Great gardens… high tea… royal weddings (and those astonishing hats)…and of course, Regency novels… England has done much over the ages to put a smile on the world’s face.
But true Anglophiles like the Ballroomarians agree, one of the things we love most about our cousins across the Pond is that distinctly odd and wonderful British sense of humor.
Since the second week in September has become one of the saddest times of the year, as nobody here needs reminding, today I thought we could all use a good laugh. After all, living well is the best revenge; humor is one of the finest weapons in anybody’s arsenal, and nobody does it better than the Brits. So, send in the clowns!
First — a quick detour into Regency humor before we get to the jollification…
Joseph Grimaldi was the top stage comedian of Regency London. At the same time, the high world excelled in the art of the zinger, especially Beau Brummell, whose wit was so sharp that it was said of him that he could cut you dead and you wouldn’t even know it until your head fell off two days later. The reigning dandy made one of his smart cracks about Prinny’s weight one evening and finally got himself ostracized from Society for his rude tongue, on top of his other foibles.
Regency novels are full of rollicking rakehells pulling pranks on each other. Not all was Jane Austen propriety. Regency folk enjoyed slapstick humor, too. You can see it in Cruikshank cartoons, particularly the antics of Pierce Egan’s rakehell characters “Tom and Jerry.” These are “lovable scoundrels” as are often found in British humor, along with parody, word play, and an affection for eccentricity.
I hope the following clips make your day. They’re some of my favorites British funnies (with a few of particular interest to writers! ) Enjoy…and be sure and let us know what makes YOU laugh!
1. The great John Cleese and Michael Palin of Monty Python need no introduction. Concerning a lesser known department of the British government…
2. Blackadder is a series of historical comedy sketches starring “Mr. Bean” Rowan Atkinson as the droll adviser to our dear Prinny, played by Hugh Laurie. This episode is of particular interest to writers, titled “Ink and Incapablility.” If you have time for the full 15 minute clip to follow, you’ll even get to meet poets Byron and Shelley.
3. Black Books is a British sitcom that takes place in a bookshop. In this episode, the bookstore guys try to knock out a bestselling children’s book over the weekend. The rigors of the creative process…and the problems of big success as an author!
4. Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) of Keeping Up Appearances is company most worthy of Lady B’s ballroom. Ahh, what would it be like to be part-owners of a Grade II listed historical great house? Sadly, her relatives aren’t quite as fine Quality.
5. Last but not least, here’s Ricky Gervais trying to work out the meaning of some nursery rhymes, especially Humpty Dumpty. (Contains some swearing.)
Hahahahaha…. hoo. So what do you turn to when you need to laugh?