British Comedy

The cast of "Gary: Tank Commander" (Photo: BBC)

The Surprising New Place for Scottish Comedy is Netflix!

Or McNetflix, more like. Lately I’ve noticed a flurry of Scottish comedy programs have popped up on the streaming service’s listings and I have to say I’m thrilled. For one thing, I’ve tried to watch some of these series before, but without proper subtitles I was lost in a world of Scots dialects and unfamiliar slang. With the very helpful Netflix subtitles, I now know “pish” from “sannies” and “bam” from “ken.”

A word of warning, these shows don’t resemble Monarch of the Glen or Hamish Macbeth. In fact, I haven’t seen a bagpipe, castle or kilt yet. Most of these series take place in the gloomy, working class environs of Glasgow, not the picturesque lands of lochs and glens. Nevertheless, if you take the time to get used to their unique cadences and what The Guardian journalist Jenny Colgan described as, “the self-deprecating humor of the self-declared underdog”, you’ll be sure to find something you like from this list.

Retirement Is a Laughing Matter (on British Telly)

Whether you call them senior citizens, retirees or OAPs (old age pensioners), people of advanced age certainly have a sizable presence in British entertainment. Popular series such as Last Tango in Halifax, Vicious, The Old Guys and Boomers feature seniors as main characters, not just someone’s colorful grandfather or an eccentric old auntie to provide a laugh or wise word when called upon.

Think back to 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wherein a group of British retirees make the trek to India to live out their golden years. Their reasons may have varied –the warmer climate, cheaper cost of living, an opportunity to reconnect with the past and as a means for getting a needed operation much sooner – but they all found a sense of community. The success of this film is a prime example of the bankability of stories focused on elderly characters and their concerns.

This showcase of British acting legends was so popular that a follow-up, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was just released. With a cast of respected and award winning veterans who range in age from 62 (Celia Imrie) to 80 (Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), this highly anticipated sequel demonstrates that there is a significant audience for stories that don’t involve perfectly pert bodies, martial arts fighting sequences or pyrotechnics.

That’s not to say that aging is a cozy, gentle process. Ask anyone who’s approaching AARP membership eligibility (that includes me) and they’ll tell you there’s nothing easy about getting old or about adjusting to retirement. Fortunately, British telly strives to makes us laugh at an issue we all have to face sooner or later.

Saying Goodbye to 'Miranda': A Look Back

It’s official. Miranda Hart has announced that after a three series run, her what- I –call successful sitcom Miranda will be coming to a close. The comedienne revealed her plans on BBC Radio 2 with this statement. "So I'm doing two Christmas specials, but they are going to be the finale of the show, full stop."

It’s hard to believe that this sitcom debuted in the UK five years ago since it seems only yesterday I found my first Miranda episodes on YouTube. I’ve been a fan ever since. Here was a woman who could make fun of herself on so many levels including her size, her social awkwardness, and her upper middle class upbringing. I immediately identified with her humor - so much so that I bought the entire series on DVD even though it was only available on Region 2 which means I had to invest in a “multi-region” DVD player. I’ve even had Miranda viewing parties with my friends. Éclairs and wine were served. I think Ms. Hart would approve.

From the moment she invited us into the joke shop she bought with her sizeable inheritance, we knew that Miranda was a woman who marched to a different drummer. Her kooky sense of fun made us want to join right in.

Miranda’s supporting cast of memorable characters deserves their fair share of the kudos too of course. Let’s face it, without Miranda’s overbearing mother, Penny (Patricia Hodge); Stevie (Sarah Hadland), Miranda’s childhood friend and store manager; Tilly (Sally Phillips), Miranda’s boarding school chum and friendly nemesis; and the lovely Gary (Tom Ellis), Miranda’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, our heroine would just be a rather tall woman who loves to gallop and falls down a lot.

There will be so many things to miss when Miranda and company say their goodbyes at Christmas. Let’s revisit a few of the elements that make this sitcom so enjoyable.

Dead Funny Films: British Horror with a Playful Side

Halloween is just around the corner, that time of year when it’s fun to be scared. Or so they say. I’m not a big fan of traditional horror films, but I’ve found that those with a decidedly pronounced sense of humor can be quite entertaining indeed. At the very least a light, funny moment here and there can make all the blood and gore a little easier to take. Shaun of the Dead is probably the best example of a horror flick with an equal amount of comedy.

However, ten years after its release Shaun is a classic of this blended genre and you, my dear thrill seekers, are perhaps looking for something a bit more under the radar. The following is a list of horror comedies you can find on-line to satisfy your craving for a “dead funny” film.

Monty Python Live (Mostly): A Good Laugh and a Fond Farewell

Disclaimer: I am a life-long Monty Python fan so this post is very unlikely to be an objective account of the simulcast I am about to tell you about. That being said, yesterday I had the privilege of witnessing a very special event indeed – Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the legendary Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy troupe reunited after over 30 years away from the stage for a limited run of ten live shows at London’s O2 arena. For those of us who weren’t in the vicinity or couldn’t get their hands on a ticket, the Pythons kindly consented to turn their very last show into a worldwide party by live streaming the event to cinemas around the world and to UK residents on the Gold channel as well.

It was great to gather in a movie theater with other Python fans, people who know, love and, in many cases, can recite the sketches verbatim. If you’ve ever watched Monty Python with the uninitiated you may well know the confused scowls and the bewildered lament of “I don’t get it.” There was none of their ilk in the seats yesterday. Who’s going to pay $18 to watch a bunch of septuagenarians being silly on stage without being obsessively familiar with their body of work after all?

Bickering Telly Couples: ‘Vicious’ and Beyond

The sitcom Vicious has just started airing on PBS stations this past weekend and it certainly lives up to its name. Starring British acting legends Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, the two play a gay couple who’ve been together for almost half a century. A lifetime of companionship has worn on their collective nerves and most of what remains between them is catty remarks, primarily from Freddie (McKellan), and not just a little resentment on the part of Stuart (Jacobi).

Of course deep down the two men really do love one another, but if everything between them was sweetness and light it wouldn’t be nearly as funny, would it?

That got me to thinking about other telly couples who are prone to rows and other types of altercations. Regardless of the nature of the relationship, discord and disagreement makes things interesting and, when you’re not the one in the middle of it all, funny as well.

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