Best of British Comedy

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Specifically big and little screens.

Due to another thread it got me thinking. As a kid who grew up in Australia you may be aware due to cultural and financial deficiencies we basically poached a lot of British tv. All the stuff that wouldn't otherwise be found outside the blessed little island nation that would brutally enslave so much of the world.

So given I am feeling particularly nostalgia-ridden for all those re-re-re-runs that dominated our antipodean televisions in gloriously superior PAL 4:3, I'm reaching out to our former gaolers on the otherside of the world and asking for what was your favourite bit of (near) Thatcherite contemporary culture?

Specifically from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I might be able to locate and queue up for some watching.

Nothing too mainstream that I've likely already seen, ala The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, and my personal favourite ... Dad's Army.

Kind of give a shoutout with a loose blurb about why you think it tickles your mental fancies.

Also kind of open to fellow Australians or New Zealanders (or anybody in particular) also exposed to the rampant cultural colonialism that we secretly liked but publicly despised like the masochists that we are.

Bottom, though that's 90s. You're missing out if you don't.

You're honestly missing out if you don't include shows from the 90s. Shows like Father Ted, I'm Alan Partridge, Absolutely Fabulous and Brass Eye are must watches, just to name a few.

Father Ted and Black books completely changed the way I looked at comedy but as a fellow Aussie can't help with anything too obscure sorry.
The Avengers Might be worth a little try. It's a pulp spy drama that Austin powers and Danger 5 lent from pretty heavily.

Or you can watch the Agro's cartoon connection deleted scenes again.

Give Yes Minister a watch if you haven't already.

The High Life. I don't remember it that well, but I think it was funny. It's got Nightcrawler in it.

Honestly, the 90s was kind of a high point of British comedy due to the alternative comedy boom, so I agree that you're missing out by not including it.

Other than that, I'm not sure what is and isn't well known overseas so some of these might be a bit obvious. Blackadder is a lot of fun, especially if you're familiar with British history. I'll also second Yes Minister, Not The Nine O'Clock News and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. If you want to go really old school there's also Hancock's Half Hour.

Other things which are generally well regarded but which I personally didn't enjoy include Only Fools and Horses, 'Allo Allo, Porridge, Are You Being Served, The Good Life, Steptoe and Son, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (which I'm pretty sure could be used as torture) and of course the longest running British sitcom ever Last of the Summer Wine, which actually has a kind of weird appeal like being shot full of morphine (it's warm and fuzzy and so soporific you occasionally stop breathing).

'Are You Being Served?' and 'Allo Allo' are my picks.

Edit:
Darnit, saw too late that both already were mentioned. Well, it stil stands.

As Hawki mentioned, give Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister a look - specifically the old series, *not* the modern remake of a few years ago.

Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister, the Top Gear holiday specials.

Panel shows also should not be ignored.

Growing up in the US, I also ended up watching a decent amount of british comedy. Mostly due to the fact that a bunch of PBS stations in my era picked up a bunch of episodes of them on the cheap, and used them to fill time in the afternoon and late at night (they did the same with Doctor Who and Red Green, funnily enough). Plus, it also helped that my mother was a big fan of Red Dwarf, The Avengers (british weirdo spy one, not the shitty superhero one), and The Prisoner, and always taped the episodes of each when she ran across one on TV.

Red dwarf
That is all.

The Good Life (1975 to 1978) - Tom and Barbara Good decide to become self sufficient, much to the annoyance of their snobby neighbours Margo and Jerry.

The Fast Show (1994 to 1997) - Completely demented sketch comedy series.

The IT Crowd (2006 to 2013) - Revolves around socially inept geeks Moss and Roy and their technically useless manager Jen. The series 2 episode "The Work Outing" is probably my favourite sit com episode, ever.

Black Books (2000 to 2004) - Centres on misanthropic bookshop owner Bernard Black, his assistant Manny, and their friend Fran.

Brass Eye (1997 to 2001) - Hugely tasteless and crass, but enormously funny parody of current affairs shows.

Yes Minister (1980 to 1988) - Gentle but pointed satire of government incompetence.

The Thick of It (2005 to 2012) - Yes Minister's spiritual successor brutally eviscerates modern politics. Peter Capaldi as the spin doctor Malcolm Tucker is the best thing about it. Could almost be mistaken for a documentary, especially when actual ministers make the same mistakes as characters in the series, and even more so when the series did it first.

Father Ted (1995 to 1998) - Unscrupulous Father Ted, the gormless Father Dougal, the agressive drunk Father Jack, and their unhinged housekeeper Mrs Doyle live together in exile on a bleak island off the Irish coast populated by very strange people indeed.

Blackadder (1983 to 1989) - Each series follows a different incarnation of Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, and his dogsbody Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson, along with a few other recurring characters depending on the series. The first series is merely OK, but by Blackadder Goes Forth it's one of the best sitcoms, ever.

Red Dwarf (1988 to present) - Very long running sci-fi comedy that is better at being Star Trek than a lot of actual Star Trek. After a terrible accident, the slobbish David Lister becomes the last living human and must wander the galaxy with a hologram of his dead supervisor Arnold Rimmer, insane sanitation mechanoid Kryten, senile ship's computer Holly, and a humanoid that evolved from his cat. Generally does a good job of using interesting sci fi ideas for jokes.

Man, there's a lot of classics I need not mention due to seeing them here. Glad to see Black Books get some love at last. :)

Monkeydust is a particular dark favourite, though a cartoon, the themes it dives into are sublimely twisted, in a more grounded way than, say, Rick and Morty. It's fairly muted and understated, with not more than 3 seasons I think.

Spaced is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's first entry into on-screen comedy and highly recommended, it showcases their talent and even a bit of Pegg's own comic book art skills. ;)

Panel shows are the best generally for modern humour though. Have found 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown a far more entertaining experience than it has any right to be. Even if the host is a turn-off for some, the rest of the team by far overshadow him. The news panel shows are worth a watch too.

09philj:

The Thick of It (2005 to 2012) - Yes Minister's spiritual successor brutally eviscerates modern politics. Peter Capaldi as the spin doctor Malcolm Tucker is the best thing about it. Could almost be mistaken for a documentary, especially when actual ministers make the same mistakes as characters in the series, and even more so when the series did it first.

That has a spin-off film called Out of the Loop, which is well worth a look. Capaldi's performance is intense and anyone who only knows him as Doctor Who may be surprised at the liberal use of the 'c' bomb from his character.

Editiboos: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a bit of a trip. Not sure how obscure it is though, it's a weird one.

Peep Show of course, David Mitchell is a wonderfully cynical but endearing guy. He does the odd opinion article for the Guardian too which is always a good chuckle.

Operation Good Guys is a police mockumentary before they became cool. Haven't seen it in a while though, so not sure how well it aged. IMDB seems to love it, if that's any consolation?

Baffle2:
Bottom, though that's 90s. You're missing out if you don't.

This so much it hurts. I didn't think Mayall/Edmondson could ever top The Young Ones, but they not only topped it, they jumped back in a victory lap.

09philj:
The Good Life (1975 to 1978) - Tom and Barbara Good decide to become self sufficient, much to the annoyance of their snobby neighbours Margo and Jerry.

The Fast Show (1994 to 1997) - Completely demented sketch comedy series.

The IT Crowd (2006 to 2013) - Revolves around socially inept geeks Moss and Roy and their technically useless manager Jen. The series 2 episode "The Work Outing" is probably my favourite sit com episode, ever.

Black Books (2000 to 2004) - Centres on misanthropic bookshop owner Bernard Black, his assistant Manny, and their friend Fran.

Brass Eye (1997 to 2001) - Hugely tasteless and crass, but enormously funny parody of current affairs shows.

Yes Minister (1980 to 1988) - Gentle but pointed satire of government incompetence.

The Thick of It (2005 to 2012) - Yes Minister's spiritual successor brutally eviscerates modern politics. Peter Capaldi as the spin doctor Malcolm Tucker is the best thing about it. Could almost be mistaken for a documentary, especially when actual ministers make the same mistakes as characters in the series, and even more so when the series did it first.

Father Ted (1995 to 1998) - Unscrupulous Father Ted, the gormless Father Dougal, the agressive drunk Father Jack, and their unhinged housekeeper Mrs Doyle live together in exile on a bleak island off the Irish coast populated by very strange people indeed.

Blackadder (1983 to 1989) - Each series follows a different incarnation of Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, and his dogsbody Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson, along with a few other recurring characters depending on the series. The first series is merely OK, but by Blackadder Goes Forth it's one of the best sitcoms, ever.

Red Dwarf (1988 to present) - Very long running sci-fi comedy that is better at being Star Trek than a lot of actual Star Trek. After a terrible accident, the slobbish David Lister becomes the last living human and must wander the galaxy with a hologram of his dead supervisor Arnold Rimmer, insane sanitation mechanoid Kryten, senile ship's computer Holly, and a humanoid that evolved from his cat. Generally does a good job of using interesting sci fi ideas for jokes.

That's a good list and yet it has no Peep Show.

Also you should check out some radio series. I'm a big fan of John Finnemore, particularly Cabin Pressure and John Finnemore's Souvenir Program.

09philj:
The Good Life (1975 to 1978) - Tom and Barbara Good decide to become self sufficient, much to the annoyance of their snobby neighbours Margo and Jerry.

Sorry, but I have to do this...

Not the Nine O'Clock News. The Fast Show. Red Dwarf. Of course Red Dwarf.

More recent sketch shows like Armstrong and Miller, Mitchell and Webb, if you are willing to expand your timeframe.

I'll echo a few of the recommendations so far, like Yes Minister, Brass Eye, Red Dwarf, Black Books and Spaced. All top quality shows very worthy of attention.

I'll also throw in an extremely enthusiastic recommendation for the Goodies. It ran from the 70s through to the 80s. It's a very tricky show to describe, since it's very peculiar. The rough frame work is that 3 guys form a business called "The Goodies", whose motto is "We do anything, any time".

The actual show though goes into some really weird places. For example, their attempt to become vets results in a giant kitten attacking London in "Kitten Kong". Or when they become lighthouse keepers (They misread the ad, thinking it was for light housekeeping), one accidently eats their fog horn, one gets mumps and the other goes mad from everything being round and ends with them accidently launching it into space.

Rack:

09philj:
SNIP

That's a good list and yet it has no Peep Show.[quote]
I have never seen The Peep Show. What I did stupidly omit was Green Wing (2004 to 2007), a thoroughly surreal sit-com set in a hospital, Twenty Twelve (2011 to 2012), which is a mockumentary about the organisation of the 2012 London Olympics, and Jeeves and Wooster (1990 to 1993), a splendid adaptation of the books, starring Stephen Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster.

[quote]Also you should check out some radio series. I'm a big fan of John Finnemore, particularly Cabin Pressure and John Finnemore's Souvenir Program.

Anything with John Finnemore is definitely worth a listen. Also:

I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue (1972 to present) - The self described antidote to panel games gives two teams really, really stupid things to do, and the whole proceedings are littered with running jokes that are purposely designed to confuse new listeners. The best game on the show is, of course, Mornington Crescent.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978 to 2018) - The best version of the story in any medium.

Anything with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. So shooting stars or the smell of vic and bob.

bjj hero:
Anything with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. So shooting stars or the smell of vic and bob.

House of Fools was good as well.

Brittas Empire, totally forgot about that.

There's Bread as well, which I don't remember that well. The humour in that might be fairly regional, though if you get Shameless, you'll get Bread (though Bread is much milder).

Another good Ronnie Barker one was Open All Hours with David Jason.

Jimmy Perry and David Croft were also prolific in the 70s and 80s. They wrote (amongst others) It Ain't Half Hot Mum (though this might be deemed offensive to some people nowadays) and Hi-de-Hi (set in a 50s British holiday camp).

If you also wanted old sketch shows there's the Two Ronnies or variety shows like Morcambe and Wise.

Goodness Gracious Me should get a shout out too, 90s sketch show done by British-Indian comedians.

Happy viewing.

Baffle2:
Bottom, though that's 90s. You're missing out if you don't.

Seconded, thirded and fourthed! Bottom is utterly brilliant. Less surrealist than The Young One's, but just as manic. Also, as a stand-alone movie, Guest House Paradiso.

Also, I highly recommend People Like Us. It's like a mockumentary Louis Theroux style show. It's a bit obscure, but fantastic.

Baffle2:
Brittas Empire, totally forgot about that.

Don't binge that one though.
I did once and my brain basically melted.

Can I just say I'm so happy to see not a single one of you has mentioned The Office. Not just because it's the wrong era...

Speaking of wrong era- there's an old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore show called Not Only But Also that's well worth checking out- I think only a single DVD/video of it survives now but the chemistry between those two was monumentally influential on British comedy ever since.

As for the actual 80's, I'm be a bit different here and talk about the cartoons, specifically the Cosgrove Hall ones. In the 80's british toons were filled to the brim with innuendo and humor for the adults as well as the kids, and some of the more charming ones were Count Duckula (a vegetarian vampire), Danger Mouse, Superted, and especially Bananaman, who was an incredibly dim-witted superhero who solved pretty much everything by eating bananas. Think the lovechild of Roger Ramjet and Popeye and you'd be pretty close.

Also The Trap Door was a brilliant 5 minute wonder.

09philj:

Red Dwarf (1988 to present) - Very long running sci-fi comedy that is better at being Star Trek than a lot of actual Star Trek.

As a fan of Red Dwarf and not of Star Trek, I struggle to explain to my trekkie fans why RD is so good- could you expand a bit on how it out Star-Trek's Star Trek?

Weresquirrel:
I'll echo a few of the recommendations so far, like Yes Minister, Brass Eye, Red Dwarf, Black Books and Spaced. All top quality shows very worthy of attention.

I'll also throw in an extremely enthusiastic recommendation for the Goodies. It ran from the 70s through to the 80s. It's a very tricky show to describe, since it's very peculiar. The rough frame work is that 3 guys form a business called "The Goodies", whose motto is "We do anything, any time".

The actual show though goes into some really weird places. For example, their attempt to become vets results in a giant kitten attacking London in "Kitten Kong". Or when they become lighthouse keepers (They misread the ad, thinking it was for light housekeeping), one accidently eats their fog horn, one gets mumps and the other goes mad from everything being round and ends with them accidently launching it into space.

I was really young when the reruns of this were on TV, and it had me spellbound. Not so much for the comedy but how inventive and surreal it got. Like the episode where they get inspired by those pirate radio boats and decide to create a pirate british mail service, using balloons, a submarine that from above water just looks like a tiny rowboat, and shooting letters through people's windows with arrows. The creators went to college with the Monty Python guys and did a lot of the same comedy shows with them, and there's definitely a strain of MP in the Goodies as well.

I'd basically describe it as the sensibilities of Monty Python with the weirdness of The Mighty Boosh.

As others have said, please don't limit yourself to pre 90s man. There are some brilliant shows from every era. As a Brit myself and growing up on this stuff, my top recommends are:

The League of Gentlemen (Horror Comedy - amazing, funny and dark)
Red Dwarf (Sci Fi Comedy - one of the most inventive comedies I know)
Peep Show (First Person, hearing thoughts comedy. I absolutely love this show)
Blackadder (historical comedy - it's a classic to a reason. Ben Elton at his best. Don't bother with the first series until you've watched the others.)
Father Ted (Irish religion comedy. I laugh so loud every time even though I know it so well)
I'm Alan Partridge (just Steve Coogan as his best character. You literally can't stop quoting this)
The IT Crowd (geek comedy. It's very silly humour - very good)
The Might Boosh (very silly, abstract comedy)
Inside No 9 (individual inventive horror stories - same people as league of gents)
Shooting Stars (bizarre quiz show, but not a normal one - very very funny)
Bottom / The Young Ones (old school 'base comedy' - very good but maybe an acquired taste)
Brasseye (News show skit. You will laugh so hard the first time you watch it)

These are some of my favourite shows of all time. But there are soooooooooo many more I could list that you would love. Wouldn't want to overwhelm you with them all.

I can't believe all of you guys have been listing British Comedies, and none of you guys even mentioned the Grand Daddy of Modern British Comedies, Monty Python's Flying Circus:

Some mighty fine suggestions right there.

To clarify a few posts above, I have also seen;

Absolutely Fabulous (No show has ever encapsulated sympathetic utterly awful, broken people quite so well as this show. It's a good'un)

Red Dwarf (Can't go wrong with a bit of Dwarf action, barring perhaps the last two seasons.)

Monty Python (I've seen a bit of Python ... I mean when it's good it's great)

Yes (Prime) Minister (Ditto as for AF, this show makes some wonderfully awful people exceedingly funny)

Some Mothers do 'Ave Them (Was pretty popular here and reruns of it were still common enough when I was a kid, it always struck me as a more self-conscious Mr. Bean)

I also like the weirdness and satire of Garth Marenghi

and a lot more....

But to also clarify there seems to be a bit of support for Bottom, which I've never even heard of. Monkey Dust, the same. Also Brasseye.

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I shall hunt down some episodes!

I have seen Black Books mentioned several times now. This pleases me

Comic Strip Presents:

It's a series of hour long comedy movies made by the guys who made The Young Ones and Bottom, and usually feature everyone else in comedy at that time. They've made something for every genre over the last few decades. Their most recent one was an Alfred Hitchcock parody called The Hunt for Tony Blair, however my favourite would be A Fist full of Traveller's Cheques:

Also, in a similar vein is the series Ripping Yarns. The best of these has to be The Testing of Eric Olthwaite, a story about the most boring man in Yorkshire (I think the whole thing is on youtube).

I forgot to mention How Not To Live Your Life. The main character is FANTASTIC!

Porridge
Highly recommend this if you havn't seen it, stars Ronnie Barker.

Open all Hours
Ronnie Barker and David Jason.

One Foot in the Grave
Maybe an obvious one so I'm suprised no one as mentioned it, totaly hilarious.

Ideal

Ripping Yarns

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