Why UK comedy is far better than its American counterparts

It is an age old argument. One that has been going on for many years. One that cavemen discussed so often with powerpoints that the imprints their projectors left on the walls have been wrongly interpreted millennia later as quaint cave paintings. It is one that dinosaurs pondered and then tried to fight each other over but discovered their arms were too short, as always in dinosaur battles. No wonder they never sorted this out. It is the ongoing battle between Comedy Giants: the UK vs the USA.

Who is funnier? Some argue it depends on the audience. Some argue it depends on the genre.

But never fear; for at last, there has been a solution. A winner has been found, and that winner (obviously) is…

The UK.

Ignoring my ties to the country having been born in it, experienced what passes for food here and, as “52% of our days are overcast, [am] infused with a wistful melancholy” (points for guessing the quoted comedian). For all you comedy cynics, here are the reasons why the UK wins:


No, not the tasty chum kind. The kind that shows the UK have been at comedy for decades. The first ever joke originated in Scotland. Okay, maybe I’m over-exaggerating. But we do have a rather impressive back catalogue of genuinely funny early stuff, from the Ealing Comedy films, through to The Goons and finally the household names of Monty Python.

I don’t seem to remember any American comedy troupes of the 60s and 70s having quite as much influence on both sides of the pond. An American by the name of Terry Gilliam, apparently bored with that his native USA had to offer, even defected to the Pythons.

In fact, it is not only the older comedy which has influenced America. A lot of more recent things have done so as well: The Office, for example. It was so good, they didn’t even try and change the name.

Brain vs Brawn

The USA seems to have a heavy focus on people falling over or men being kicked in their baby-making equipment. While we can all agree that this is hilarious, especially when it doesn’t happen to you, watching it on TV isn’t the same as seeing it happen in real life.

The over saturation of slapstick seems to be sapping America of any other kind mind lubricating comedy. Even sit-coms that are popular over here: Friends, The Simpsons, Family Guy, all seem to have a back up plan of people getting hit on the head or in the face or falling over, clutching their knee and saying “Aaaooww” for half an hour.

Whereas the USA only seems to produce sit-coms, and lots of them (so much so that I imagine there must be annual events where entre conference venues are filled with aspiring sit-com actors and writers). Us Brits have a much more diverse range, from quiz shows that are both informative and highly entertaining, like QI, to bizarre and mind bending spectaculars like The Mighty Boosh. UK comedy tends to be a work out for the brain, the eyes and the spleen.


Some may say that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. In that case, I am pleased that we have mastered it so well, in order to move onto more highbrow comedic genres. It is the usual form of speech in the UK and is so engrained that we often have to add notes at the end of written messages to make it clear that we were, in fact,not being sarcastic.

It is also something that America is clearly still struggling with, so, rather than give it our notes and feel sympathetic, we watch in amusement as it fails to achieve what we managed all those years ago. If America cannot even master sarcasm; what hope is there for its attempts at more intricate comedy?

I’m sure you’ll all agree with me. But if not, why not?

This post was written by Jenny Duck. Jenny is a recent English Literature and German graduate with a passion for writing. She likes to blog about literature, films, music and anything that makes her laugh. She writes for Keele Conferences.

Image by Alan Cleaver

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