“I totally understand the irony and sarcasm in this video!”, said no American person, ever. Have you ever been sitting there watching a video that your friend from another country is showing you and you have to cringe out an obligatory laugh? I mean, ok I understand that people are dancing to the ‘Harlem shake’ but this does definitely not deserve one single exhale of my laughter. It must be an American thing to laugh at people dancing to one song in different locations. This does make me wonder however, why is this so? Well, in Sue Turnbull’s reading ‘Television comedy in translation’ she writes Andy Medhurst’s suggestion that ‘comedy plays an absolutely pivotal role in the construction of national identity because it invites us to belong by sharing the joke’. I could not agree more with this statement because ‘sharing the joke’ is quite a hard concept when talking about international comedic similarities. There are many comedic situations that are indeed international such as slipping on a banana peel, a baby laughing at the silly face his parents are pulling and of course, cats being flung from a fan into a wall. I mean, how can you NOT find that funny? But as Medhurst suggests, the notion of comedy is far more complex and specific: “Sizeable and often crucial amounts of comedic meaning resides in infliction, timing, nuance, gesture, the balance of sound and silence, the unexpected or wilful pronounciation of key words…”.
Take for instance this Australian up-and-coming comedian Neel Kolhatkar. His videos are racist, sexist and fairly political, but to me and most of Australia, are insanely hilarious. I would compare him to the already established Australian comedian Chris Liley aka Ja’mie King. Being on YouTube, Kolhatker’s videos are exposed internationally and have already copped a lot of criticism about being racist and not even remotely funny from foreigners. But from my own definition and being an Australian, his comedic approach is to what us Australians call as “taking the piss out of things”. This ironic, sarcastic and mocking approach is not always welcomed and appreciated by other cultures as their customs and values differ. This strongly reinforces Sue Turnbull’s suggestion in the lecture that “comedy is incredibly risky to transport overseas” and has a very high chance to dis-connect with the audience.
So, what is comedy’s deal? Do we all just have to be ‘in the loop’ to find things funny? Or should we start learning the comedic customs of different cultures. I agree with Medhurst and believe that comedy is a big part of a nations identity and is far too individual to transport, but, understanding certain cultures comedic views is not much to ask to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.