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The British Can be Quite Amusing

The British Can be Quite Amusing

I really don’t like Soccer. Or as my English friends insist to me, what I mean is that I really don’t like football. They have a point I guess. After all it is the only code of football where it is only the foot that does the job of propelling the ball.

But as I point out, lads, it’s Australia. If you say I am going to the footy tomorrow you will be asked which one. If you say soccer it will be clear from the get go that you are going to the game that I have always disliked.

I couldn’t care less about the World Cup and whether we are in it or not.

I don’t give a shit that is the “World Game.” Especially since it seems to me that  the Olympics movement and FIFA seem to be in a race to see who is best at having 1% of the organisers, officials and participants make a shitload of money while everyone else involved struggles. That and the ridiculous dive taking that millionaire players do and the fact you can play for 90 minutes and have an seemingly acceptable draw most times but then there are other games that can have the result decided on a one on one between the goalie and the kicker. It just does nothing for me.

I do like the club names though; especially the British and Japanese club sides.Sheffield Wednesday, Partic Thistle, Kashima Antlers, Arsenal, Crystal Palace are for more interesting than say, the St Kilda Saints.

I am guessing the British brought soccer here and the waves of migration from different countries over the last 70 years or so have only reinforced it. Of course for most of Australia’s existence if you weren’t indigenous you were almost certainly of British descent.

In a lot of respects we were very lucky that we have a British ancestral history to draw on. We have the best form of democratic government in the Westminster system although we do need to become a republic there is little wrong with the rest of the system.

Mind you not everything British was great and luckily we dodged a lot of things. For example we built our own car industry based more on USA influence and therefore did much better with Ford and GM Holden than we might have done with Rover and Vauxhall.

Television comedy however is one of the greatest gifts from our predominant British heritage. I think it is one of Britain’s great gifts to the world.

The British history of public entertainment through Shakespeare, theatre, pantomime and vaudeville helped produce a language rich in figures of speech

[you can never have too many double entendres] and a bawdy earthiness to the humour. The English class system also played a major role.

The English sitcom works with these elements much more strongly instead of say physical comedy or pathos. Of course a lot of these shows from the 70s and 80s could not be made today, at least not as they were. The depiction of women, minorities, and gays would be completely unacceptable to today’s standards.

Are You Being Served featuring the gay stereotype Mr Humphries being a perfect example. The Carry On movies [Shaun Micallef who does a fine Kenneth Williams impersonation is an obvious devotee], Benny Hill and Love Thy Neighbour are even worse. But you know, just thinking about Benny’s leer and Mrs Slocum’s pussy has brought a smile to my face.

And good comedians know comedy is a way of saying things that are controversial and confronting but saying them in a way that makes them palatable, and if you are really good at it, even thought provoking.

Of course there are dozens of British sitcoms that were gentle and nice and perfectly acceptable to your grandmother then and your hardcore rights activist now. Some of them were funny too just not as much. You smiled politely not roared sinfully or snickered nervously. Yes, I am talking about you Keeping Up Appearances and Dad’s Army.

Running beside these funny but standard sort of comedies was something else with the same roots but with content much more subversive, blacker and uniquely British.

These comedies had the elements of surrealism, cruelty and cringe.  The innovators, the game changers of British comedy built on the above traditions and added these elements front and centre in their work.

When these elements are present the line between acceptable and unacceptable blurs more easily. Its how what was once offensive is now ok and visa versa. Is it offensive only in some circumstances? Is it offensive depending on who says it?

The Goons, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Mighty Boosh, The Office, Allan Partridge and Little Britain  will be remembered long after your more conventional comedies like Dad’s Army and To The Manor Born are forgotten. A lot of that is because you really do wonder whether you should be laughing. The skits or the scenes are cruel or gross or bizarre and our standards and values are challenged.

In Little Britain the character Maggie Blackamoor vomits endlessly and prodigiously over food and her friend every time she is told, after she has eaten it that it has been made by a homosexual or someone who is Asian or Black.

Barbara Dixon the cab driver in the League Of Gentlemen is transgender and discusses her sex change operations in great detail with passengers. She is quick to correct gender based pronoun use but when she is politely and politically correctly asked for her preference she is rude and dismissive to the passenger.

Monty Python has a skit where a female TV quiz contestant ventures out loud she does not like “darkies” and the patronising show’s host after a critical pause offers up “Who does?”.

Later she wins the star prize which is a blow to the head and a dagger up the clitoris.I have often wondered on the use of the word “up” in the prize description after I got older.

The classic Fawlty Towers where Basil gets drunk and insults his German house guests by goose stepping around the hotel dining room pretending to be Hitler.


All fucking funny, all absolutely hilarious in fact but when you read it like I have written it….

Perhaps the most out there of them all, The League Of Gentlemen is back on the ABC and iView with three new episodes to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary.

Watching it last night I was once again blown away by its blackness and weirdness and casual cruelty. It is really very cringey, nightmarish and very funny.

Now I can hear some of you thinking “Well yes if you like that kind of thing.”

The Mighty Boosh’s Howard Moon and Vince Noir or a dagger up the clitoris is not everyone’s cup of tea.  For you it might be Mrs Slocum’s pussy hair getting wavy in the rain or Allo Allo’s statue of the Madonna with the big boobies or Captain Mainwaring’s “Stupid Boy!”

But as the actress said to the Bishop with a sexy leer and a wink in an English sitcom in the 70s and probably on a vaudeville stage 100 years earlier, “Try it you might like it.”

That’s the thing about British comedy and football codes; there is something for everyone.

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Some English Bands

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Brutal Death In Life