The British sense of humour

@garymarsh6 (17687)
United Kingdom
May 4, 2019 3:27am CST
British humour. The British are a rather reserved race and are well known at keeping the stiff upper lip in times of stress and disaster. However when it comes to humour we are quite straight up about it and without realising half the time will take the micky out of ourselves and others. Perhaps the most confusing part of British humour however, is that there is a no ‘off’ button. Almost every conversation between the British is bound to feature some form of irony, teasing, banter, sarcasm, self-deprecation or mockery. This should not be seen as trying to hurt someone it is just our way. I am sure that many non-British English speaking people will find this quite peculiar. When every word exchanged has an undercurrent of humour, it becomes difficult to decipher when someone is joking or being serious. I often used to get away with murder at work because I would be saying things with quite a straight face, making whatever I was saying quite plausible and serious. Some people used to cotton on but I would insist that it was a true tale I was telling. I have managed to get away with things for a few days until in the end I have to burst the bubble. How can we joke and yet keep a straight face. We do, it is how we interact with one another and yet many people will not get the subtlety. Self-deprecation We do not parade or boast about our achievements although some nations will boast about their achievements to us it is viewed as being pompous when someone does. Instead of boasting and blowing our own trumpets, we tend to make light of our shortcomings by being excessively modest and putting ourselves down. Obvious examples of self-deprecating humour include one’s accent, age, physical build, skinny or fat, tall or short, baldness or wearing glasses and prominent features like big ears or nose! Irony and sarcasm Irony and sarcasm forms a large part of our repertoire and if you are talking to someone who may have a straight face the likely hood is that there will be an element of humour in there it may be subtle but it will definitely be there. Understatement. We tend to be underwhelmed by things and resort to dumbing down statement such as “Not bad” really means, “That’s actually quite good”. British speech is full of understatements using such terms as ‘quite’, ‘rather’, ‘a bit’. A ‘spot of bother’ may understate that things are disastrous. Seaside humour. Our humour can be seen particularly at the seaside there would be postcards on sale with cartoon caricatures with some quite smutty sayings on them but they were meant as harmless amusement. I think these days they are mainly very tame because of the PC brigade. The BBC made some brilliant comedies which were full of innuendos and sarcasm. The following programmes will give you some idea of the type of thing I mean. 1. The vicar of Dibley 2. Keeping up appearances. 3. To the manor born. 4. Are you being served. 5. The Good life. These programmes will give you some idea of how daft we can be but at the same time are absolutely hilarious. So what I am trying to get across is that our sense of humour whilst not being full of praise there is definitely approval to some of our comments on posts here! It can be quite easy to misinterpret what we are saying if you are not able to tune into our witty retorts! Tomorrow I may give some examples of some of the sarcasm, irony or banter I have personally used! The picture is an example of the type of cards that were once upon a time great fun from the seaside!
26 people like this
26 responses
@JudyEv (159765)
• Bunbury, Australia
4 May
That woman in the post card should have bruised knees as well. I love British humour but have never cottoned on to American humour. The shows you listed are all hilarious and when they were on, we were very careful not to miss any. Australian humour is very similar to British. We take the mickey and use all the tricks you've mentioned.
9 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
Yes I do think that you have a better undestanding when we talk tongue in cheek!
4 people like this
@MALUSE (50959)
• Germany
4 May
@JudyEv You've answered the question I wanted to ask concerning American humour. I've listened to some American humour programmes and couldn't even smile. The audiences laughed but I don't know why or what about. It's logical that the Australian humour is similar to the British one considering the history of your country.
6 people like this
@JudyEv (159765)
• Bunbury, Australia
4 May
@MALUSE It's true that it's logical that our humour is more like the British but the US was settled by the British too. I wouldn't give you tuppence for most American comedies.
3 people like this
@Tampa_girl7 (30671)
• United States
4 May
I have always loved the BBC comedies.
7 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
They are really funny especially the ones I have mentioned above!
5 people like this
@Tampa_girl7 (30671)
• United States
4 May
@garymarsh6 my parents talked about one show in particular, not a comedy, called "Carnation Street", and a few other shows that I'm trying to remember. Just the other day daddy was talking about living in England and about putting coins in a box to watch television and some kind of vehicle driving by with a radar of some sort to see if people had paid . Not sure what he was saying exactly.
3 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
@Tampa_girl7 Arr you mean Coronation street. It is the longest running soap in the world. It started the year I was born and I have grown up with it. In the early days it was filmed live but that all changed. The characters on the street are really quite funny! Some very odd characters at times. It is quite good as they also incorporate life issues with in the story lines such as cancer, dementia, deafness and other topical subjects too!
3 people like this
@MALUSE (50959)
• Germany
4 May
I've seen such cards in Brighton. I must confess that I don't understand all of them.
5 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
They are usually smutty or have an undertone in them!
2 people like this
@MALUSE (50959)
• Germany
4 May
@garymarsh6 I know that but not living in the country makes it difficult for foreigners to understand all innuendos.
3 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
@MALUSE I don't know if you have seen any of the above programmes I think you would find them quite funny! I think you can see them on youtube!
2 people like this
@TheSojourner (21918)
• United States
4 May
Now I know where I get my sense of humour! It certainly isn't the Scandinavian side of my ancestry. Must be the English/Scottish side! LOL
4 people like this
• United States
4 May
@garymarsh6 My mother's maiden name is Elder. The English side was Chapman.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
@TheSojourner I wonder if she came from a family of missionaries being an Elder for Scotland who married a merchant?
2 people like this
• United States
4 May
@garymarsh6 Who knows? I know that the Chapman side had a couple of teachers (male)
2 people like this
@jaboUK (57574)
• United Kingdom
4 May
You've explained our humour very well Gary. When I first started to try to write funny poems I was told not to expect the Americans to find them amusing, as they didn't get our sense of humour. I have to tell you that they do - I've had some great reactions from them, both on this site and another one I am on.
4 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
I was surprised how many enjoy Benny HIll. OH can you imagine them being on television these days. The blue rinse brigade would turn pink!
1 person likes this
@jaboUK (57574)
• United Kingdom
6 May
@garymarsh6 The politically correct lot have taken a lot of the fun out of things, haven't they?
@just4him (156323)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
4 May
This inside look into your way of life and how you approach people with humor is enlightening. Thank you.
4 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
OH Valerie now you realise what you have let yourself in for mixing with the Brits!
2 people like this
@just4him (156323)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
4 May
@garymarsh6 Between you and Gilly, I'm learning a lot about the British way of life.
2 people like this
@arunima25 (19863)
• Bangalore, India
4 May
I think it is a great art to be able to laugh at yourselves. Saying a joke with straight face is incredible..
4 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
Sometimes you would not even realise we were teasing!
2 people like this
@arunima25 (19863)
• Bangalore, India
4 May
@garymarsh6 Now I have to go back down the memory lane and analyze all the talks that I had with any British in my life.
2 people like this
@allknowing (82292)
• India
5 May
I used to regularly watch 'Yes Minister' and 'To the Manor Born'
4 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
Both were very comical!
1 person likes this
@Gillygirl (29857)
• Sutton, England
4 May
Well I am so ugly. I have crows landing on my face every night There are some people irrespective of nationality will take a situation and blow it up out of proportion Many Brits on the other hand take a ridiculous situation and enjoy a joke but with a straight face. Our humour is drier which is difficult for people to deal with Good old Frank Spencer deserves a mention here.
3 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
OH yes forgot about him but then I found him rather irritating like Mr Bean,. I often felt like slapping the pair of them!
2 people like this
@Gillygirl (29857)
• Sutton, England
4 May
@garymarsh6 I do agree about Mr Bean but not poor old Frank. Allo Allo was funny too. The silly English policeman who couldn't speak French properly creased me up.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
@Gillygirl I hope those crows didnt leave you stoned?
3 people like this
@JohnRoberts (81788)
• Los Angeles, California
4 May
I love droll British humor like Doc Martin and risque silliness of Benny Hill and raunchy Carry On movies. You gave us Monty Python and Mr. Bean! Of the shows mentioned, I loved Are You Being Served?
3 people like this
@JohnRoberts (81788)
• Los Angeles, California
4 May
@garymarsh6 I never heard of Baxter before. He is typical of the style. What is it about Brit comics loving to dress in drag? I do know the Two Ronnies, Morecombe and Wise and Tony Hancock. And way back the Goonies (Sellers etc.)
1 person likes this
@JohnRoberts (81788)
• Los Angeles, California
4 May
@garymarsh6 Emery I have heard of. Remember Bruce Forsythe?
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (222885)
• Switzerland
4 May
"Milanese" humor is similar to British humor, the other Italians cannot understand us. We are not cold and serious, but they cannot understand our sarcasm and humor. I am going to check the programs you listed.
3 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
I hope they make you laugh I am sure they will do! Especially Keeping up appearances! I used to call my secretary Hyacinth because she was just like her!
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (222885)
• Switzerland
4 May
@garymarsh6 I am sure that I will enjoy a lot.
2 people like this
@LadyDuck (222885)
• Switzerland
4 May
@MALUSE I have never liked Italian humor, except a very few good actors, but really very few. Usually Italian humor is vulgar, unpleasant in my opinion.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (54744)
• Gainesville, Florida
4 May
As an American, it took me a very long time to watch British comedies, because I didn't understand British humor. But once I began to understand, those shows suddenly became very funny! There's no doubt there is a huge difference between British humor and American humor.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
I guess it takes patience for each of us to try and understand our senses of humour!
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (54744)
• Gainesville, Florida
4 May
@garymarsh6 You would think humor would be the same across the world, but each culture and each society have their own versions of what is or isn't funny. Very peculiar.
1 person likes this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
@moffittjc One of my favourite films is Mrs Doubtfire it has me creased up! I love it!
1 person likes this
@RasmaSandra (27556)
• Daytona Beach, Florida
5 May
My all-time favorite is Keeping Up Appearances I just love Hyacinth Bucket insisting that the last name is Bouquet and quite often she comes up not smelling so good. I have seen all of the series and sometimes enjoy watching it all over again.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
Yes poor old Hyacinth usually came off poorly. There really are people like this in the UK which I guess makes it so funny!
1 person likes this
@RasmaSandra (27556)
• Daytona Beach, Florida
6 May
@garymarsh6 life would really be a ball living next door to her. Never a dull moment.
• Austin, Texas
4 May
My husband turned me on to British humor. I hunt for BBC comedy series on the Internet so I can binge watch them.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
Haha excellent. What a clever man!
1 person likes this
• Austin, Texas
8 May
@garymarsh6 - I'm dying to find some episodes of Doc Martin.
@rebelann (49194)
• El Paso, Texas
4 May
I saw those first 2 shows, they were fun to watch even though I didn't always get what they were eluding to.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
Yes some of the innuendos were quite subtle! Tomorrow I shall give some examples of some things I have said to my family! It is a wander I am still alive and kicking!
1 person likes this
@rebelann (49194)
• El Paso, Texas
4 May
I'll keep an eye out @garymarsh6
1 person likes this
@Hate2Iron (12860)
• Canada
4 May
LOL... I'm married to one and his humor took some getting used to ;) I love the Vicar of Dibley and Hyacinth... you will know who I'm talking about lol!!
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
Haha I Certainly do and do you know that there are actually people here like her. We usually nickname them Hyacinth! My secretary was one such example. She used to ask me if I would like a cup of tea. I used to reply would one be served in the Periwinkle porcelain or the Royal Doulton country roses ! Sorry but it was like a red rag to a bull! In the end she even used to answer me calling her Hyacinth!
• China
4 May
For a native speaker of Chinese,It is definitely hard to understand your sense of humour,even no matter how you beat your brain.I think it has to do with cultural gap and cultural tradition.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
Yes I am sure you are right there. It is marvellous that you can speak to us through this medium! It would be lovely to learn more about your life in China.
1 person likes this
@Sojourn (5180)
• India
4 May
Another intriguing article on the intricacies of the British way of conversations. I can see good old humbleness by not boasting about one's own achievements.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
You are correct. Most Brits do not boast about their achievements!
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (79107)
• Roseburg, Oregon
4 May
The British have a good sense of humor.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
4 May
OH yes we have to laugh at ourselves Judy.,
@Shiva49 (15653)
• Singapore
5 May
As I had responded earlier, I couldn't connect with Punch magazine humor and sarcasm. However, most in Asia enjoy Mr. Bean and Mind your Language - siva
1 person likes this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
OH my Mind your language. I don't think that they would show this again because the UK has become too PC. Yes that was hilarious but you know people from other countries used to love this show too. This is quite a funny clip which may give you a little laugh actually probably a big laugh!
Skip navigation Sign in Search Loading... Close Watch QueueQueueWatch QueueQueue The next video is startingstop Loading... Watch Queue Queue __count__/__total__ Loading... YouTube Premium Loading... Get YouTube without the ads. Working... Skip trial 1 mon
1 person likes this
@garymarsh6 (17687)
• United Kingdom
5 May
@Shiva49 Oh yes I remember that incident
1 person likes this