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British Comedy

Sweden trivia! Growing up in the eighties and nineties everyone in Sweden had such a love for “British comedy”… which to them usually meant Fawlty Towers or ‘Allo ‘Allo or something in that vein. 🤕

It was a boring and soul-crushing time, but the boringness on TV wasn’t the worst part. It was that everyone thought they were such a uniquely sofisticated connaisseur of sublime yaks for being into the same basic accent gags and repetitive sarcasm that everyone else was.

Imagine every Benny Hill watcher snootily looking down at every one else for not being as sophisticated, refined, and British, and you’ve got Sweden in the eighties and nineties. I liked Charlie Kaufman or whatever but nooo… “American humor is so stupid”.

It’s not that British stuff can’t be funny (Discworld, Smack the Pony), it’s fine, the problem was more the disparaging of every other genre of comedy.

My own fave kind of humor is nothing special either. Latter Barks (Scrooge/Gyro era), Archie, Nancy, Blondie… I’ve been into the same kinda comedy all my life. Simple & straightforward. Or, Japanese comics like Mr Bride. Maybe it’s because I liked American comics that made me so touchy about the purported superiority of Fry, Cleese, Atkinson &co.

I’ve heard people (I think it was Stephen Fry) describe it as how American humor is about smart-alecks and British humor is about self-deprecation. Problem for me is that a lot of the “self”-deprecating jokes punch not only at self, but down and all around, hitting everyone who shares traits with the character. Or worse— there’s this episode of Misfits where the joke is that a guy has sex with an old woman and that that’s gross. And the joke is “self-deprecating” for him, the comedian, but it’s also really disparaging her and by extension, older women in general.

Conversely, in smart-aleck stories, while there are jokes along the way, it ultimately is based on Veronica developing empathy and social conscience, Scrooge and Gyro solving problems, Nancy and Sluggo thinking laterally about existential issues, Dagwood finding glimpses of zen-like joy in his every day routine like talking to the mailman or making a sandwich. It’s about building the world up, not tearing it down.

But, I’ve seen plenty of smart-aleck stories come out of Britain (Weatherwax and Vimes, of course, or Milligan’s run on Shade) and plenty of deprecation humor come out of the US. Sturgeon’s law is a harsh mistress 💔