I Loves Me British ‘umor, I Does

The first time I read a book that made me laugh until I cried, it was courtesy of my seatmate on the airplane to Japan. He introduced me to James Herriot and within minutes, I sniggered away like a frat boy on a panty raid. I didn’t even care about the dirty glances we received. (We tried to be quiet, but I think the rest of the plane contemplated murder by swizzle stick by the time we landed.) I had discovered British comedy in the tales about a newly-minted British vet. My life was forever changed.*

Years passed. I discovered Monty Python, Mr. Bean…Sacha Baron Cohen.  Smilie by GreenSmilies.comAnd now, courtesy of a Brit on my local Romance Writers of America loop, a new duo: Mitchell and Webb. 🙂

I have a ton more of their work to explore *rubs hands with glee*, but these are the best I’ve seen so far. (Can I just say, for the record, I love Youtube?)

First, one for the Pride and Prejudice lover. Please watch it. It’s only two minutes long.

Hee. In case you didn’t read the comments, that song at the end is Britney Spears’s Hit Me Baby One More Time.

Next, you all know how fond I am of Daniel Craig’s James Bond. (Wasn’t he smokin’ hot in Casino Royale?) Well if they’re going to make parodies like this one, I can handle it, baby!

So who are your favorite comedic writers? Do you tend to favor comedy that arises from one locale over another? Are there any other British comedy gems you could recommend to me, either in print or video form? Had you already heard of Mitchell and Webb and I’m just behind the cultural 8-ball? Again.

*My favorite is the story of Tricky Woo in All Creatures Great and Small. These are Molly-approved, too.

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80 thoughts on “I Loves Me British ‘umor, I Does

  1. Lovely to know you have good taste when it comes to humor 😀

    I don’t know Mitchell and Webb. I’ll check them out.
    My own personal favorite is Harry Enfield. He, Paul Whitehouse and Kathy Burke did a show called ‘Harry Enfield and Chums’ and created some of the most memorable characters:

    Kevin and Perry;
    Dirty Old Women;
    Wayne and Waynetta Slob

    Not to mention classic piss-takes on old British Government Public Information films.

    If you get a chance, check them out.

    FYI: Harry is the voice of the Travelocity Roaming gnome.

  2. I think I have a similar story…

    I first read Robert Asprin (I think he’s British) on a crowded Greyhound bus while nursing a wicked head cold. Oh, how I wish someone had warned me he was funny. I would have brought more Kleenex. The result was too many loud guffaws peppered with dramatically wet snorting. I was grossed out and mortified, but I couldn’t stop laughing. He writes stories about a wizard named Skeeve who runs a business called M.Y.T.H. Inc. (He always work the word ‘myth’ into his titles) He’s also an inter-dimensional traveller, and has a demonic looking partner called a Pervect. (Not a pervert)

    I can lend them to you, Hope. Just don’t read them on public modes of transportation.

  3. I love love LOVE British humour (a good thing since I live over here, huh? :D) particularly of sit-com variety. PBS shows re-runs of their old shows every week (usually on Saturday nights, but some places it’s on other days). My favorites are ‘Are You Being Served?’ ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ ‘As Time Goes By’ (starring Judi Dench!) and ‘Waiting for God’. In more recent contributions, I highly, highly recommend ‘Coupling’ all 4 seasons of which you can get off of Netflix. It’s like Friends, but raunchier. ^_^

    1. Need an edit button…

      Anyway, forgot to add, I just recently discovered Mitchell and Webb a day or two ago. Someone linked the “Write This” video…somewhere. I think on AW. They’re pretty hilarious!

      As a note: I didn’t realize you could successfully play “Hit me Baby one more time” on a spinnet! XD

  4. I was just browsing through your blog, and I just wanted to comment on how much I, too, enjoy James Herriot! The episode with Tricky Woo was indeed a good one. I first watched them with my dad, probably around the age of eight or nine. Undoubtedly great material! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks!

  5. British rapier wit makes them the undisputed masters of comedy. Anyone can make a fart joke, but only the best comedy teams can add a level of social/cultural depth that elevates it to the sublime, even as you cover your nose.


  6. Yes, a guy just read your blog. Stumbled across your post on British comedy, and I’m glad I did. That Agent Suave sketch in particular had me in tears.

    The last book that made me laugh until I cried was The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (yep, the guy from House, and a great British comedian). Found it at Borders a year ago in the dollar bin – a great investment.

    Thanks for giving me some good laughs today.

    1. Speaking of Hugh Laurie, I think you would love “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” which is Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s sketch comedy show. Four seasons, available on Netflix. You can also sample through YouTube.

  7. Mitchell and Webb are hilarious. You should also watch them in Peep Show. I’m not sure how you can get full episodes if you don’t live in UK, but is one not to miss.

  8. Stephen Clarke — his “Talk to the Snail” had me laughing so hard that I was afraid someone was going to call the guys in the white coats. Also, his “Merde” novels, especially the first one.

  9. Hiya! As a massive, massive fan of Mitchell and Webb, I heartily recommend this sketch:

    But most of all, you have to watch ‘Peep Show’. It’s a sitcom starring Mitchell and Webb, and it’s consistently hilarious, and in my opinion (and many others’) is better than anything they’ve ever done. 🙂

  10. Oh dear, I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop laughing at Mr. Darcy’s – what was it? Disco-freestyle? What the… – prowess (love that word!) until this time next year….. 😀
    Thanks for sharing!

  11. Great piece and esp the videos!!

    Have you watched any Blackadder? It stars Mr Bean himself (Rowan Atkinson) plus Hugh Laurie (also from House) and is excellent!!

    Another great British comedy series is Red Dwarf.

  12. My suggestions for great British humour, watch or rent the series:

    Blackadder, a three part series (Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie: appearing in the second set of programmes, I believe)

    Red Dwarf

    Keeping Up Appearances

    Fawlty Towers (John Cleese and Prunella Scales)

    Doc Martin (although technically a comedy/drama)

    P.S. I have the Herriot tales in hardcover, I love them so much.

  13. I’m with Sultana on this one. Mitchell and Webb are at their best on Peep Show. It really is quite brilliant.

    If you like Harry Enfield and Chums, you’ll probably like The Fast Show, which features Paul Whitehouse and a host of others in a fast moving sketch show.

    Then there’s Harry Hill. His show called TV Burp is excellent, though you’d have to have a good knowledge of British TV, particularly soaps, to appreciate the references.

    Finally, there’s Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. The episode where they hold a funfair/fete to raise money is priceless.

  14. I ADORE British humor–possibly you guessed from my Watery Tart title. I think it is the dry, proper delivery of perfect ridiculum.

    That P&P one was hysterical. And Mr. Bennett so would have Conga’d.

  15. Pingback: I Loves Me British 'umor, I Does « Tartitude - Classic British Sitcom Videos
  16. I love James Herriot; I’ve read his “All Creatures” series multiple times. I used to love the Tricky Woo story also, until I got my own dog and I quickly became Mrs. Pumphrey and she (you guessed it) became more spoiled than Tricky Woo. Great post!

  17. Great post – your writing style is fantastic. I’m not familiar with Mitchell & Webb, but I do love some good comedy. Especially darkly funny stuff like Vonnegut and Coupland. Between your post & the comments, I see a few new names I need to check out!

  18. Search you tube for “Hancock” with Tony Hancock, “Steptoe and Son” which was the forerunner of Sandford and Son, “Porridge” with Ronnie Barker.

  19. I’m so glad you posted this. Red Dwarf, Are You Being Served?, Keeping Up Appearances, and The Brittas Empire were some of my favorite comedy shows. Now I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, but I still love the Brits.

  20. My favorite British comedians are Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh. They have a very different style from anyone else out there. Psychedelic-punk surrealism might be the best way to describe it. Absurdly funny stuff. Check them out!

  21. Wow, I have to say I’m both overwhelmed and gratified by the number of people whose sense of humor is simpatico to mine, and who’d take the time to share their recommendations.

    I foresee many hours of sore abdominal muscles and giddy pleasure. Thank you, and keep them coming! 🙂

  22. If you like Mitchell and Webb you need to check out their series ‘peep show’, there’s a few of them now – brilliantly well done!

    As a Brit, some of the best home grown comedy I can suggest includes Blackadder, Red Dwarf (maybe have a first taste around season 4/5/6 my personal favourites), Bill Bailey comic stand up, Rhod Gilbert, very ranty welsh stand up (genius), Father Ted a HUGE must, Spaced (oh, definitely!), game on, league of gentlemen (a bit on the weird side). But if its specifically sketch shows you like, try The Fast Show – one of Jonny Depps personal favourites – he even stars in an episode!

    Hope thats a few to get your teeth into! Natxxx

  23. Mitchell and Webb are a recent discovery for me as well. But I highly recommend Armstrong & Miller if you haven’t seen them yet. David Mitchell and Robert Webb used to be writers for them before venturing out on their own.

    Thanks for these M&W clips, by the way. I particularly loved Agent Suave!

  24. You are not the only one who has just found out about Mitchell & Webb! I only discovered them a few months ago, and I love them. I’ve seen a few episodes of their “Peep Show” and want to see more.
    I love british comedy 🙂

  25. I highly recommend ‘Armstrong & Miller’ – plenty of samples on Youtube.

    @Sue – if you like Harry Enfield’s Public Information Film parodies, you’ll probably appreciate Armstrong & Miller’s WWII RAF officer sketches as well

  26. Rowan Atkinson also starred in the short-lived Thin Blue Line. My current fave among Brits (I’m a bit fickle for a Canadian) is Katherine Tate as Lauren Cooper, altho’ I confess to being a long-time Dr. Who fan.

  27. Those videos were too funny! I adore British humor, much more clever (in my opinion). I am a fan of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – only the British can make the end of the world that funny.

    Love the blog, thanks for the laughs!

  28. If you want something political, look out for “Yes, Minister”, or more recently or the oscar nominated movie “In The Loop”, based on the TV series “The Thick Of It”.

    Otherwise the list above is very good. My favourites are “The Vicar of Dibley”, and “Harry Enfield and Chums”

  29. What’s comedy? Laughing? What??? That’s a natural human function? OH. RIGHT. NORMAL people have senses of humor. I have only amusement at usually inappropriate things.

  30. Thank you! I have added Mitchell and Webb to my viewing list — British humour is the best. You might add the movie Cold Comfort Farm to your viewing list. It’s a spoof of Gothic romances and is an early role for Kate Beckinsale (before she went all Hollywood on us).

    Another terrific series is Jeeves and Wooster done in the early 1990s, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Wet-your-pants funny. The series is based on the P. G. Wodehouse novels. If you haven’t read anything by P. G. Wodehouse, then you have a new series of books to keep you laughing.

  31. Thanks for introducing me to Mitchell and Webb! If you’re interested in British comedies, you may enjoy some of my favorites: Little Britain, French & Saunders, My Hero, Fortysomething & The Catherine Tate Show just to name a few.

  32. Wallace and Grommit, Monty Python, Coupling, Top Gear, and so many more keep my family laughing our way through life and now we have a new one to add. Thanks for the laugh!

  33. I really love old British comedic plays. Now plays are meant to been seen, not read, but if you read these plays out loud they’ll be almost as funny as if seen. I chuckle, anyway.

    Try “Engaged” by W. S. Gilbert, “Getting Married” by G.B. Shaw, and anything by Tom Stoppard. Who is actually Czech, I think.

    There’s a cute modern musical out there based on P.G. Wodehouse’s character Jeeves. It’s called “By Jeeves” and is actually based on a 1975 musical “Jeeves”. In any case, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn worked on it. Not a huge fan of Ayckbourn’s other plays, but this was a really fun show.

    Start with those and see where they lead you. You’re in good company as a lover of British comedy!

  34. This is such an awesome list, guys! Thank you for sharing. I’m getting contacted by people in other venues who tell me they’re writing your suggestions down. It isn’t just me and my family who will benefit. 🙂

  35. I second the suggestion about “The Mighty Boosh” — especially the first season, I think. Adorable, absurd and hilarious. Post-Modern Hope & Crosby!

    Try “I’m Alan Partridge” with Steve Coogan as an eccentric talk show host. Insanely great.

    In the Irish vein, go back a few years to the incredible “Father Ted” — not what you’d think, at all. Just amazing and so, so funny!

    Your original post was wonderful and boy, has it brought us Britcom lovers out of the woodwork!

  36. Black Books with the fabulous Bill Bailey and even more fabulous (although Irish, not British) Dylan Moran is an absolute must! As are both the afore-mentioned in their stand up shows.

    Red Dwarf is a total cult classic.

    Mock The Week cracks me up – although make sure you also check out some older shows, before the departure of the inimitable Frankie Boyle.

    Other Brit stand ups of note – Rhod Gilbert, Michael McIntyre, Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard … And again with the Irish – Dara O’Briain.

  37. I read & absorbed the Herriot anthologies when I was a youth in Yorkshire. They’re like Reader’s Digest mags to a certain age group, they were just there, everywhere.

    Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry also made a couple of series called “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, featuring this sort of thing:

    Bear with the picture quality, the words are fireworks.

    Also see ‘The Fast Show’, and pretty much everything else Nat says above… ooh, and ‘Black Books’ as well, while we’re blowing our own comedic trumpet. Enjoy!

  38. Check out Bob and Jim at http://www.bobandjim.co.uk or YouTube channel ‘BobandJimUK’ or join their Facebook page ‘Bob and Jim’.

    They are contemporary British humorists in the spirit of The Two Ronnies, Harry Enfield, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, Monty Python, Benny Hill, Rowan Atkinson, Mitchell and Webb, Armstrong and Miller, Father Ted, The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh etc.

    Honestly, I promise it’s worth a look.

  39. I love British humor! Have you seen the Catherine Tate Show? She cracks me up. Love Monty Python – Spanish Inquisitions and dead parrots and more. Love Eddie Izzard, too!

    But when it comes to British humor in books, I have to go with a classic: Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. That book can still make me laugh.

    And I love P.G. Wodehouse’s books, too.

  40. Wow..I like James Herriot..This is my first visit to your site and i can say that its the cool blog i have visited after long time. Thank you. I’ll have to go read up more on tweet backs though…

  41. Oh I love British comedy too, all of those mentioned above are great. One of my favs was The Vicar of Dibley with Dawn French. So hilarious! Lately I’ve been downloading some British comedy podcasts – like the Friday Night Comedy podcast – don’t always get the political references but still funny! North Coast Muse @ http://sally1029.wordpress.com

  42. These were just hilarious!! I’ve heard of Mitchell and Webb, but never watched it. Anyone remember “Benny Hill”? And I’m a fan of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and their movies. I watch a lot of BBC America and my favorite show is “Top Gear” which is just as hilarious!

    I love the British humor! They’re a lot more open about sex and other issues that the FCC here in the US sensors out.

  43. I typically try to write a personalized acknowledgement of each commenter’s note, because the sense of community I’ve received from this wee blog is hugely important to me. However, there’s just too many here to keep to that same standard.

    This is not a complaint! 🙂

    Please just know that I’m reading everything you kind folks have to say and keeping notes. I’ve even had time to check out a few links and it’s your fault my shirt now has coffee stains. (Okay, that was a lie, but it came close to being true this morning. ;))

  44. I found your site via the WordPress start-up page where it was highlighted. I find it quite amazing, and most pleasing, that British humour goes down so well on your side of the pond. This is particularly relevant to me because I have recently published several humourous books that have not interested British readers on the least (actually I think they hate them, and just don’t ‘get’ me at all), but are beginning to build a small following in North America. Ditto my site. With a couple of exceptions, all my regular readers hail from either the U.S or Canada. So I’d like to say to any American/Canadian reading this – You all have great taste and an excellent sense of humour. Thank you all.


  45. Thank goodness I hadn’t made my coffee yet! LOL The Pride and Prejudice video is priceless. I’m still cackling about it.

    I’m a big fan of British humor and sitcoms, and Red Dwarf is a particular favorite. I adore Eddie Izzard (even if he DOES rock female clothing so much better than I do!) Oh, and Black Books is hilarious — a bookstore owner that hates customers. LOL I think I saw it listed recently on Hulu.

    And P.G. Wodehouse is a genius. I heartily recommend his books. I’ve got to go find my copies now!

  46. Just stumbled on this by accident following comments on another blog post. Glad to see so much appreciation of British comedy.

    Reading the comments and wracking poor tired mind to think of other British comedy greats, but you lot seem to have covered some pretty wide territory.

    Please, if you look for “Coupling” (or “The Office”) make sure you get the British versions, not the American spin-offs!

    And branching into the film world, has anyone seen “The Full Monty”, “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, or “A Fish Called Wanda”?

  47. Botanist, hello! Thanks for the heads-up about the difference between the American and British versions of “Coupling”. I hadn’t realized they were different.

    As for the big screen British offerings, I have seen all of those except for “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.” Loved them all.

    Thanks for the suggestions and I hope your tired mind recovers. 🙂

  48. Mind refreshed after a nice cuppa, thank you.

    Back to the small screen, I don’t recall anyone mentioning Morecambe & Wise (e.g. The Breakfast Sketch), The Two Ronnies (go to Youtube and search for “fork handles”), Porridge, Absolutely Fabulous, or Spitting Image.

  49. A few final recommendations, before fond memories overwhelm me and I start ranting over the paucity of worthwhile programming on North American TV 🙂

    Keeping Up Appearances
    The Good Life
    2.4 Children
    ‘Allo ‘Allo
    Only Fools and Horses

  50. Ha, “Only Fools and Horses.”
    This one’s for you Botanist (I checked out your blog) you look around the same age as me. Remember “The Goodies.”
    Goodie Goodie Yum Yum.
    Thanks for this post, Hope 101.

  51. Matty, I see you have found a fellow of like mind, LOL. You are most welcome, and thank you for your contribution. I have my reading/viewing time spoken for over the next many years.

  52. Can’t believe that “Bottom” didn’t get a mention on this page, fantastically funny, and very British. Give it a try.

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