Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Raffaele Lagattolla, a young Englishman who wanted to share his passion for Cricket with everyone and encourage Americans to take an interest in it. Thanks Raffaele!
The British sense of humour is one of the most talked about irksome points of relations between our nation and the rest of the world. Namely that most other countries have a difficulty in getting their heads around it, except perhaps ex parts of the Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand etc. This is often assumed to be the fault of the inhabitants of that country, however nothing (in my opinion) could be further from the truth.
I will use the example most known to myself, and that would happen to be the differences in American and British humour. May I first say that some American comedies are pure pieces of gold; I can name some that have me laughing on the floor for hours on end. Programmes such as Family Guy, The Simpsons, South Park, Scrubs and so on. However I have noticed in my 18 years on this planet that the main selling point of good old American laughter is that it tends to be both fairly blunt, and rather obvious. Often making the viewers laugh out loud rather than merely chuckle or snigger.
This here is the main difference; British humour (for me) has four cornerstones that you will rarely find in any other countries except perhaps the ones listed above. Now before I start I am not saying that British humour is impossible to understand for all foreigners, merely that it is quite radically different and therefore difficult to pick up. However once you get it undoubtedly it is fabulous.
The first cornerstone is undoubtedly that of understatement. Without us knowing it many Brits including myself will be continually understating the current situation or state of affairs. A rather classic example is that of Captain Eric Moody, who in 1989 piloted a Boeing 747, which has lost ALL of its four turbofans. 99% of the passengers were either British or Australian, this is the statement made by Captain Moody.
â€œLadies and Gentlemen this is Captain speaking, we currently have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damndest to get them working, I trust you are not in too much distress.â€
A masterpiece, there was no screaming or shouting, nobody tried to jump out of the door and the plane landed safely with no ill health present. If any American should read this article this first cornerstone is crucial to understand, all British comedies and people understate almost everything in life. Don’t try and figure it out, trust me just go along with it. Eventually it will become almost second nature should you stay here long enough.
The second cornerstone is that great mystery, irony. This is nigh on impossible to explain, however rest assured that we constantly find the ironies in life and they are source of enormous amusement to us. My friend recently said to me that he was tougher than a wall of bricks, rather ironic that later that day a brick fell off a construction site duckboard and knocked him senseless. I should have probably called the ambulance quicker than I did, but the fact was that both all my friends and me were paralyzed with laughter, almost on the floor. He was fine before you all call me a heartless soul.
The third is undoubtedly that of the macabre. The Brits have a unique sense of humour when it comes to death and mortality. British funerals often contain a great deal of jokes and laughter, alongside the more sombre moments. We often find the pain of others a constant source of amusement; in fact while I waited for my friend to come back to his senses in hospital we shared at least thirty jokes at his expense, all (to us) hilariously funny. Laughter seems to be our unique way of coping with the tragedy of death and suffering, so much so that after a terrible event a great deal of very macabre jokes will be inevitably circulated by the public that would probably be considered in very bad taste by many foreigners. The fact is though that Brits like me find them incredibly funny, although many of us feel ashamed that we laugh, but we cannot seem to help it.
The fourth is perhaps a tad unsanitary, but to us Brits it is part of everyday life. I am talking about the world of sexual innuendo. The British love innuendo, and have an ability to see it in even the most innocent statements. In fact to many foreigners our bluntness about innuendo is quite shocking, and many of us perfect it before we are even 18. In factâ€¦
Perfectly innocent at first, but this is the Brits we’re talking aboutâ€¦ If you don’t understand then find an explanation of â€œgetting your leg loverâ€ in British Slang. Then you’ll get it.
It is difficult to explain why we do this, but I believe the simplest answer would have to be that it is part of the British national psyche. To laugh at others, us, the absurd and even illness as a source of humour. For example my grandmother died recently from lung cancer induced by smoking. Tragic yes, but at the funeral I said the following words. â€œWellâ€¦ shall we set up a smokers corner?â€ I tell you now, everybody laughed at that. We were all very sad, but that is British way.