You can't be funny in the moors.
August 2, 2015 5:08 AM   Subscribe

Great Confrontations at the Oxford Union: That Englishmen are Funnier Than Americans was the third in a series of debates held at the Oxford Union debating hall in 1986, attempting to settle the debate over who is funnier, the Americans or the British. posted by roomthreeseventeen (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Clave at 5:36 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

That Englishmen are Funnier Than Americans


UK: Young Ones
US: Cosby Show.

I believe I should now drop the microphone for dramatic effect,
posted by Mezentian at 6:02 AM on August 2, 2015 [6 favorites]



UK: Benny Hill
US: Cheers
posted by Bonzai at 6:06 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I deny your reality a substitute my own.
posted by Mezentian at 6:10 AM on August 2, 2015

I remember watching this on PBS at the time. Thanks so much for reminding me!
posted by rock swoon has no past at 7:24 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'll give the sep's one thing that syrup is hilarious...

And bloody hell, Boris Johnson!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:29 AM on August 2, 2015

To be reminded of the existence of Jasper Carrott is most vexing.
posted by sobarel at 7:54 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

He is the Ayatollah Khomeni of Northern Ireland (last link) I was watching that one in 1986 and thought it was quite a dig. Still haven't heard a better one.
posted by hawthorne at 7:59 AM on August 2, 2015

Confirming fearfulsymmetry above, BoJo sighted entering the hall at 6:40, then speaking to the assembly about 15 seconds later. Hair showing the beginnings of its present shock-wig glory, and face as eminently punchable as ever.
posted by hangashore at 8:16 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Third debate. Is that Will Self in the audience?
posted by popcassady at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2015

For a contemporary take on this topic, there is the often hilarious podcast "International Waters."

Surprising (NOT SURPRISING) that no one is willing to take on Canadians though.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

They're laughing at Shatner not with him.
posted by biffa at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2015

Alf vs. The Young ones.
posted by clavdivs at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2015


UK: Young Ones
US: Cosby Show.

The Young Ones ran from '82 to '84.

The real test, perhaps, with regard to performance anyhow, is who's funnier with the same material. There are many, many, many examples of transatlantic translations of sitcoms, and though it pains me to say it, I think the Americans might just have the edge, at least in terms of programs that have made it to air.

(TIL that while most of Norman Lear's shows originated in Britain, Maude went the other way.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2015

Here's a long list of UK sitcoms with dates. There's some proper shite in there. US here.
posted by biffa at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2015

If we're counting points, Wodehouse counts for both the UK and the US.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Interestingly, so would Boris Johnson. He's a comedian, right?
posted by neonrev at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2015

Fuck Alf, this shit takes the cake.

"At the 1986 Comic Relief stage show, The Young Ones performed "Living Doll" live (following a short skit which involved Rick doing a comic song about showing his underwear and bodily parts, before being ejected from the group by Mike, and Vyvyan supposedly having backstage sex with Kate Bush with Neil as his contraceptive). The skit climaxed with Neil claiming Cliff Richard could not perform with them and John Craven had been booked as a replacement, only for Bob Geldof to appear on stage."
posted by clavdivs at 1:17 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

"A cup of tea is not funny. A glass of tea is funny!"
posted by RakDaddy at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2015

Hello, I grew up in the UK, lived in the US and Canada, and I can definitively state that the order of funniness per capita is 1. UK & US, tied for first place, 2nd Canada. Sorry Canada. Hope this clears things up.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:17 PM on August 2, 2015

Of course in the eighties alternative comedy was called such because it was just that, an alternative to much of the dross which populated the airwaves at the time, although some of that had something to recommend it (there is definitely still something to Morecambe and Wise, dated as it might be). I think in practice there is a wide amount of variance in both countries, between a Jim Davidson and a Stewart Lee, or a Jeff Dunham and a Louis CK.

I think some of the superiority the British might have felt is that while only our best comedy tends to get imported (or ripped off) to the US, we often get some of the worst sitcoms coming to us (hello Everyone Loves Raymond and King of Queens), and even we we get good comedy it gets shafted in terms of when it's on, or which channel (Seinfeld played late at night, Community was on some obscure cable channel, I don't think 30 Rock was even aired). When you get down to it, the general public often like some very unfunny stuff. The really great comedies are usually a treat one has to work a bit to find.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:07 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

"A cup of tea is not funny. A glass of tea is funny!"

To someone who hasn't been to a cafe pre-hipster.
posted by Mezentian at 9:08 AM on August 14, 2015

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