Tag Archives: European humor

“Rather comical, dude”: American vs. British humor- an academic perspective

humorancient

Just watched a captivating Salman Rushdie interview in which he repeats a telling quote on the difference between American & British comedy.

British comedy is based on the question “Wouldn’t it be funny IF?” whereas American comedy is based on the question “Isn’t it funny THAT?

American humor is up-front, expressly stated, with laughs readily available and reflection rarely required. Conversely, British humor requires a curious sort of patience. It unravels itself slowly, titillating the imagination. It requires relationship-building- a character or mannerism may not seem funny until its been expressed over time and in many situations. For these reasons, it’s more intimate, and more likely to strike a lasting chord. You might guffaw hard at Zohan’s antics now, but in 20 years, you’re more likely to remember Basil Fawlty and chuckle.

Sybil Fawlty: You’re looking very happy Basil.
Basil Fawlty: Happy? Ah yes, I remember that.

ant-sexyIt’s sort of like a supermodel’s bare bottom versus the same celestial clad in a slit mini-skirt. While it’s amazing to have the instant gratification of the former, one somehow yearns for the artful allure of the latter.

Tintin: Billions of billious barbecued blue blistering barnacles!

tintin-grp

80 years. 50 languages. 200 million copies. A 3D movie with Spielberg & Peter Jackson in the works. The creator of Tintin, Georges Remi alias Herge, must be a happy ghost.

The babyfaced reporter and his Shabaab (crew) captured the imagination of Europe and subsequently the entire Commonwealth. Herge relied on a  potent formula: Meticulous research into the geopolitical climate , mischievous illustration, good vs. evil, consistent rib-tickling and satire, and above all, glorious disregard for political correctness. Or, to be precise (a la Thompson and Thomson :)), “a political correctness that disregards glory.”

All sorts of stereotypes are supremely exaggerated; from a naked fakir sitting on a bed of nails to a wild Arab sheikh with a tiger as a pet and a penchant for whipping blondes. We’ve got the savant professor, the foul-mouthed drunken sailor with the heart of gold, and the opera diva.The illustrations play along- African slaves are drawn coal-black, the Asians have no eyes…These comics would never get past the back room if published today, but they are bloody brilliant, and I’m glad that they’re around.

Sheikh Patrash Pashafakir_tintintournesolpendul

One more thing, the abuses in the book are….wait for it…..legendary! To make the book children-friendly but still stay true to his characters, Herge invented innovative non-swearwords used luxuriously by Captain Haddock. These include “ectoplasm!”, “Bashi-Bazouk!” “Patagonian Petticoat!“, and the most famous phrase of them all “Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles (Mille Millions de mille milliards de mille sabords!)”. Wit combined with alliterative allure make Haddock’s abuses among the most famous comic book expressions of all time, right up there with Mr. Lodge’s “Egad!” and Obelix’s “These Romans are crazy!“.

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*The download link to the entire Tintin series, in PDF, here.

Enjoy the magic of the comics that inspired the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and so many others. Jump into the world of the boy-wonder reporter who became a global icon, so much so  that General Charles de Gaulle once quipped that his “only international rival is Tintin”.