American cousins! And other Americans to whom I am not related! Ever found yourself at a tea party - the British, not crazed lunatic Republican, kind - and suddenly been at a loss for words when the topic of conversation moves, inevitably, to British television comedy?
Fear not. For here is a handy guide to What To Say in such a situation - or indeed, when conversing with Brits in the Huffington Post Comedy Club comments. The following 20 pointers are intended to make you blend in with British people - but don't worry if you can't remember all of them. Nobody likes a smart arse. Well, nobody in Britain, at least.
What To Say When Talking About British TV Comedy - A Guide For Americans
1. Rubbish My Family and Keeping Up Appearances at any opportunity
We know you think they're cool because they're British, but they're not. Really. Well, not to anyone under 70. And British.
2. Quote The Young Ones
Heaven knows, we still do.
3. Do not quote Monty Python
In Sliding Doors, it supposedly makes John Hannah adorable and attractive to Gwyneth Paltrow. In real life, it would make you want to punch him. Unless you're 18 and in your first week trying to make friends at university, don't try it. And while we're at it...
4. Say "Monty PYthon", not "Monty PyTHON"
Although fortunately, in space, no one can hear you scream, and on the Internet, no one can hear where you place the accent.
5. Lament the fact that the UK has never created its own Daily Show or Colbert Report
It's true. We never have. So: lament it.
6. Lament the fact that the US has never caught on to the UK panel show phenomenon
QI, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Have I Got New For You... Where are your comedians/broadcasters/token women making wisecracks in a quiz show format, eh, America? Get on that. Thanks. Love, Britain.
7. Know the main British TV channels, and who made which shows
To you, they're all just people talking in funny accents on BBC America. But over here, Spaced, Father Ted, Peep Show and Fresh Meat are resolutely Channel 4; while Only Fools And Horses, Absolutely Fabulous, Blackadder and The Vicar Of Dibley are BBC, through and through. Imagine if someone you knew talked about "that great HBO comedy show, Saturday Night Live". Imagine how embarrassing that would be? EXACTLY.
8. Know how many TV comedy shows started life on radio
Flight Of The Conchords. Miranda. On The Hour (which became The Day Today). All of them were BBC radio shows before making the move to telly. Which is what British people call television.
9. Slag off* Episodes
Sorry. You guys may have given it awards, but we loathed it. Despite it starring She Who Can Do No Wrong, Tamsin Greig. Which moves us nicely on to...
10. Remark on actors' other roles in other British comedies
Yes, Tamsin Greig was in Episodes. But remember her in Black Books, eh? And what about Green Wing? And Mark Heap? Sure, he was great in Spaced - but did you see him in Big Train? And what about Green Wing? (Note: "What about Green Wing?" works for just about anybody, including Peep Show's Olivia Colman, about whom you should also mention 2012, Rev, and how shocking it was that she was overlooked for a BAFTA this year for Tyrannosaur.)
11. Lament the state of the studio-based sitcom
Whilst simultaneously observing how hard it is to create a multi-camera, family-friendly comedy, and taking your hat off to Miranda Hart for doing so, even if she's not really your cup of tea.
12. Know that we love The Inbetweeners, too
Even those of us who have never seen it.
13. Like Rowan Atkinson for Blackadder and Not The Nine O'Clock News but nothing else
We don't care if the rest of the world loves him for Johnny English and Mr Bean. We love him for the way he says "Baldrick". And for this.
14. Have conflicted feelings about Ricky Gervais
You thought The Office was genius, and you really liked Extras, but his Golden Globes presenting was frankly poor, Life Is Short was a huge disappointment, and it's really very offensive to call people "a mong". You're still trying to work it all out.
15. Still like Stephen Merchant
Although he is slightly tarred by your opinion of Ricky Gervais, above.
16. Know all the words to My Lovely Horse
What do you mean, you don't know My Lovely Horse?
17. Know that Hugh Laurie is English
And to really impress, point people towards his song America. That's right: before he was American and a doctor, Hugh Laurie was English and played piano. Now he's American and plays piano. Go figure.
18. Say that Michael Palin is your favourite Python
Yes, we love all of them. But if you have to pick one, pick Palin. John Cleese is waaaaay too obvious. It's like picking John Lennon as your favourite Beatle. Crazy. Everyone would pick Ringo - right?
19. Tell people that while Veep is great, it's no The Thick Of It
We have no idea whether it is or isn't - it hasn't aired yet. But who cares? This is all about prejudice, condescension and colonial bias. It's the British way.
20. Know that all we do is watch your comedy shows right now
It's true. Ever since we discovered HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and box sets, our comedy lives across the Pond have changed. Now we don't have a clue about British television comedy because all we do is watch Community, Parks And Recreation, Modern Family and Arrested Development. Wait. What do you mean, it got cancelled? Bloody time difference!
*British for criticise
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