Wrote this comment on a Times article (University honours ‘refugee’ Benigni). I got tickled by some commments left after the article. Thought I might share it with you here.
“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.” It is sad that we should be even attempting to judge humour using the Italy vs England metre. I am an avid collector of all things comical and I treasure both the English and the Italian product. Recently, thanks to more exposure to French I have discovered a whole new world where I thought there was none. Can you compare Benigni to Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie? How does Gad Elmaleh fare when put against Beppe Grillo? Would you prefer to watch stand up at Jongleurs, the Jamal Debbouze comedy show or Zelig? Would you give up Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo for more of Monty Python? The Life of Brian or Superfantozzi? Le Diner des Cons or Se il Tempo fosse un Gambero? Villeret, Totò or Louis de Funes?
It’s difficult to judge – and less to appreciate. My French girlfriend absolutely adores Fawlty Towers but cannot stand Blackadder. We sit for hours watching Kaamelot but she finds other things to do while I watch Open All Hours or Only Fools and Horses. I feel personally offended when someone decides to say that so and so comedian is rubbish and not funny. The problem as I see it is that humour is also what you make of it. I am not particularly tickled by Benny Hill, Mister Bean or the Office (not all of the Office but repeated doses of it)… I find Frank Dubosc needlessly vulgar and get irritated by Mrs Bucket or the guy in Some Mothers do Have Them.
It all boils down to understanding and empathising with the culture behind the joke. Once you can do that even the so-called politically incorrect jokes can have a funny side.
Basically, it’s less of “he’s not funny” and much more of “I didn’t get the joke”. And sometimes that means that you have to go out more and expand your horizons.
Life is beautiful.