British comedy: The Panel show

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?

One thought on “British comedy: The Panel show

  1. Doctor Who! Even my toddler enjoys Doctor Who. “Lookitda Tardis!” is a common phrase in our home.

    I also like “All Creatures Great and Small,” which is an older programme. The guy who played Tristan was the 5th Doctor, and the guy who played Sigfried was Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies. I know ACGAS is based on books, but it takes a certain flair to transfer it to television so well. There was one TV show I saw a couple of times that I liked, but I don’t know the name of it and I haven’t been able to find it since. It’s about an alien superhero (with a Northern Accent) who apart from doing the superhero thing also has a wife and half-human kid.

    The thing I like the most about British Comedy is that actors can be good actors without being gorgeous. Billie Piper and Catherine Tate have crooked teeth, for example. And Catherine Tate wears jeans that are larger than size 4. They look like real people instead of paper dolls. It’s pretty great.

    I probably get British humour more than most Americans, because my mom served her mission in Leeds and we grew up having a lot of British TV in our house. Plus I read a lot of BBC. I know what a Chav is and the Apples and Pears.

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