Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Trans-Atlantic Comedy Problem

My discussion here could possibly apply to many pairs of countries, but in this blog, I'm going to focus on two countries I am most familiar with. Humour doesn't travel well, and two countries with demonstrate this are the US and UK, in something I call the Trans-Atlantic Comedy Problem, or TACP.

I saw Ant-Man in the cinema in America with a group of my friends. I noticed that they were often laughing at things that elicited a mild chuckle from me, at best. It doesn't help that we Brits don't tend to laugh loudly while in public, particularly at the cinema. But I did find myself laughing at sentences that they didn't. After it ended, one of my friends asked me if I had enjoyed it at all, since I didn't seem to be laughing. I had, and was quite bemused that someone would have thought this meant I didn't like it. But this pulls into one of the reasons laugh tracks are used - American comedy encourages others to join in, and laugh with each other. I'm not actually opposed to the use of laugh tracks, as long as they're not overused.

Often, British versions of a show can get an American update, or vise versa. This can either go fantastic or be a complete disaster. On the fantastic end, there is The Office UK and US, both good shows with audiences on both sides on the Atlantic. On the disaster end, there is The Inbetweeners, a show that was popular in it's own country, yet few people have ever heard of the American version. One of the most oddest things about this is that while American humour doesn't always translate well, I've heard plenty of Americans talk about how much they love British humour. Some have even been shocked that I've never watched Monty Python. You have to bear in mind, it wasn't something cool and different to me growing up, it was some weird thing my parents watched.

My Mum says that she "doesn't get American humour" but she likes to sit down with a few episodes of Friends. I mean, I've yet to meet a human being who doesn't like Friends. I was talking to a UK friend of mine once, and said I found Friends episodes funny, even on rewatches, whereas I found UK shows less funny after watching them a few times. She agreed, so I'm not the only one who thinks this. I don't think either approach is bad, just... different? Also, "I don't understand American humour" was a common sentiment from the older generation, but seems to be dying off with younger people - perhaps because of our increased exposure to American media at a young age?

What's the route cause of this issue? One of the things I've noticed from the American side is putting in references that only Americans would understand. In Wreck-It Ralph (which is an awesome movie, don't get me wrong) there is one point where the characters are making jokes at the word 'duty' sounding like 'doodie.' At the time, I didn't know that doodie was American slang for faeces, and I didn't remember that because Americans pronounce their 't's' like a 'd' they would sound the same. Even though I could hear it, my brain must have been making it sound more like a t, as that was what I was used to. For reference, the English pronouciation, or at least how I say it (so many different accents in England) would be 'jew-tea.'

Of course, I'm sure this isn't the only, or even the primary, reason why, but it's one I've noticed. I myself tend to appreciate comedy from both sides, giving me the best of both worlds.

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