
  • 1,981 posts

I like some of both.I think Americans can do zany very well eg: Marx Bros , Rowan and Martin 's Laugh In,any Mel Brooks.

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Chris Hallam

  • Thursday 10th December 2020, 7:03am
  • Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 541 posts

Oops. Missed that!

Lots of great American comedy out there. Cheers, Mork and Mindy, Roseanne, Frasier, Friends and Seinfeld in the past. More recently, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, the US Office and 30 Rock. And that's not including all the films, Airplane! The Naked Gun and too many others to mention. Lots of crap too inevitably, but lots of great stuff also.

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Firkin

  • Thursday 10th December 2020, 6:25pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 1,161 posts
Quote: Rood Eye @ 21st December 2018, 11:18 AM

In America, superb women stand-ups are entertaining audiences in clubs and on TV every night of the week. In Britain, we have Jo Brand at the top of the tree (in my opinion), a couple of non-British imports ....

I've often wondered this, the UK does now have a promising crop, but if you go back 10 years all the top stadium fillers bar Victoria Wood and Jo Brand were American. They've had: Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin, Ellen, Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Sandra Bernhard, Maria Bamford, Ali Wong the list goes on. Why was that I wonder ?

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Chappers

  • Friday 11th December 2020, 6:07pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 32,195 posts
Quote: Firkin @ 10th December 2020, 6:25 PM

I've often wondered this, the UK does now have a promising crop, but if you go back 10 years all the top stadium fillers bar Victoria Wood and Jo Brand were American. They've had: Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin, Ellen, Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Sandra Bernhard, Maria Bamford, Ali Wong the list goes on. Why was that I wonder ?

I don't think I've heard of half of them.

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Chris Hallam

  • Friday 11th December 2020, 7:12pm [Edited]
  • Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 541 posts

I don't know Maria Bamford, Ali Wong or Kathy Griffin. Know all the rest.

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Bob Carolvorderman

  • Friday 11th December 2020, 8:15pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 130 posts

Kathy Griffin is that ginger one that held the bloody severed head of Donald Trump when he got elected, imagine if someone had done that four years previously to Obama... Amy Schumer is very unfunny. Joan Rivers was a legend though.