What's the difference between American and British humour?



  • Friday 21st December 2018, 9:31am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 540 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 ?


Rood Eye

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 11:18am [Edited]
  • England
  • 2,016 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.

AvatarBCG Supporter


  • Friday 21st December 2018, 12:02pm
  • The Lone Star State, United States
  • 13,527 posts

The letter "U".

AvatarBCG Supporter


  • Friday 21st December 2018, 2:47pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 30,020 posts

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


Paul Wimsett

  • Friday 21st December 2018, 4:17pm
  • Folkestone, United Kingdom
  • 3,089 posts

The number of eps?

AvatarBCG Supporter


  • Friday 21st December 2018, 8:36pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 30,020 posts

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