do not mention the war

Humorous Studies

In England, Germany, Identity, Literature, Stereotypes on March 14, 2011 at 22:24

In a blog about Anglo-German love/hate relationships the topic of humour must not be left out. And yet it is very difficult to put something together on humour that doesn’t sound ridiculous or simply is prejudgmental. It is incredibly difficult to pen out something about humour that doesn’t sound ridiculous or patronizing or whatever one thinks it might sound like. It is no secret that some people have humour, some don’t and others have this sort of humour that no one really understands and estranges most people and in the worst case, might be considered offensive.

It is an acknowledged fact that British humour is one very special kind of humour, very black and often very cynical. As a result it is not without difficulties to see that foreigners regularly don’t get the message and instead end up being offended. These people are left with the perception that the British are rude people who love to have a laugh at the expense of others.

In most cases humour is not understood by those targeted. Humour also can be very painful, either for those being laughed at or the other way round, those made look stupid who took the pun in the first place because no one understood them.

Humour also often helps to shed a light upon the culture of those making these jokes. As a good example it is worth taking a look at how Germans are being protrayed in Britain, or England. John Cleese in Fawlty Towers is the best example. In the episode “The Germans“, he simply cannot stop himself from mentioning the war, annoying his guests in the process. Viewers of the episode will laugh at the Germans and their reaction to Cleese’s imitation of Nazi goose step, the “funny walk”.  On first sight, the Germans appear to have no humour but there is a deeper layer to this. It is English Pantomime performed at its best and as such provides a perfect mirror for English society and its obsessions with the past of Germany, most notably the time between 1933 and 1945. John Cleese as Basil Fawlty sticks his tongue out to English stereotypes of Germans and the latters perceived lack of humour. He himself does not look particularly good either. That the Germans may indeed have a sense of humour was summed up perfectly by Peter Frankenfeld, a TV presenter and journalist, when he stated that the German language is very tricky when it comes to humourous adventures, which in return makes Germans look calculating each sentence and joke. The Germans tend to think about jokes and the possible repercussions it might have on them: while the English can laugh about themselves, Germans tread carefully so as not to end up being laughed at.

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