Monty Python (United Kingdom)

Written by Martin Maas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The famous foot that stomps down the scenery at the end of some sketches

Amongst continental Europeans, Britain is famous for its weird humour and no other group embodies it more than the infamous Monty Python with their Flying Circus. Formed by six young and hopeful comedians at the BBC in 1969, the Pythons were known for their unpredictable and sometimes absurd sense of humour. For instance, they would spend minutes showing pictures of the same tree, only to announce something outrageous like "And now for something completely different - a man with three buttocks".

In other episodes they attacked each other with fruit, presented a fictional TV show called "Famous Deaths" (moderated by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) and performed something they called the "Fish Slapping Dance". And whenever they did not know how to finish a sketch, they would either have a policeman appear and arrest the crew for not being funny or squash the entire set with a giant foot, beautifully drawn by their cartoonist, Terry Gilliam.

Monty Python also had a number of musical hits, including the "Lumberjack song" and their notorious masterpiece "Always look on the bright side of life", sung by a group of crucified martyrs in their 1979 film "Life of Brian". This, together with their movies, made them famous all over Europe and it can truly be said that they have had a major influence on comedy in Europe as we know it today. SPAM.

You can watch their sketches on their YouTube channel or website.

It's all about the 'chiste' (SPAIN)

Written by Marta Martinez

In Spain, being funny means being able to tell as many chistes (jokes) as possible – and you get extra points if you have an Andalusian accent, because they simply sound the funniest, or 'salao'(salty), as we call them. Ridiculing the different nationalities within Spain – Basques, Catalans, Galicians, Andalusians – is a common subject, but there's a town that has traditionally suffered the most cruel punishment in Spanish humor: Lepe. This village in the south-west of the country is a favourite target of scoffing, because of the alleged dumbness of its inhabitants. Here's an example: "Why do people in Lepe put their TV's upside down? To watch the hostess' panties."

Celebrities of Spanish humour are, obviously, joke tellers. One of the most famous comedians was Miguel Gila, who for the first time since the Civil War (1936-1939) started making fun of the conflict in the late 70's and early 80's. The greatest thing about Gila's humor is that it is universally suitable for any war. He always appeared on stage alone, wearing a red shirt and a black suit, holding an old-fashioned telephone. In one of his most celebrated sketches, he says wearing a soldier's helmet: "Hi, is this the enemy?... Could you please stop the war for a second?... I wanted to ask you something: are you going to attack tomorrow?... At what time are you going to come?... At seven?... Uh, at seven we're all sleeping... And couldn't you attack in the afternoon?... After the soccer game... Are there going to be a lot of you?... wow, you're animals!... I don't know if there's gonna be enough bullets for everybody... well, we're going to shoot and you can share them".

In the 90's, a completely different comedian dominated not only the Spanish humour, but even the Spanish popular language. Chiquito de la Calzada, a flamenco singer who discovered his vocation as a joke teller when he was already over 60, became a TV star with his Andalusian chistes, his weird dances while telling them and his made-up vocabulary. He always told his jokes moving from one side of the stage to the other with little jumps, as if the floor were burning, and he moved his legs up and down like a flamingo while neighing like a horse. It actually didn't matter if you couldn't understand what he was saying because he pronounced words with a mix of an Andalusian and an American-western-like accent. He also made up words which became very popular. Spaniards might be embarrassed to admit it now, but everybody in the country has imitated Chiquito at some point and pronounced some of his contributions to the dictionary, such as 'pecadorl de la pradera' (sinnerl of the hills), 'por la gloria de mi madre' (for my mother's sake) and 'fistro' (it's almost impossible to translate, but it could be useful if you want to insult somebody in an original way).

Loriot (Germany)

Written by Florian Faehling

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Germans, they say, don't have a sense of humour. Commonplace prejudice has it that we Germans are serious, grim and simply not funny. Loriot, famous comedian of the last 50 years, disagrees and insists that exactly this seriousness is what makes Germans funny. He has written unforgettable sketches for decades and his expressions even made it into everyday language. His simple recipe: humour is when seriousness meets reality. He portrays society and how it copes with different situations in its typical, complicated way.

One of the prime examples is a sketch called "The lopsided painting". A well-dressed business man sits down in a waiting room to meet a client. His demeanor speaks of a perfectly correct (boring) character, he is the kind of guy who double checks everything ten times just for the sake of checking it well, the typical German. Looking around, he notices a lopsided painting - an offense to his orderly mind. Reaching out to adjust its position, he accidentally makes another painting fall and a vase break. Trying to clean up, he crashes a shelve of expensive china and stumbles over a glass table that also shatters. In this way, our typical German destroys the whole room in less than 30 seconds, yet when the secretary enters to ask him in, he proudly explains "The painting is crooked".

You can watch parts of the sketch on YouTube or buy it on iTunes.

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