Has anyone heard the line `All English comedy is about class' or words to that effect? And if so, any ideas of the source?
Posted by Jay Tea on :
I can't give you a source for the exact quotation Linden, but I can tell you that as a linguist studying humour in the nineties '`All English comedy is about class' was a given tenet and a wonderful angle of approach to discussing many elements of social linguistics.
Example: hilderstone.ac.uk One of many online sources that reflect your quotation...
quote: LOWER CLASS/WORKING CLASS
Stereotypical qualities: ignorant, rude, no-nonsense, unimaginative (and yet good at tinkering, like in Wallace and Gromit), heavy local accent, or, alternatively, cloth-capped, decent, honest, faithful
Houses: terraced houses, council houses in council estates or inner-city tower blocks, again, council owned
Stereotypical qualities: ambitious, officious, snobbish (the more snobbish the more ignorant), un-manly, mean, pushy, sometimes camp
Accent: straight or affected upper class, can also be strong local accent, especially with industrialists and “self-made men”
Types: social climber; nerd, or, alternatively, blokish/laddish; managerial/bank manager type
Names: Cassandra, Georgia, Patricia, Oliver, William
Houses: semi-detached, detached, bungalow
Stereotypical qualities: silly (hee-hawing laugh) drunk (as a lord), easy-going, generous, stylish, confident, sometimes masterful, sometimes camp
Accent: camp and hee-hawing, or, indolent and drawling or, alternatively, clipped military accent
Types: army officer, drunken lords and judges, Champagne Charlies (like Andrew), upper class twits (like Edward), bounders and cads (Terry Thomas) sometimes camp
Houses: country estates, expensive town houses
Names: traditional – Charles, William, Elizabeth
These are merely some of the traits and stereotypes we look for and recognise in classic English comedy. In my seminar I shall be showing short video clips illustrating how these stereotypes are exploited in some of the best known English comedies: Monty Python, Mr Bean, Only Fools and Horses and Dads Army.
Posted by Chimera on :
I never heard the expression but I can think of dozens of examples... Keeping up Apearances, Are You Being Served, even Red Dwarf (to name older but widely "popular" shows). The first is an "out doing the Jones type show". The second is a maintance vs. working vs. executive class type show. The last makes a point of Lister being the lowest rank on the ship (I know any "military" progam is going to enclude rank but Rimmer always made a point about its importance).
I don't know if most shows about jobs should count as that's automatically going to include a hiarchy whether its the Simpsons/Drew Carey/whatever or the Thin Blue Line (I'm just seeing how many outdate shows I can mention in this post... darn, I should've used Larverne and Shirley as the American example). I don't know if its as common in later years (I know it still occurs, hell its in almost every program but I no longer know if its as esential to the the main story line). I know it would be hard to hide the difference between the haves and the have nots but I can name quite a few American TV shows that probably did Alf, Friends (although I never watched that so I really don't know), Cosby Show (did that mention poor people.... hell, probably because Cosby wants to seem compassionate), Mork and Mindy?, Growing Pains, Family Ties (damn I'm old, and I haven't watched much TV for the past 20 years), ect. Although Giligan's Island had the Howells, Adam's family and Beverly Hill Billies were more wealthy than most... plots around money are common, around class status probably not as much so in America. I know its likely every show ever has had a feel good (or is that bad) "poverty episode" but I do think its been more used as the central theme to the over all plot in British sitcoms and probably other British programs as well.
ETA: I watched some TV in the 70s and 80s, didn't even have TV through most of the 90s and only watch a few hours a week now so I'm no expert on the subject.
Posted by Linden on :
It's not only modern comedy on TV and films. Jane Austen's novels are about class (usuallly it's what keeps the hero and heroine apart until the end). In Shakespeare's comedies we have the nobility falling in love and the lower orders doing the comic turns. Malvolio in `Twelfth Night' is still a great comic -- or near tragic -- role.
Posted by damsa on :
Mr. Bean wasn't about class. Unless you mean class as in classy.
Posted by darth_borehd on :
In my opinion, almost all British comedy is about the absurdity of imposed rules and the eroding of individual freedoms and dignity. Everything I've seen from the UK--Douglas Adams to Monty Python to Brazil--seems to carry that central theme.
* The Hithhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has Arthur Dent's home about to be destroyed because he didn't file a complaint about the propsed highway construction--the plans of which were in the next city, in a locked file cabinet, in a unused lavatory, behind a door that says "beware of leopard."
* The Monty Python crew attacks a man and starts removing his liver because he filled out a liver donor card.
* The greatest hero (and criminal) in Brazil is a man who fixes people's heating/air conditioning without making them fill out the proper forms.
Posted by aranea russus on :
I think that was more true a few decades ago (Hence if you look at Monty Python, Are you being served)
I think it's true that class comedy does appeal more to the British, but it's a bold statement to say that that's all they are about.
I find it fairly hard to see how Hitchhikers guide, and Red Dwarf could be class centred comedies, although class gags are used.
Looking at TV schedules now we have things like "Two Pints of Lager..." (they're all working class I guess). "Kumars at number 42" (race related comedy) "Coupling", (UK answer to friends)
So maybe it was once true (in the era of Carry On...) but not so much now, in my opinion.
Posted by Jay Tea on :
I don't think British comedy has ever 'all' been about class but there is no denying it's influence on our sense of humour and televisual output. The first thing any comedian has to do is connect with their audience and class japery does this instantaneously.