British humour is a funny one isn’t it! Although celebrated around the globe, can also be pretty hard to understand to an outsider looking in and it’s not always found funny to everybody.
British humour is as varied as the British weather and these are the main forms of humour that we indulge in. This is all comedy that’s made in Britain.
1. Sarcasm and irony
We Brits love sarcasm and irony as much as we like a good cup of tea and dipping biscuits into it (probably more so, in fact). Sarcasm is often used in the form of saying one thing but actually meaning the opposite. For example saying “I love your moves on the dance floor” to a friend who is a terrible dancer.
An understatement is very British. It’s when someone deliberately makes out that something is less significant than it is. For instance, by saying “It’s a little bit windy, isn’t it?” when there’s a raging hurricane outside is an understatement. It’s probably due to the British tendency of wanting to play things down. ‘Deadpan humour’ (making a joke without smiling) is one element of understatement.
Satire involves using biting humour to criticise people and institutions with power, like politicians. Satire is popular in the UK because Brits love taking people “down a peg or two” (humbling them when they get too arrogant). We also love an underdog and celebrate humility.
4. The absurd
Absurd humour focuses on the silly, ridiculous or surreal. Much of British comedy is about noticing the absurd things in everyday life. Like the way everyone squishes onto the train even though there is another one in just one minute. Luckily, Brits usually tend to see the funny side of this. There are many comedians who use this idea well.
Banter is basically a jokey conversation between friends that involves good-natured teasing. Along with crisps and quizzes, it’s a big part of pub culture in the UK. Often if you can’t take the banter given out then you’re made to feel foolish. You can of course banter back with the best of them!
The Brits aren’t shy of a joke that involves a sexual innuendo. Of course there are varying degrees of this from the more obvious such as the Carry On movies which were generally more popular a couple of decades ago. There are certainly no taboos but generally people take their guide from the social situation and who they are with when making this kind of joke.
7. British Class system
As much as Brits are entrenched in the class system, everyone loves poking fun at everyone else. Over the year’s there have been some classics dedicated to every run of the social ladder from working class to the upper classes and even the Royal family have been subjected to their own series!
One of the main differences between British humour and the humour of other nationalities is that we enjoy the cringeworthy. Dark comedies have long been in the mix and even though not suiting the mainstream comedy audiences, some groups of people absolutely love it.
9. Embarrassing and social ineptitude
Brits are sometimes perceived to be uptight or socially awkward – saying and doing things at the wrong time. And this even makes us laugh! The caricatures of British social ineptitude are personified in comedy classics such as Mr Bean and The Office.
10. Laughing at everyday life
The UK has a number of hit sitcoms where nothing much happens apart from everyday life. There are no knee-slapping moments but a lot of cringeworthy moments when you can’t believe someone has done or said what they have.
These sitcoms are subtle to say the least but they are genius at the same time. The best includes Gavin and Stacey and The Royle family.
So there you have it – a quick rundown of what tickles our national funny bone. The best way to explore British comedy is to get comfortable and watch some of them. Re-runs are the best!