British humour  

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British humour is a somewhat general term applied to certain comedic motifs that are often prevalent in comedic acts originating in Great Britain and its current or former colonies. Comedy acts and television programs typical of British humour include Monty Python, Benny Hill, and Keeping Up Appearances to name a few that have become quite popular outside of the British Isles. At times, however, such humour can seem puzzling to non-British speakers of English (references to English slang terms or people, who are unknown internationally for example) while certain Commonwealth nations (such as Australia, Canada and South Africa) tend to find it more familiar. Many UK comedy TV shows typical of British humour have been internationally popular, and have been a strong avenue for the export and representation of British culture to an international audience.



Some themes (with examples) that underpinned late twentieth-century British humour were:

Smut and innuendo

Smut and innuendo with sexual and scatological themes, typified by:

Disrespect to members of the establishment

authority figures in comedy

Disrespect to members of the establishment and authority, typified by:

The absurd

The absurd and the surreal, typified by:

The Macabre


Black humour, in which topics and events that are usually treated seriously are treated in a humorous or satirical manner, typified by:

The manic


The humour inherent in everyday life

The humour, not necessarily apparent to the participants, inherent in everyday life, as seen in:

The 'war' between parents/teachers and children

generation gap

The 'war' between parents/teachers and their children, typified by:

The British class system

The British class system, especially pompous or dim-witted members of the upper/middle classes or embarrassingly blatant social climbers, typified by:

The lovable rogue

The lovable rogue, often from the impoverished working class, trying to 'beat the system' and better himself, typified by:

The embarrassment of social ineptitude

The embarrassment of social ineptitude, typified by:

Making fun of foreigners

Making fun of foreigners, sometimes bordering on xenophobia, is especially common in television sitcoms and films of the 1970s, typified by:

Bullying and harsh sarcasm

Harsh sarcasm and bullying, though with the bully usually coming off worse than the victim - typified by:

Parodies of stereotypes

Making fun of British stereotypes, typified by:

Tolerance of, and affection for, the eccentric

Tolerance of, and affection for, the eccentric, especially when allied to inventiveness

See also


  • Sutton, David. A chorus of raspberries: British film comedy 1929-1939. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, (2000) ISBN 0-85989-603-X

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