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Customer Discussions > Humor forum

British humour v American humor

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Showing 26-50 of 102 posts in this discussion
Posted on Apr 5, 2012 11:42:23 AM PDT
Very very interesting discussion. I'm a Yank who lived in New Zealand for 11 years and Australia for five, and I've been back in the US for 20 years. I have had heavy exposure to the UK and US varieties in all media and have been profoundly influenced by both. On any given day, I can be laughing my ass off or nodding knowingly over the likes of Wilde, Shaw, Monty Python, John Mortimer, and Douglas Adams from one side of the pond and Twain, Vonnegut, Seinfeld, Woody Allen, SJ Perelman, and George Carlin from the other. Plus many many more. One point worth noting: At their worst, both equally suck. In the US, we get the British at their best. Live in a place where the Queen is on the currency and you will witness a very different side.

One thing I've noticed, and this is hardly an original observation: The British are far less sentimental. Americans tend to favor warm fuzzies with their humor. Case in point - Sanford and Son based on Steptoe and Son, All in the Family based on Till Death Do Us Part. Producer Norman Lear gave his American characters a much softer side. (Seinfeld, in this regard, went refreshingly British on us.)

Anyway, after decades of dropping humor into serious commentaries on finance (Down Under) and mental health (in the US), I finally published my first humor book, Raccoons Respect My Piss But Watch Out For Skunks: My Funny Life on a Planet Not of My Choosing That I Now - Sort of, Maybe, Well Okay - Call Home. Basically, when you're depressed and as crazy as I am, life becomes hilarious. Spike Milligan knew that. So did Cleese. So did Vonnegut, Twain. On and on ...

I look forward to checking out your contributions to two great traditions.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 7, 2012 2:48:22 PM PDT
GW says:
LOL.....I was thinking the same thing, Tom.

I'm not gonna get all titchy about what our cousins say about us, tho.
Most of the TV shows I buy on dvd are British.

Americans DO have different tastes in entertainment that the Brits.
I just happen to be an American that loves shows such as "Edible Fungi of the Lake District", "One Man and His Dog", and "Treasure Houses of Britain."

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 7:35:53 AM PDT
Tenerife? US citizens don't even know if the Canary Islands are real and they sure couldn't find them on a map.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 10:53:48 AM PDT
GW says:
I'd wager my next 2 welfare checks you'd never DREAM of saying African Americans can't swim....or for that matter become President of the United States.

A sweeping generalization is a sweeping generalization.
I wonder how many citizens of the EU could locate Catalina and the other Channel Islands on a map? Perhaps they don't even know if they are real?

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 10:30:57 PM PDT
Very good question, and all the responses are appreciated. Certain people in my crowd, both online and in the 'real world' here in America, either get British humor or they don't. The ones who don't, shrug their shoulders and say 'that's British humor for you'. I grew up with Benny Hill, my parents are huge fans of Faulty Towers. As was mentioned, some things won't translate over here, just as White jokes or Prairie Home Companion might not there. 'Understated' was a word mentioned, 'dry' humor could be another way of putting it. Mark Steyn (American by way of Canada, but educated in England) is very 'British' in his humor, as is George Will (American through and through). Dry wit, intellectual, and sometimes things hit you seconds later. I'm a fan of most things humorous, appreciate most all. British humor included, except when things are locally related and fly right over my head.. I'll certainly be checking your books out, Jonathan and Kerry. My advice, don't try to adapt your work just to catch a few more sales here, just rely on good reviews and word of mouth, and those of us here who do appreciate your style will come!

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 10:36:43 PM PDT
Oh, Mr McGinity, don't hold the East and Left Coasts against those of us in what is called (derogatorially by those on the coasts and jokingly by the rest of us) 'flyover country'. You are indeed correct, very different mindsets in many ways.

Posted on Apr 9, 2012 12:00:34 AM PDT
Mr.J says:
Lol Meet Mr. J

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2012 6:00:06 PM PDT
Swedey says:
So what you're saying here is that since 'the Americans' don't find British humour entertaining they don't 'get it'?

Maybe instead of 'it' sailing over our heads we are choosing to ignore 'it'. Ever think of that? And maybe England's liberal drinking age (age 5) helps to appreciate the humour.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2012 7:11:52 PM PDT
Ha ha!

Posted on Apr 16, 2012 10:50:27 AM PDT
Haha, i love the idea that our drinking age is so liberal, i suppose it is when compared to yours however i would not have seen it so when i was under 18! Are there not many scenerios in US comedy films in which youngsters are trying to illegally buy a beer or three? (Porkys, back to the future, etc) Let's not get grumpy here simply because we trust people at 20 to drink responsibly. I'm here to plug my book, which carrys a theme about just how well us brits behave under this rule, tis free tomorrow ladies and jellyspoons so perhaps you'd care to take a sip. That Night This Night It is prime brit humour with a "u" in it and everything but i would never be so bold as to stereotype my yankie buddies by suggesting it would go over anyones head, i quote my influences from being from both sides of the pond, which takes me back to my previous point that our cultures are too intertwinned to clearly define a difference without cross examining the point in a 100 million page essay!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2012 11:13:57 AM PDT
Chris Lane says:
There is such a range within both countries that it is impossible to generalise. My books, especially 'Bloodwrath', 'Swipers' and the dark-ages 'Fairy Saga' are VERY English humour - slapstick, character-led, some violence but with no sex. They are always in the top ten comedy in the UK but sometimes dip into the top 50 in the USA. No publicity involved, just what people like I guess - I would love to hear what an american thinks (not just the lovely people who provided the 5 star reviews)
Just looking at American comedy titles suggested an obsession with personal humiliation and sex embarressment - unless these are just the ones aimed at kids (in many ways like the 1960's English humour of Norman Wisdom or the Carry-On films).

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 2:10:22 PM PDT
cerinto says:
I recommend a book by an Spanish author, From Lost to the River about literal translations. It is a big laugh.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 9:33:59 PM PDT
Tom Tiding says:
Thanks for the suggestion Cerinto-- that was well-thought out, constructive and completely on-point in a thread about the differences between American and British humor. Based on your contribution, I'll be certain to purchase that at least three copies of that book.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 10:58:58 PM PDT
The fellows says:
here is a book that is funny no matter what side of the pond your on, it hits the funny bones of both Brits and Yanks.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 1:03:52 AM PDT
Tom Tiding says:
I swear, you guys are like the ad for Bing, except here it would be off-topic post overload syndrome.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 3:41:29 AM PDT
Edwin Stark says:
How about a Venezuelan that thinks like an American but writes (sometimes) as a British? ;P
That's gotta be a belly-ache... sorry... I see it won't be appreciated that I mention the title of my funny book...
Move along.... move along... nothing to see here :D

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 4:11:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2012 4:11:39 AM PDT
Tom Tiding says:
Edwin, the Humor Forum is *the* premier place for self-promotion. Don't let this curmudgeon stop you!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2012 4:26:59 AM PDT
Edwin Stark says:
well, if you put it that way...

How a book trailer to reach a compromise?

That way I'm BOTH plugging and NOT plugging my book ;P

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 4:37:56 AM PDT
Chris Lane says:
Hi - this is quite interesting but is not reaching the parts we want to reach. We are advertising to each other! If you REALLY want to sell comedy books (as I do) OR if you want to talk about the differences between British and American humour the we all need to take ourselves off to I have some discussion going there alraedy that will give you a much better space to have a rant or a joke! (no - I'm not getting any money for this!) Once you are on Shelfari come and find me at this group: "BRITISH and AMERICAN SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS' mutual support group" BUT when you arrive do read my conversation called : "UK AUTHORS NEW TO SHELFARI ? WARNING: "There be dragons here!" or at least trolls." Shelfari is a great place to push your books or have a great debate BUT very dangerous. Honest! Join me and chat about it. Search for me on Amazon (Kindle books) & Shelfari : Chris Lane

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2012 9:44:14 AM PDT
Tom Tiding says:
Lord Stark, I promise I'm not a hater. I just get bored of the plugs-- that's all.

There's so much more to say, but still we get stuck on "Have You Written a Book With Words? POST IT HERE!"

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 10:18:32 AM PDT
Chris Lane says:
Don't understand! Explain

Posted on Apr 30, 2012 12:14:30 PM PDT
There are differences. A lot of it has to do with word choice. Some words have starkly different meanings depending the country (which is why Giles could let loose with his swearing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Americans found it cute and endearing even when he said some truly awful words)). A lot more words have subtler shifts in meaning and usage.

My absolute favourite humourous author (P G Wodehouse) made it a point to come to the U S and stay a bit. He excelled in making the Brits funny to the Americans and vice versa. Bill Bryson has done much the same, in reverse. As for a good example of American comedy, try reading The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. It's a bit dated, but it is still one of the funnier books ever written.

Posted on May 15, 2012 4:22:39 PM PDT
Roxy Rich says:
This was an interesting little discussion. Thank you to the Brits who posted. I am a stand-up comic in LA,but I prefer dry humor and particularly British and/or Scottish humor. If you've ever seen the Hamish MacBeth series, you'll know what I am talking about. Very clever. I perform here, however and do have to make material blunt. I found audiences do respond to clever humor in LA if they are older. The younger tend to respond more to slapstick. I am considering going to London to perform and am not sure if my show will travel. I will have to modify it, I suspect. My book, Roxy does Retail: A Ludicrous Guide to Boutique Shopping Etiquette, is personal stories and I am looking forward to any review of it. I'm curious! I have only sold a handful of copies on kindle & Nook, so I'm asking anyone out there to please read it and post a review. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2012 10:31:07 AM PDT
Chris Lane says:
you might like to risk a visit to 'Shelfari' - there is a group there for UK and USA authors to swap and review each others books - BRITISH and AMERICAN SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS' mutual support group ( ) It also helps to boost your ratings across the pond! Chris Lane

Posted on May 18, 2012 3:15:56 PM PDT
Check out this new kind of humorous book I say this you say what? Nice to play with your friends I like it
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Discussion in:  Humor forum
Participants:  44
Total posts:  102
Initial post:  Feb 23, 2012
Latest post:  Mar 7, 2013

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