Where does the infamous British humor come from?

Us ‘English lot’ tend to have quite a dark humor. Myself, personally, I have quite an offensive sense of humor, not towards anybody in particular, just whoever I’m talking to at the time. A light (VERY light) example, might be something like this:

“Hey Jake”
“Hey x
“My code is being a right pain in the backside today”
“Probably because nobody loves you”

Now like I said, I don’t direct this at anybody specifically, I will throw this at absolutely anybody who I know will be able to take it. But nonetheless, I digress.

On my flight home to Geneva last weekend, I read an article in The Times talking about British satirism. It explains that during ‘The Great War’ (WWI) things were obviously very terrible. Many would die on a daily basis and many of these would be simply boys. The soldiers needed a way to just get through it and they found it in humor.

A paper called The Wipers Times was produced in the trenches by the soldiers at Ypres, Belgium.


Most soldiers were actually amused by their situation; you know, when they weren’t dying, freezing or terrified. I don’t mean they had a good time or that it was fun for them, just that it was funny, they basically laughed their way through the war, what other choice did they have. To quote journalist Phillip Gibbs,

“The war-time humour of the soul roared with mirth at the sight of all that dignity and elegance despoiled.”

Humour before the war was very slap-stick, light-hearted and extremely inoffensive. Despite receiving a lot of criticism for not fighting, Charlie Chaplin was a favorite among the soldiers of the allied nations, I suppose because it reminded them of home and how very simple things used to be. But nonetheless their war-grown humour followed them home to Britain – only to return again in the war against Hitler and the Nazi’s in WWII.

We can still see evidence of this satire comedy transformation in some TV shows, like Blackadder and Dad’s Army (both of which I absolutely adore); though no similar evolution occurred on the German side of the lines. “Where obedience to authority persisted to the end,  which may explain why German humor has never quite caught up since,” the Germans certainly did not laugh their way through WWII.

So I hope you enjoyed that little history lesson, it certainly clarified a lot for me, but here’s what really makes the punch line for me,

When HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet in the Falklands, her crew sang Monty Python’s  Always look on the bright side of life as it sank.



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