Talk:British humour

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US POV[edit]

The second paragraph in this article is useless, and clearly written from an American POV. It's completely redundant and should either be packaged off in its own section (perhaps some new 'International Reception' piece at the bottom), or just plain removed. (note: please stop deleting valid criticisms, Planetary Chaos)

British comedy is standard English language comedy. It is understood and mirrored worldwide. American English comedy is rather different (more primitive and vulgar). It is wrong and very POV to say that "At times, however, such humour can seem puzzling to non-British speakers of English". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:00, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

An article on British humour, with a 'u', cannot stand without mentioning the ancient American gag: "British humor... The kind that isn't funny." I took it as a reference to the whimsical Wodehouse school, reasonably popular in America. Significantly, that attitude dates from a pre-Beatles, pre-Monty Python era when Brits were pictured in American cartoons as fops with monocles. What a change the Sixties were. Profhum (talk) 17:25, 17 October 2017 (UTC)

Content concern[edit]

The article seems to be mostly a list of British examples of humor instead of describing what it actually is like. Though looking at these articles are fine and dandy, it would be nice if somebody would actually explain the general characteristics of British humor to the average reader so he/she does not have to look up every article in the list. Thanks ahead of time!

Not discussed is the general view of British Humour - for example when the French say 'British Humour' they mean basically not funny! - I believe this is because I dont understand it personally - but then again I am biased as I am British myself.

I'd like to see Frankie Howard inserted into the Innuendo section. 'ere, no, ooh missus, not like that, no, wait. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:20, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Article currently says:

"The Absurdity and banality of everyday life typified by the Goons, and Monty Python."

Well, plenty of absurdity there, but banality? For banality, first one's off the top of my head would be One Foot in the Grave and Hancock and probably others if my head wasn;t full of vodka right now. Any further bids for banality? In fact Withnail & I is a good one for both, but that's just my strong prejudice. --bodnotbod 20:40, Jun 25, 2004 (UTC)

Id add Jeeves and Wooster.

And what about Mr. Bean and Black Adder? Krupo 19:42, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)

History of British Humour[edit]

Article to follow. Watch this space!-- 12:07, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

Change to English Humour[edit]

All of the examples of British humour in this article are English, is there and argument to change the article to English humour?

The Beano and The Dandy, and publisher D C Thomson are all Scottish. Lumos3 19:02, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

Ok then the vast majority are English, there are no Welsh or Scottish comedians or sketch shows mentioned

Musungu jim 05:01, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

And??? Just because they are made in england doesn't mean they're not appreciated in scotland

And its wonderful that English comedy is appreciated in Scotland, just as Benny hill and monty python are appreciated in the United States, but this doesnt change the fact that its English comedy, performed by English comedians

So does anyone disagree that it should be changed to English Humour?

Object The humour described here is universal across Britain. Calling it English humour is just a case of the English claiming the whole British culture for themselves. Lumos3 20:43, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Also Google results for "British humour" = 178,000 "English humour" = 94,000. Lumos3 12:16, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Object Just because the actors in a show are english doesn't mean that people from the other home countries don't have the same british sense of humour... ARTooD2 00:06, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Google results for british humour = 12,700,000 English Humour 20,100,000

Lumos in England British and English have ALWAYS been the same thing. Can you tell me how English comedians making comedy in England for an English audience makes it British humour? If there was an article American humour that included Friends, FRasier, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H and Cheers, it would still be called American Humour despite the fact people all over the world enjoy these shows. My point is that this article should be renamed English Humour, and a seperate articel be created for Scottish humour, with examples of Scottish comedians and shows

Musungu jim 08:07, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

The humour this article describes is enjoyed all over the British Isles. There is nothing to stop you starting an article called Scottish humour or Cockney humour to describe those genres. But how would English humour differ from British Humour since the two have come to mean the same thing. You can try to start a seperate article but they will probably end up being remerged.
Google results need to have quotes in the search key or you are just counting every article that contans British and humour anywhere on the same page. So we get:-
"british humour" = 182,000 "English Humour" 106,000 British spelling
"british humor" = 268,000 "English Humor" 162,000 US spelling - Lumos3 12:11, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

My point is that it wouldn't be different because this article is about English humour and its examples. Changing this to English humour would on the whole be about changing British to English. And again, it doesn't matter if these shows are enjoyed in Wales and Scotland, it doesn;t change the fact that they are English shows, in England by and for English people. The seperate Scottish article would include shows and comedians from Scotland (chewin the fat, billy connolly, the crankies etc.)

Musungu jim 08:33, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

This discussion has lead into where the boundary lies between Britishness and Englishness, which is not an easy one to answer. For most of the last 200 years the two have been the same and English and British have meant the same thing for most people. If a separate English identity is re-emerging (see English people) then the world may differentiate the two. At the moment as the Google searches show most people say British humour and I suspect that those who say English humour take the words British and English to be synonyms. Wikipedia reports the current usage and the world as it is and is not a tool to create a sense of English identity. Lumos3 08:42, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

I thought the discussion was about where the boundary between British and English lay, in the context of an article about national humour. Its not that an English identity is re-amerging, so much as it is being clarified and seperated from the idea of 'britishness', taking most of that identity with it. I agree that most people in England and around the world do take English and British to be synonymous, but, in England at least, it isn't people confusing England and Britain and excluding Wales and Scotland, so much as people confusing England and Britain to the disregard of Wales and Scotland, that is, assuming Scotland, and especially Wales, are somehow part of England. I realise that Wikipedia isn't a tool to create an English identity, I can assure you that one already exists, but if it didn't Wikipedia would be a pretty narrow field to create one.
But returning to the article itself, you still havn't confronted the fact that this article already is about English comedy, performed by English comedians, for an English audience, and should therefore be called English humour.

My point is that its about British comedy enjoyed mostly by British people including those in Scotland and Wales as well as England. The only reason its sometimes called English is because of the assumption that England means Britain to many people. Lumos3 16:30, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

You're the one whose confusing English an british! If all the examples of humour in this article where Scottish comedians, in Scotland, to a Scottish audience, what would the article be called? 10:28, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

instead of deciding to change the article name, why not change the content... there is little mention of stand up comedians or scottish, welsh and irish humour, just because its not written on the page doesnt mean it doesnt exist. richard wilson of one foot in the grave is scottish and it is mentioned. perhaps billy connelly, one of britains favourite comedians deserves a mention. chewin the fat, still game, karen dunbar, frankie boyle, rory bremnar, rhona cameron,ronnie corbet (i didnt know he was scottish) alan cumming (the high life),rikki fulton (scotch and wry, Reverend IM Jolly, Francie and Josie), meet the magoons, the krankies, fred macauly, only an excuse, rab c nesbit and thats just scotland, not even taking into account wales and northern ireland. 11:09, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

Ali G[edit]

Where is Ali G? Omphaloscope talk 13:26, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Is he British humor? I'd rather say he is what Americans call funny.

Although he is British, Sacha Baren Cohen isn't exactly British humor. --Fez2005 (talk) 02:17, 27 January 2008 (UTC)
This is British humour. He is British, and much of his humour was very British - with his interviews mocking people's attitudes (relatively) subtly, for instance. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:02, 26 July 2011 (UTC)


Shouldn't Jonathan Swift or Gulliver's Travels be mentioned somewhere? Swift was Irish, but... 06:42, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:Beyond the Fringe.jpg[edit]

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I'd personally say that self-deprecation was a hallmark of British humour - witness Frankie Boyle in his monologues about Scotland. Anyone else think it should be added? -mattbuck 02:46, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Definitely, self-deprecation should be included here, it's a famous part of British Humour. -- (talk) 12:35, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

Who can forget the movie in which Mr. Bean comes to America, where the Americans regard him as just a normal Englishman?Profhum (talk) 17:06, 17 October 2017 (UTC)

Lack of non-English humour[edit]

I see no mention of Absolutely (TV series) (a Scottish example), or the ever-popular Father Ted, which surely merits mention here on British humour (made by Channel 4, popular all around Britain and Ireland...) as well as on an Irish humour article, which sadly doesn't seem to exist yet. (talk) 18:18, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Sketch comedy deserves its own section?[edit]

A Bit of Fry and Laurie is relegated to "Tolerance of, and affection for, the eccentric", hardly an obvious category for it, and That Mitchell and Webb Look isn't mentioned at all. (talk) 18:21, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Is sketch comedy a typically british thing? I suppose you could say that, since it is a fairly standard thing for us... Meh, add it and see if anyone removes it. -mattbuck (Talk) 21:24, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Hmm, now I'm not so sure. The article is arranged around themes, and the more "pure" sketch comedies like Fry and Laurie and Mitchell and Webb could probably be added to quite a few of the sections; I don't want to put links to these two into lots of themes, and I'm loath to add Mitchell and Webb to something semi-arbitrary like "The embarrassment of social ineptitude" (where the semi-similar Peep Show is already mentioned). Maybe I need someone else to Be Bold about this. Robertbyrne (talk) 03:44, 5 March 2008 (UTC) (On a different computer and logged in this time, but the first comment in this section was mine).

Making fun of foreigners[edit]

The article says - "The Italian Job, film starring Michael Caine in which British criminals mock the Italian Mafia and authorities.

This is complete rubbish, and I removing it. The Mafia are portrayed as very sinister in this film and not mocked. See the analysis on Talk:The Italian Job (1969 film)#Charges of racism, sexism etc... Jooler (talk) 12:37, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

Not good examples of "making fun of foreigners"[edit]

Most of the programmes listed in this section are not good examples. In the majority it's the British character that is being made fun of by highlighting their racism. In GGM and The Kumars it is Anglo-Indians that make fun of themselves and the British. As for Borat, why isn't this listed as Jewish Humour? I'd say that most of the examples given should really be in a "self-deprecation" section.

NB This isn't anti-Anglo-Indian or anti-Jewish as I happen to enjoy the above-mentioned programmes.

no mention of "Are you being served"[edit]

Are You Being Served? should be put in here someplace. --Ted-m (talk) 01:30, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

I added this under British class system. Although it could be included under smut and innuendo (e.g., references to Mrs. Slocombe's "pussy"), the programme was, I believe, intended as a commentary on social structure in the UK of the 70s and 80s. One giveaway is that the store's initials, Grace Brothers, are the same as Great Britain. Not an accident, I think but I've no evidence for this conjecture. Indeed, Wikipedia's own article on Are You Being Served?, says "main humorous base of the series was a merciless parody of the British class system." Allthingstoallpeople (talk) 19:04, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

I don't believe that "Are you being served" can be described as a commentary on social structures. It is a situation comedy, like all of the Perry-Croft comedies.

Contrast with articles on American and Canadian humor[edit]

This article seems to focus on listing of comedy series and acts. That, in itself is fine. The American humor and Canadian humour articles are more discursive, and less of a list. The Wiki "American humor" and "Canadian humour" articles, however, do not have tags for cleanup, or for additional references.

There are two needs: An article about British humor that is similar to "American Humor". That isn't this article, and such an article needs to be written. This existing article needs to be retitled "List of British humor" -- which would make the issues of the "cleanup" tag less pressing.

This article, as a list of British comedy, needs a broader perspective than recently playing TV shows. At the moment it does not mention Shakespeare, who is probably the most influential British comedy writer of British history (if not world history).

Alpha Ralpha Boulevard (talk) 00:53, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:Green Wing Poster.jpg[edit]

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I've added the fair-use rationale now. ISD (talk) 08:39, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

twentieth century[edit]

This[1] edit by Neon White adds Mock The Week as an example of twentieth century humour. Mock The Week began in 2005.

Also the edit added in unreferenced and uncited information about QI, saying it was intellectual. Please provide a reference for this, as per wiki policy. Thanks. Monk Bretton (talk) 17:36, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Why is it only 20th Century as if humour completely changed at midnight on new years eve 1999? I propose it should be "late 20th and early 21st". I agree with the other edits, very weasel words. --neon white talk 03:34, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
I propose it should be "late 20th and early 21st". That would work. But see below. Monk Bretton (talk) 11:39, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

At the moment the article is really about late 20th century British TV comedy, with a couple of radio shows chucked in for good measure. What about the ill-tempered satire of Ben Jonson or Shakespear's bawdy comedy or Chaucer's fart gags, the wit of the regency period and all the rest of British history? I propose for every pre-twentieth century example that we add we remove one of the twentieth century tv shows and thus end up with a balanced overview.

Should we add a section called History of or something, or keep the present Themes section and remove the words twentieth century from below it? The latter would involve less work. Any suggestions? Monk Bretton (talk) 11:39, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Do we have any sources for this article? I think the article is interesting but it needs sources if it's not gonna be shot down as OR.--neon white talk 23:38, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

Terrible Article[edit]

This article is misguided, uninformed and wildly innacurate. It attempts to group together disparate strands of what the author(s) know about British Comedy into a whole which gives an entirely incorrect and patchy impression of our comedic output. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:09, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

I agree; this article is dreadful. Surely there is literature on the subject that is more reliable than random editors' opinions. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:17, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I think what would be very helpful would be an attempt to articulate something about the underlying sensibility that differentiates British humour from other types. I don't necssarily think I'm the right man for the job, but I would start with something to the effect that it mixes high and low humor, and in general is often aimed at a more highly-educated audience. And added to that is a healthy dose of the absurd. The Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese plays a police detective/film historian comes to mind.--BAW (talk) 19:27, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
I also agree. In fact, I had a hand in having the Wiki article "Lawyer jokes" deleted for some of the same reasons. One common central issue is that a joke does not become "British" simply because it is told in Britain, or because it uses a "British" character. Very many jokes are funny to a number of countries, cultures and races, with only trivial modifications.
Where one gets stuck is that there is a decided difference between types of humor in vogue -- or that are being currently being pushed by marketing departments. Example. In the US, "Mad Magazine" has had a wide distribution for decades (it's even on library shelves). But in the UK that influence was perhaps only matched by "Punch" -- a more venerable institution, but one which is now ended. If this were "Wiki 1970", so to speak, it might be an interesting essay to compare the teen-oriented Mad with the educated, adult-oriented Punch. But I'm not sure, even then, it would make encyclopedic material for Wiki. Unless there are scholarly, reliable references comparing British social humor with other societies, I'd be inclined to recast this article in a more modest light: as a simple list of comedy produced in Britain.
An undifferentiated list, in fact, would be preferred. Placing comedies in categories is original research WP:OR that doesn't necessarily correspond to the creators' intentions. Labeling something as "Smut and innuendo" should not preclude that it is also "The absurd" and "Bullying and harsh sarcasm". The categories are altogether arbitrary and should be omitted. Alpha Ralpha Boulevard (talk) 08:15, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
It's been some months since any comment. It's time to address some of the issues raised here, and by the three very long-standing article tages for general cleanpup, sources, and essay language.
BAW pointed out a couple factors about differences in sensibility, education, and the historicality of the absurd. (In modern times, it's pegged in Britain to the Goons, at least in Britain, but is that encyclopedic, or just common wisdom chat?) What the article particularly needs is sources. Although I own books on humor, none particularly spring to mind here. As I articulated above, much of what people associate with British humor is simply a catalog of recent trends on TV. To say, for example that "Red Dwarf" is British ignores that the show would have been radically different if not underwritten by American Public Television and other English-speaking markets. My inclination is to trim the article to a simple list, with a short sentence description, as in the "Making fun of foreigners" and "Bullying and Harsh Sarcasm" sections, and not as either "Smut and innuendo" and "The humour inherent in everyday life", where there's star information, or no other information at all. There is far too much emphasis on TV shows, and not enough on theater, books, cartoons and comic books.
You will find all those things (making fun of foreigners, sarcasm, smut and inuendo) in Aristophanes, whose comedies are probably not the best example of British humour.Skamnelis (talk) 12:58, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
It's time to make a shot at cleanup, rather than leaving tags outstanding for more years. Regards, Alpha Ralpha Boulevard (talk) 13:33, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
This article is not well thought — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nithinbh (talkcontribs) 10:18, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

The article is incomplete, rather than terrible - at least someone has made a start. I agree that it's too heavily skewed towards television and film. Wasn't there any British humour before the twentieth century? I want more analysis of the components and their roots and function. Where is the mention of irony? Think of all the marvellous books, Jane Austen, Beryl Bainbridge, Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark to Diary of a Nobody, Three Men in a Boat, Lucky Jim just to mention a few at random. Chaucer, medieval mystery plays......Zerowhite (talk) 23:54, 28 July 2010 (UTC) Zerowhite

Why should irony be mentioned in relation to British humour? Is it missing from US humour, Italian humour, French humour or the humour of other societies? I also assume this article should not primarily be about the history of British comedy or about TV comedy shows. Some analysis about devices, roots and function would be in a better direction. Skamnelis (talk) 12:50, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

I think this article needs amending to something more like the German humour or American humour pages. Both of which deal much better with joke construction, themes and history than this one. Raisedonadiet (talk) 08:59, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

I have attempted to make a start on this by rewriting the innuendo section. I know that it makes it variable in format at the moment but I shall try to work on the other parts and I hope other contirbutors make an effort too.Raisedonadiet (talk) 09:41, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

The main thing that is characteristic of British humour is the use of puns and play on the meaning of established phrases. Certainly inuendo and sarcasm are among the sort of things that are least special about British humour. Good examples for more traditional British humour are Shakespeare and Alice in the Wonderland. What this article lists is mostly mainstream cross-cultural trends evident in modern British comedies. Humour is one thing. British humour ought to be about what is different and unique in British humour, to which aim this article contributes almost nothing. Skamnelis (talk) 12:24, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

Doctor Who[edit]

Clarification is needed on the inclusion of Dr. Who. The later series, with David Tennant are certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the early episodes of Dr. Who, starring John Pertwee, for example, were devoid of significant humour. Allthingstoallpeople (talk) 16:33, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

There are humourous episodes going back to 1965, but these are occasional abberations from the usual serious stories. Most drama series have a light-hearted episode or comic character, but that's worth only a passing mention. there's certainly nothing distinctive about Doctor Who that merits a mention here, it's just the obsessional fans shoehorning it into every conceivable article again. Totnesmartin (talk) 17:40, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

The embarrassment of social ineptitude?[edit]

The embarrassment of social ineptitude would Miranda belong there? (talk) 09:45, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

Situation comedy[edit]

Why is there no section for situation comedy? Most of the examples under "British class structure", for instance, are actually situation comedies.

This article is a pointless mess[edit]

What is the purpose of this article? It's mostly just a list of UK TV comedy shows from the last 50 years sorted fairly randomly into arbitrary categories. Comedy acts and television programmes typical of British humour include Monty Python, Benny Hill, and Keeping Up Appearances? Those three shows are about as dissimilar as it's possible to get, and have completely different mostly mutually exclusive audiences. Sheesh. --Ef80 (talk) 20:23, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

I do agree with the point about the article being a mess, and it will long term just replicate a 'List of british comedy programmes'. However, I do think that if you are to give examples of a classification, the most widely differing give a better idea of range. If Little Britain, Catherine Tate and The Fast Show had been given as the three examples, 'british humour' would appear much more homogenous. Raisedonadiet (talk) 08:41, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

"Following the Interregnum, theatre went through something of a decline"?[edit]

Erm, Restoration comedy? --Shirt58 (talk) 07:54, 21 December 2011 (UTC)

Inclusion of Irony[edit]

I don't believe any article about British humour would be complete without a reference to Situation-Based Irony. Many of the most revered and successful British comedies have included a great deal of Irony. It doesn't fall as a subset of satire and should be a section of its own. I think it is particularly important as many cultures are not as accepting / understanding of irony as the British. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:35, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

Irony is fairly universal, except in some cultures humour is generally frowned upon as such and, therefore, irony is perceived as criticism. However, British humour is not the only kind of humour that employs irony, or any of the kinds of humour listed in this article. Skamnelis (talk) 12:30, 4 June 2014 (UTC)