Watch: Video Essay Explores the Difference Between British and American TV Comedy

     October 13, 2016


What makes the humor in American comedy different from the kind of thing we would see from our British counterparts?

That’s the subject discussed in a new video posted on the “Now You See It” channel on YouTube (via The Playlist), which begins with the dark humor of a Monty Python sketch that features a fatal “World’s Funniest Joke.” The video essay mostly focuses on the American adaptation of The Office when compared to the U.K. original, where Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is ultimately approached in a much different way from Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. As Gervais points out:

“The big difference is that Americans are more optimistic, and that’s due to the fact that Americans are told that they could become the next President of the United States, and they can. British people are told ‘it won’t happen to you,’ and they carry that with them.”

“British vs. American Comedy: What’s The Difference?” also explores how even the way The Office was filmed was changed, with the American version ultimately appearing lighter and brighter than the series that inspired it, and we see how the characters react differently to their respective bosses—who saw their character arcs also end in alternate ways: While Michael Scott was given a bit of a happy ending, Gervais’ David Brent ended his story begging for his job back.

Ultimately, the American version of The Office showed a more hopeful world, making the choice to go lighter visually an appropriate one. This video shows a particular sequence where Michael Scott shows up for a party that he wasn’t invited to; the American show allowed him some acceptance, while the British counterpart wouldn’t give David Brent that same love.

Sometimes, American TV will critique that American optimism. Series like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Louie have given us characters and moments much like what you’d see in shows from the other side of the pond. These characters often fail and have to face consequences, just like their sad-sack counterparts in the United Kingdom. Audiences wanting to see a good contrast of “us vs. them” will certainly enjoy this video.