Add stand-up to the list of why UK comedy is better than US comedy


Ok, we’ve over-discussed the differences between British and American situation comedy. Just my opinion, but the British just flat out do it better. No doubt, from an American perspective, it’s infinitely better with the likes of Modern Family, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Community, etc. But, in doing some quick math regarding the comparison of British and American comedy, there are other areas the U.S. has fallen woefully behind that has gone somewhat unnoticed in recent years. Stand-up or a lack there of immediately comes to mind.

Without appearing to launch into a ‘good old days’ rant, the virtual elimination of stand-up comedy has contributed the dearth of real comedy in the U.S. I can remember a magical time when the likes of Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, etc. could be seen live or on the small screen on a regular basis in various forms, not just as newcomers either. Comedians of this era would spend several hundred nights a year traveling doing live stand-up.  Stand-up shows are a big part of the UK comedy scene, not only in the live performance venue, but regularly on television too.

Our friends over at the British Comedy Guide recently sat down for an in-depth interview with Don Ward, legendary owner of The Comedy Store in the UK. This long-time venue has helped launch the careers of some of Britain’s most famous comedy stars and continue to play a big part in the country’s comedy output today. Anyone miss good stand-up comedy in the U.S. today?

We’ll save for another time the lack of panel shows such as QI, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You in the U.S. which, in many cases in the UK, showcase the amazing wit and talent of UK comedians in improv settings such as Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Rob Brydon, Michael McIntyre, Jack Dee, etc.

  • I’m gonna totally disagree with you on this one. Not that UK stand-up is worse, or we don’t have a lack of panel shows. Those aren’t arguments I can make. But the US stand-up community is still very rich in my opinion. It’s just not as over-exposed as the comedy bubble of the late 80s/early 90s was. Check out “I Am Comic”, a recently made documentary, for some proof.

    • @Jessica: Thanks for the info. Will definitely check out. I might be suffering from good old days syndrome. I think what I was trying to say, poorly, was that you see a great deal more stand-up on the air almost on a nightly basis on one BBC channel or another plus you have the really established comedians appearing on all kinds of panel shows on a regular basis that you just don’t see here at all. It’s even a rarity these days to see comedians on any of the latenight talk shows. Seinfeld, maybe, but it just seemed like not matter where you turn on any BBC channel, there are stand-up or panel shows. Besides, we have to disagree every once in awhile. 🙂

  • Sandra Griswold

    I so much miss “Are You Being Served?’ and “Keeping Up Appearances.” I’ve seen them for years, but I always get a giggle from their antics. When will they return? And, never give up “As Time Goes By.” It’s the best! Bill, I love your ‘specials’ that spotlight British comedy stars and series. I watch every one! Well done! And, keep up the good work. I’ve been a viewer since the very beginning. We raised our family on phrases from ‘Fawlty Towers’ and Basic and Sybil. Just never get old, do they. Thanks again. I’m still watching.
    Sandra G.