// 5 best comedies about being British
by Linjie, 14th May 2015
Edmond Wells / CC BY-ND
Getting to the soul of a different culture is always hard. Sometimes the best way is to look what the people find ridiculous in themselves. The British people are notorious in the world for their peculiar sense of humour and especially for their penchant for self-deprecation. Let’s find out what exactly they laugh about, through the films.
In no particular order, here are the top five brilliant comedies that are more British than the Queen.
1) Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
A hilarious black comedy about two lovable outsiders in the age of social disquietude. The eccentric pair of misfits with their pointed jokes voice some of the most important social issues of our time: inequality, precarious living, the modern distorted sense of self, etc. Their antics are strikingly relatable to the young generations everywhere. This comedy is peppered with very touching moments of overwhelming sincerity.
2) Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)
Some say that the defining feature constituting the “British experience” is awkwardness. This romantic comedy is a tribute to that. The story of a hapless thirtysomething trying to juggle her career and love affairs is a long time favourite Valentine’s Day feature, but also it reveals a lot about British sensitivities and that elusive feeling of appropriateness. Aside from being an instruction manual on how to behave if you happened to attend a funeral dressed as a Playboy bunny, it’s a modern take on a classic Jane Austen novel.
3) Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
A very British take on every copper film ever made. An eager overachiever armed with a book of procedure and a potted plant, an idyllic village full of dark secrets and an epic shootout in a suburban supermarket make up an epic police action brought to you by the nation that invented the word “adorkable”. This film impeccably channels the undying appreciation of local heroes whose superpowers are enthusiasm, fastidiousness, and paperwork.
4) Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2003)
Sometimes even the Brits themselves feel that their country is the stuff of fairy tales, where the accent itself can work magic, the Prime Minister loves disco, and even an average girl can marry a prince. This romantic comedy is a testament to that feeling, designed to prove that nothing can stop love: language barrier, social ladders, misunderstandings, and even the Atlantic. Especially when it’s Christmas. The most beloved modern fairy tale (aside from William and Kate, obviously) of the country of Shakespeare, Churchill, Harry Potter, and David Beckham's right foot.
5) Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (Terry Jones, 1983)
Look up “British humor” in a dictionary, and you will find a picture of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The legendary comic group explores a life of man, from the beginning to the end, in all its glory, hardship and absurdity, combining their trademark absurd
sketches with a song and a dance and an occasional philosophical reference. The result is an all-encompassing (and side-splitting) satire on all aspects British life: social classes, public schools, family relations, aspirations, views on religion, sex, wealth, life, and death.
Comedy is, naturally, based on exaggeration and surreality; but, as they say, many a true word is spoken in jest. This rough guide can be a way to overcome the shock of a new culture for the students and interns visiting Britain for the first time and provide a better understanding of British culture and spirit.