Britain’s unique take on humor may seem baffling at first. Heavy on self-deprecation, almost undetectable sarcasm, and constant deadpan delivery, British humor can feel like a whole new language. But fear not, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to understanding (and using!) it.
Laugh at yourself
The key to understanding British humor is knowing not to take yourself too seriously. There is no room for egos in British humor.
Comedians to look out for: Jon Richardson, Richard Ayoade, Jack Whitehall and Sarah Millican
TV shows to check out: Would I Lie to You?
Wait, were they joking?
Sarcasm and irony are ingrained in DNA of British people. They can leave you wondering as to whether it was indeed a joke (or not?)
Sarcasm can be hard to spot in a new language and a new culture, and in Britain the usual clues of hyperbole (exaggeration) and an overemphasis on adjectives are stressed even less, making it harder to pick up. Luckily, sarcasm is used so often in day-to-day life that you will soon be a natural at detecting it. Be sure to use the tone, context and non-verbal clues such as the proud smile that spreads across the speakers face (Brits struggle to hide their delight at a perfectly timed sarcastic comment) as a guide.
Comedians to look out for: Jack Dee, David Mitchell and Stewart Lee
TV shows to check out: The Thick of It, The IT Crowd, The Office
Don`t take everything too seriously
Brits are famous for being very, very polite, but a surefire sign that a Brit likes you is if they happily ‘offend’ you with the occasional comment. These are not mean-spirited statements, but rather a playful exchange of verbal sparring delivered with a smiling face and no apology. It can be used to make light of differences with new friends in an attempt to spark conversation.
Comedians to look out for: Ricky Gervais, Lee Nelson and Simon Amstell
TV shows to check out: The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner and Peep Show
British people find humor in almost everything
Brits use humor to lighten even the most unfortunate, miserable moments. There are few subjects they don’t joke about. It’s not used to shock and offend but rather because Brits turn to laughter as a form of medicine when life knocks them and those around them down. In most cultures, there is a time and place for humor. In Britain, this is not the case.
Comedians to look out for: Jimmy Carr, Billy Connolly and Micky Flanagan
TV shows to check out: Little Britain and Black Books
Despite Britain’s reputation as a rather serious place, humor really is the nation’s default setting – British are always looking to spice up our day with a sprinkle of laughter