Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Stuff Your Dad Likes: English Humour

Posted in Stuff Your Dad Likes by Jacob Zinn on February 13, 2012
Jacob Zinn can’t give you fatherly advice, but he can fall asleep during your dance recital.

I never really got into English humour. Aside from Rowan Atkinson’s signature character Mr. Bean, I admittedly didn’t find the satire particularly gut-busting. There were only so many times I could laugh at someone with an exaggerated accent or a man in a dress.

My dad, however, grew up on the stuff, and he made sure I grew up on it too. You probably got your sense of humour from your dad, and he got his from the British.

The truth is, the Brits were historically funny people. Dating back to the silent film era, Charlie Chaplin’s bumbling vagrant known as The Tramp captivated American audiences and taught the world slapstick in films like The Gold Rush and City Lights.

But unless your dad is 80 years old, you’re probably more familiar with The Benny Hill Show, with its increasingly ridiculous uptempo pursuits, or Fawlty Towers, highlighting the futile efforts of John Cleese’s character to “raise the tone” of hotel.

The holy grail of British comedies is, well, The Holy Grail. Monty Python’s critically acclaimed 1974 sophomore film is widely considered one of the funniest films of all time. Even for someone like myself who can’t fully appreciate humour, there’s something to laugh at between the vicious bunny rabbit, the so-called town witch, the bridge of death and the knights who say “Ni!”

The comedy group returned to the box office with more sarcasm and wit in 1979’s Life of Brian and 1983’s The Meaning of Life.

Nowadays, British humour seems more Americanized, with such successes as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz garnering North American audiences, and with the HBO-developed American version of Da Ali G Show.

But your dad didn’t grow up with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character acting. Traditional British humour doesn’t rely on racist, anti-Semetic or homophobic jokes to get a laugh.

The BBC still regularly airs current British sitcoms like Little Britain, but even that can’t compare to the nostalgic hilarity of the dead parrot sketch.

“And now, frontal nudity.”



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