I thought I liked British Humor, but recently I’ve begun to wonder if I do, or really ever did.
I began watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus as a junior or senior in high school and found it highly enjoyable. I adored Fawlty Towers — the character of Basil still makes me giggle when I think of his antics. “Don’t mention the War!” can induce fits of laughter if I’m in the right mood. I liked Pauline Collins and John Alderton in No, Honestly, mostly because Ms Collins was so darned cute. More recently, I’ve enjoyed The Office and Extras, both starring Ricky Gervais, but didn’t like Coupling.
I watched a few episodes of The Benny Hill Show, back when it was on PBS. I didn’t like it, but couldn’t put my finger on the difference between Monty Python and Benny Hill. Benny Hill was just too silly for me — although most of my friends and family thought that Monty Python was just as silly. I never liked Absolutely Fabulous, except for the character of Bubble because she was played by Jane Horrocks — my favorite actor from Life is Sweet. I didn’t really care for Keeping Up Appearances, except when I wanted to watch TV and it was the only thing I recognized.
A couple of years ago, when I was staying with my Dad while my mom took a much needed vacation, I watched part of an episode of Little Britain on cable. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either and thought it might be worth watching sometime. Good friends of mine liked it, and that was enough recommendation for me.
Last month, a movie called Death at a Funeral, was recommended on Netflix and by several Internet acquaintances and my friend who liked Little Britain said she heard it was really funny. So I rented it. I tried to watch it one evening with my husband, but I probably had a glass too much of wine to follow the plot. I thought I’d give it another go on a different, more sober night. I did try again a few evenings later, this time without Dean. I had to quit watching it when one of the main characters helped a wheelchair-bound man use the toilet. When he pulled his hand away and it had feces on it, I shut down the television and returned the movie to Netflix without finishing it.
To me, British humor is sometimes absurd, usually understated and often dry. It doesn’t grab you by the lapels and say, I’m funny! Laugh at me. It just is. If you get it, you laugh. If not, you scratch your head, wondering what that was all about.
Wikipedia gives a wonderful list of themes in British humor. I guess I like some of the themes and dislike others. That makes sense. I like absurdities and embarrassment of social ineptitude. I don’t like smut and innuendo much at all.
Whew! I was worried for a while.