My wife and I enjoy watching British comedy shows. We enjoy their sense of humour (note the “u”), even if we do not understand every joke they make. One thing I have notices as we have flipped through different comedy shows is that Brits tend to love their panel shows, where they invite a panel of comedians and allow them to be funny on various subjects.
The first British comedy panel that I was introduced to was QI: Quite Interesting, hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry. The basic premise of the show is that Stephen Fry asks his comedian guests impossible questions, or questions that everybody believe they know the answer to, and their job is not necessarily to be right, but to be funny. And they lose points if they give the obvious, wrong answer. By watching this show you not only get a laugh at great British comedians, like Jimmy Carr, Phil Jupitus, Jo Brand, Alan Davies, and of course Stephen Fry, but you learn some very interesting facts.
That basic format is followed again and again across several different types of panel show: Invite comedians, ask them question, let them make as many jokes as they want, ask another question. And the funny thing is that a guest on one show may host another, which has the host of the first show as an occasional guest.
And that is how my wife and I have found some of our favorite shows, by looking up our favorite comedians and seeing what other shows they’ve been on.
Like Never Mind the Buzzcocks, a show that is all about music and music trivia, or 8 Out Of 10 Cats, a show about surveys, polls, and statistics, or a recent favorite, Mock the Week, where they make jokes about current news topics.
And that brings me to probably the biggest deterrent for most Americans watching British humour, they don’t get the jokes. And I’m not saying that I understand every joke, either, especially when they talk about politics, because I am not as familiar with British politics as I should be. I know who the prime minister is, but when they start making jokes about some other politicians I have not heard of, I’m lost. And I don’t get the national stereotypes, either.
If an American comedian makes a joke about someone from Alabama (no offense Alabamans), we know the stereotypes associated with that, uneducated, one tooth, married their cousin, etc. But when these British comedians are making jokes about Newcastle or Glasgow, I don’t have the same cultural understanding. But still, I enjoy British comedy, I find it very entertaining and I wish that there were more American television shows like the British panel show. Whose Line is it Anyway transferred over pretty well, but they somehow forgot the part about having different guests each time.
Those are a few of our favorite British comedy shows and comedians. Are there any that you particularly enjoy?