The British sense of humour is truly unique. Irony, satire, sarcasm, and teasing – to some, British humour can feel like an entirely new language. And from the awkward, frustrated teenagers in The Inbetweeners to gentle humour from a bygone era in iconic Dad’s Army, our comedy is as diverse as it is outlandish.
Here’s our pick of the best comedy TV shows in the UK. Warning: they’ll probably make you simultaneously cringe and cry with laughter.
Gavin & Stacey
This show was the story of a sweet Welsh girl and a nice guy from Essex who fell in love and got married. But it doesn’t just follow their own story. It also depicts the stark contrasts of two families who live on other sides of the country and their relationship as they struggle to come to a compromise. The show was a massive hit, making a worldwide star out of James Corden, as well as winning 2 Baftas and well and truly putting Barry Island on the map.
Only Fools and Horses
Only Fools and Horses may well have been the best comedy to come out of 1980’s Britain. Two streetwise brothers with the dream of becoming millionaires buy and sell almost anything they can find – including stolen and faulty goods – from the streets of London’s East End. The duo won the hearts of millions with their adorable antics and national catchphrase “Don’t worry Rodney, this time next year, we’ll be millionaires” and the immortal “Rodney, you plonker!”.
I am Alan Partridge
Vanity Fair described Alan Partridge as a national treasure. This is cringe-worthy comedy at its best – a man who made an art out of saying the most inappropriate thing at the most inappropriate time. After the cancellation of his chat show, we see Alan literally clutching to the remains of his career. But there is a genius to it – in creating a character who is so socially incompetent that it’s almost impossible to dislike him.
This was a comedy which made an art-form out of the outrageous, but which forced people to question their own prejudices and views about the world and the people in it. We had Vicky “yeh but no but” Pollard, the only gay in the village “Myfanwy”, and ferrel Andy and his kindly carer who just couldn’t see he was being taken for a ride – Little Britain was disgracefully revolutionary.
In this role-reversal comedy, conservative daughter, Saffron, has the maturity of an adult while her Mother Edina, played by Jennifer Saunders, was effectively a spoilt, drunken teenager with no sense of responsibility or conscience. Edina’s sidekick, Patsy, also became a classic British comedy character with her chain-smoking, binge-drinking and true rampage through modern life. Absolutely Fabulous became a cult, being one of the first comedies to be centred around women.
A modern classic, The Inbetweeners follows four immature, awkward and sometimes disgusting teenagers, with their numerous failed sexual encounters, growing up in a small British town. Some believe the popularity of the show lies in the fact that Will, Jay, Simon and Neil represent the nerds – the teenage boys who were never quite at the centre of things and had really appalling social self-esteem. In fact, they remind many men of their own teenage years – and it’s safe to laugh fromdistance.
Dad’s Army, set in the second world war, is arguably the finest in British Comedy. The show ran for almost a decade but is repeated all over the world, on all channels, to this day. It’s set in a small town on the English coast in the early years of WWII. The company is made up of a range of misfit characters – from the butcher “Don’t panic!” corporal Jones, to captain Mainwaring, a pompous bank manager, who nevertheless had the courage of a lion. Famous lines include “You stupid boy!” and “We’re doomed, Captain Mainwaring!”.