English humour is different from French Humour and from Humour in general. It is very typical of the English way of thinking and a key to understanding their language.
First and foremost, English Humour is everywhere, but it is invisible. Theoretically, the English are brought up with the principle: “Keep a stiff upper lip”. That means do not show your feelings and emotions. It is very rude to laugh out loud, the way the French would. Therefore, foreigners cannot always spot English Humour and are often the target of unseen jokes.
The main characteristic of English Humour is probably NONSENSE. One should not always try to understand a joke. Here is an example:
During a protocol dinner, everybody is dressed to the nines and follows strict etiquette. Then, one man grasps the potatoes and turns them upside down on his head. (That is usually when the French will laugh). His neighbour asks why he turned the potatoes upside down on his head, and he answers: “Oh! I’m sorry; I thought it was the salad!”
The idea behind the joke is that the man may have had a reason to turn the salad upside down on his head. It is preposterous.
Let us let the experts show what English Humour can be. The Monty Python were a group of English comedians who met tremendous success thanks to their TV show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here is a sample of their work:
The existence of a ministry of silly walks conjures the idea of a place where people would fill useless and dull formularies. But it turns out it is a ministry for... silly walks! It is yet more nonsensical.
This sketch reveals how mean and politically incorrect English Humour can be. It is often irreverent, but always behind the appearance of kindness.
In everyday life, humour hides behind almost every sentence. Imagine a pupil asking his teacher: “Do you think I can pass the test?” An English teacher will never say “no”. If the pupil is really good, the teacher will say: “yes, you will”. If the pupil has his chances but needs to keep working hard, he will say: “yes, you can”. If the pupil stands no chance at all of ever passing any test whatsoever, the teacher will say “yes”, but he will add: “you might”. Might is an auxiliary used for very unlikely probabilities, but the teacher remains polite by saying a “yes” which, in fact, clearly means “no”.
English Humour also relies and doing the exact opposite of what is expected from well-behaved people. Mr Bean is an example of that kind of behaviour. Rowan Atkinson is a remarkable English Humorist. Let us look at his most successful show.