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Charles Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Benny Hill, John Cleese and Rowan
Atkinson as Mr. Bean are examples of famous international comedians –
and all of them are British. But why has British comedy been so
successful? One answer may be that humour and laughter are very
important to the British. The traditional image of a British person for
many foreigners is a conventional and reserved person who doesn’t show
any emotion. However, perhaps because they are generally reserved
people, they use humour to deal with life and all its problems.
Everybody in Britain is expected to have a sense of humour. And the
British use humour and irony in situations which might seem very
strange, almost frivolous, for other cultures. Professors giving serious
lectures at university often start off with a joke to get people relaxed
and interested. Business people mix humour and statistics when making
important presentations. Some doctors try to get a laugh to relax their
patients. Even priests tell jokes in church!
Why is British humour often difficult for foreigners to understand?
Jokes are related to culture. They often refer to people and places that
are only familiar to the British themselves. Іf a visitor to Britain
sees on a wall “Guy Fawkes, where are you when we need you?” it would
probably seem a meaningless piece of graffiti. You need to know that Guy
Fawkes was the man who tried to blow up the English parliament building
in 1605. Once you know that, you realise that the joke is saying that
politicians in parliament are useless and people would be better off
І don’t care what it’s been, І want to know what it is now!
To understand that joke, you need to know that “it’s” is a short form of
“it is” or “it has”, and you need to know that “been” and “bean” are
omonyms. A lot of British humour is universal and because of that
comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Benny Hill and Mr. Bean have been
successful all over the world. Their humour is visual and they express
it in situations that people can ail relate to — they can all have a
good giggle or fall about laughing.
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