Class = laughs in British comedy, according to BSA


BSA2010_Conf_PosterAccording to a paper presented yesterday at The British Sociological Association entitled, The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour: British Comedy and New Forms of Distinction, researchers believe that, “social hierarchy holds the key to what Britons find funny, with middle class audiences using their preferences as a form of veiled snobbery”.

Class has always been a part of British comedy over the years. Much more prevalent in classic series produced years ago such as Good NeighborsTo the Manor Born and Keeping Up Appearances, class was always an underlying theme which resulted in the ultimate laugh when the upper class character received their eventual comeuppance. No matter how many times you see Onslow’s dog bark and leap out of the car window causing Hyacinth to fall into the bushes or Margo Ledbetter slipping and falling in the mud, you laugh. You know it’s coming, but somehow it’s well-deserved. Maybe it’s Hyacinth pushing their car out of the ditch on the way to catching the QE2 and getting covered in mud. Audiences, silently, are laughing, saying “Yes!”

To a lesser degree, class was also a part of the likes of Fawlty TowersBlackadder, Yes Minister and, even, Are You Being Served.

imagesThe paper goes on to assert that there’s even a class system in place with regards to what individual classes find funny. The “working class” tends to enjoy observational, low-brow type of humor that ends with a straightforward punchline while the middle class reserved their laughs for series that are more sophisticated and complex. The paper concluded that people’s tastes are shaped by social standing, family background and education.

Personally, I disagree with all of this. While class has definitely had it’s place in the British comedy series, good comedy crosses all class boundaries. Good comedy is good comedy, no matter what your “class”. What do you say?