“Britain is known for its humour as France is known for its food and wine”. If people who are living outside the United Kingdom are asked to characterise British humour, many of them will probably mention the jokes of one of the Monty Python series or maybe quotes from Fawlty Towers. Of all the characteristics, good and bad, for which the English are known in the outside world, their sense of humour is one of the best-known. One significant element in the British sense of humour is that they dare to tell jokes about everything. No topic seems to be taboo as long some people laugh about it.
A large part of British jokes is at someone else’s expense. Making fun of foreigners is especially common in television sitcoms and films. It can be seen in TV comedy series ‘Allo ‘Allo! , which mocked every national stereotype, including that of the British. There are also famous “An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman” jokes, which punchline is usually based around the Irishman’s stupidity, the Scotsman’s meanness or the Englishman’s snobbishness. British jokes often include a sort of wordplay that is based on multiple meanings of a word or on homonyms.
Monty Python comedy group is considered to be the paragon of British humour. The group’s influence on comedy can be compared to The Beatles’ influence on music. The troupe is best known for its absurd type of humour, that is also called “pythonesque” – which has become a byword in surreal humour, and is included in standard dictionaries. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was comedy sketch show that combined surreal skits about transvestite lumberjacks and delinquent grannies with the weird imagination of animator Terry Gilliam.
It has been called “the most influential TV comedy of the post-war era”. There are many different kinds of humour, and often culture and tradition plays a big part in how funny you may find something. British humour is usually very dark, sarcastic. For most foreigners, the sarcastic comments, especially exchanged by the natives in front of the unaware foreigners, are far from amusing. While it can be amusing to watch British comedy shows, it may not necessarily be so when you are the object at which the huge British arsenal of mockery, sarcasm and cynicism is targeted.