What Are You Laughing at

In: Other Topics

Submitted By AnePreane
Words 1791
Pages 8
What are you laughing at?
Simon Pegg, The Guardian, Saturday 10 February 2007

You could spend a lot of time exploring the differences between British and American comedy only to reach the conclusion that, ironically, they're pretty much the same. Back when director Edgar Wright and myself were writing our debut feature, Shaun Of The Dead, we were certainly banking on a comic universality in the story of a suburban waster battling the living dead. We had every confidence that the humour would translate. Indeed, we made only one subtle dialogue adjustment during the writing process, changing the word "pissed" to "drunk", so as to avoid any confusion between the conditions of being munted and mardy. The film went on to enjoy surprising success in the US, suggesting that surmounting the supposed gulf between our respective senses of humour requires nothing more than a light skip.
When it comes to humour, however, there is one cultural myth that just won't die. You hear it all the time from self-appointed social commentators sat astride high horses, dressed as knights who say, "Ni". They don't get it. They never had it. They don't know what it is and, ironically, they don't want it anyway. That's right: "Americans don't do irony." This isn't strictly true. Although it is true that we British do use irony a little more often than our special friends in the US. It's like the kettle to us: it's always on, whistling slyly in the corner of our daily interactions. To Americans, however, it's more like a nice teapot, something to be used when the occasion demands it. This is why an ironic comment will sometimes be met with a perplexed smile by an unwary American. Take this exchange that took place between two friends of mine, one British (B), the other American (A):
B: "I had to go to my grandad's funeral last week."
A: "Sorry to hear that."
B: "Don't be. It was the…...

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