Humor vs. Humour

A fascinating take on the difference between English comedy and American comedy by Stephen Fry. Take a listen. What do you think?

To a further extent, I feel like part of the American outlook on life (particularly as portrayed in comedy movies) is that of the misfit, the outcast, that somehow manages to win. For the past 30 years, the basic formula has been

1-    The outcast hero is not accepted by the mainstream group

2-    It is imperative for the outcast hero to win (to save a home, to save a rec center, etc.) but is stymied by the rules (either of a contest or society in general)

3-    Against all odds, somehow, the outcast hero (with his band of weirdos) wins the contest (and society rewards him.)

American movies that follow that formula: Caddyshack, Blues Brothers, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, every Adam Sandler movie, just about every Will Ferrel movie, every Jim Carrey movie…

The weird thing is the celebration of the outcast, the rebel, but how is that protagonist rewarded? By acceptance and laurels from the society that previously shunned him. Which makes no sense to me- be celebrated for your rebellion, be happy in being an outcast. In a strange sense, that’s the reason Napoleon Dynamite was such a success; he’s weird and doesn’t change even though he “wins.” I liked that.

Having seen improvisation in Australia, the Philippines, Canada, England, and more, I can honestly say that there isn’t much difference in what makes us all laugh. There are tiny little things; like a word or a reference, but the basic fundamental act of humans trying to be humans is still the best kind of laugh.


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