by Andy Keedwell
by Andy Keedwell
Morocco World News
April 29, 2012
Is it true that the British laugh at different things from people in other countries? Let’s have a look at what we laugh at in Britain.
1- To the British, the powerful and important are often figures of fun. It’s not just politicians who make us chuckle but anyone whose job it is to tell other people what to do and who take themselves too seriously. We laugh at our class system too –especially those who try to present themselves as ‘better’ than they are.
2- We giggle at authority, but also, sympathetically, with anyone who is downtrodden. We know they can’t win, but if they do so occasionally, it’s even funnier. Our clowns are often silly people doing silly things, while in America, they are often clever people doing clever things – and winning.
3- The British laugh when other people might despair, one of the oddest things to appreciate about British humor. People say that the British are reserved and reluctant to show their feelings and this is expressed in our humor. I don’t really think that’s true but I know that we do have a strong sense of irony. ‘Not very pleasant’, we say after some terrible experience and that’s perhaps why we sometimes laugh at things that should be taken seriously – accidents or funerals, for example. Coupled with this, is our love of understatement.
‘It’s a bit windy today’ we might say in the middle of a typhoon, or ‘There’s a slight problem’ when something has gone very seriously wrong.
4- We are also known for a very ‘broad’ sense of humor. Traditionally holiday makers would send ‘smutty’ (rude) postcards back home. Many other nationalities find this kind of humor quite childish– but we continue to snigger. We laugh at what we ordinarily find embarrassing – perhaps we laugh, because we are embarrassed.
5- A stand up comedian (someone who tells jokes for a living) will often begin by saying ‘Have you ever noticed…..?’ We find humor in ordinary, boring life, especially its negative aspects. As well as this, we find it amusing to tell jokes about things that have gone wrong for us, rather than not mentioning them in case we look stupid. Our stories might start with ‘I’m such an idiot, I did something really stupid yesterday’.
6- Another thing that can make it difficult to understand ‘British humor’ is that we don’t always laugh or even smile when we say something funny. We often ‘keep a straight face’ or use an unsmiling, ‘deadpan’ expression even when we’re making a joke.
7- One final thing. Lots of British humor is based on word play. It is very easy to ‘pun’ in English because lots of words have more than one meaning or sound like other words. The results are often enough to make you groan. For example, what do you do if you feel hungry when you’re on the beach? Eat the sand which is there. Get it? Sand which is there / sandwiches there. See I told you punning was groan-worthy.
So, is the British sense of humour unique? Well probably not. It is the combination of all these features that make the British laugh and my friends from other countries ask ‘Why is that funny?’
Article published in collaboration with the British Council in Rabat.