When it comes to humour ... you can count on the British

The world’s funniest people are the British. For, in addition to humour, they have something called wit.

Anwer Mooraj December 15, 2012

This piece is essentially for the Brits living in Pakistan who still get a lump in the throat when they think of the old country, now that Christmas is around the corner. It is also for the Pakistanis who studied in England who, after conducting deep, profound research in locations of profound philosophical discourse like pubs, grocery shops, soccer matches and Irish wakes, came to the inescapable conclusion that the world’s funniest people are the British. For, in addition to humour, they have something called wit of which the irrepressible Noel Coward was a past master. He was a deft master of the cutting phrase, the studied insult, the withering squelch, the passing comment. His flippancy was often a facade to cover his intense feelings about certain standards of behaviour and the complicated business of living. Coward’s wit was largely evanescent. It leapt nimbly to his tongue, fulfilled its purpose in amusing, chiding, rankling, commenting or simply embarrassing, and then fitted into the crackle of conversation. In his passing away, England lost her greatest and most innovative wit.

In September 2002, a newspaper in England revealed that Fawlty Towers was the television industry’s favourite programme. The triumph of Fawlty Towers came as no surprise for the comedy is traditional and the cast of characters predictable. The nagging overbearing housewife. The incompetent authority figure. The doddering old fool and the dim witted foreigner. All accepted ingredients for a British comedy. Obviously this meant that John Cleese and his gang must have edged out a whole string of comedies at the opinion poll. They were — Not the Nine O’clock News; Mind your language; Yes Minister ; The Benny Hill Show; Black Adder; Drop the Dead Donkey; Dad’s Army; To the Manor Born; French and Saunders; The Irish RM; ’Allo ‘Allo; The Vicar of Dibley; Rumpole of the Bailey; One foot in the Grave; The Darling Buds of May; The New Statesman; Only when I laugh and Porridge. I’ve probably left out a few. But it doesn’t matter. After all, they belong to a different another time and culture.

The world’s

In a sense, the forerunners of these sitcoms were the radio comedies of the ‘fifties and the ‘sixties. Programmes like Take it from Here, The Navy Lark, I.T.M.A., The Men from the Ministry, Hancock’s Half Hour, Beyond our Ken, Round the Horne, Bedtime with Braden, Much Binding in the Marsh — and that granddaddy of British cult comedy — The Goon Show, whose most famous fan was Prince Charles. Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Seacombe wrenced comedy into a new dimension with an anarchic style that still influences British comedy today. Those were the days when we first met Bluebottle, Neddie Seagoon, Moriarty,Henry Crun, Minnie Bannister, Major Bloodnock and that suede-voiced villain Grytpype-Thynne. Driven by an inspired lunacy the combined manic brilliance of Sellers, Milligan and Seacombe spawned a cult of quick fire humour which has turned the cassettes into collectors’ items. The Radio Times issue of October 31, 1958 described the Goon Show as … “Outrageous, surrealist, unpredictable cartoons in sound”. In the previous year Books and Arts felt … “The Goon Show was more than a comedy. It is a state of mind, a commentary on the way we live. But it was The Sunday Times in 1958 that paid the final tribute, when it described the show as … the ultimate in pure radio. There were other British comedians who could hold an audience entertained for hours. People like the Two Ronnies, Jonathan Miller and the inimitable Tony Hancock. His masterpiece The Blood Donor was the funniest thing I had seen since Jacques Tati.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2012.


ahmed41 | 8 years ago | Reply

British Horse-meat humour :

Martin Lewis @MartinSLewis

I don't get why everyone is so upset about the horse meat thing. I mean seriously, why the long faces?



It's not a laughing matter. Friend of mine got seriously ill after eating a Findus Lasagne. Thankfully she's now in a stable condition.

Like Reply


A Tesco burger walks into a bar. ‘A pint please.’ ‘I can’t hear you,’ says the barman. ‘Sorry’ replies the burger. ‘I’m a little bit horse.’

-~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Tesco would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for the DN Neigh test.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Are you in favour of horse meat in your burgers? Yay or Neigh?


Tina | 8 years ago | Reply Classic Britcoms you can't beat - not without a club anyway.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ


Most Read