A Comparison of American and British TV Comedy Essay

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A Comparison of American and British TV Comedy

Sit-coms in television history have been one of the most important genres for expressing the values of the middle and lower classes in our society, not in order to make fun of them but to express the best of them in a softer way. For the general public today, the sit-com is like the pantomime was for the Victorians. British comedy still has a Victorian taste, but it is one that is only recognized and truly appreciated by the British, which makes the British sitcoms less universal, and it does also express a more localised British culture.

In reality, the appeal of American sit-coms in relation to the British is clear. In the UK, the use of social
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Little Britain centred around two actors who created a series of sketches; different situations which portrayed many peculiar stereotypes in English society, from a shoplifting seventeen year old girl living in east London, to a ‘disabled’ man in Birmingham on benefits who shamelessly uses his generous best friend to help him with the basic daily tasks, despite the fact that he is perfectly capable of doing these tasks himself.

These cultural issues make British sit-coms funny to those who recognise the social types, but if it is to be shown to an American audience the essential part of the funny elements are lost, principally because it is not related to Americans in the same way it relates to the English. In American sit-coms the appeal is more universal; there are more general jokes and the use of class is less than in the UK. Sit-coms like Friends and Will and Grace have a more general approach and the dramatisation of social issues is almost nonexistent. The jokes are directly related to the actors. When Will from Will and Grace wants to make a joke he makes one, it is not his background and his social status which is the joke but what he says. In Friends, the audience can observe the same phenomenon. Joe’s jokes have more to do with himself, or other members of the cast, than about his new girlfriend or the
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