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Monday, November 06, 2006

Some humour translates across the world

Humour is a funny thing. Some things translate across culture better than others. Candid camera is the same the world over.

Over the last couple of years, the BBC has ressurected the old candid camera staple in the form of "Just for Laughs". Good clean family fun involving a jaunty soundtrack, meticulously set up stunts (often remarkably simple) and a gullible public. It's not clever, it's not sophisticated, but it's bloody funny!

Well Canada has its own version, similar enough that it's probably the same production company. As with the BBC version, it's mostly mimed, suggesting that it is intended for export. EDIT: I've just watched the credits and it's actually French "Juste pour Rire", filmed in Montreal.

The Canadian version is even more audacious than the UK version. I couldn't believe it when they had a "blind man" trying to find an empty sunlounger. I couldn't help but feel that when he groped women's arses he would probably have been slapped and/or arrested in the UK! The funniest gag had to be when a guy in a sports car pulls up to a passerby and tries to give them his Yorkshire Terrier. When they decline he climbs out of the car (surreptitiously switching the dog for a stuffed one) and hurls it, complete with comic yelp!, into the back of a passing garbage truck. Of course the strength of the gag relies on the reaction of the public. One old guy promptly set off on his bicycle wobbling dangerously across the road trying to flag the truck down. The look of relief, even as he burst into laughter was priceless.

Of course the BBC version has one Ace in the Hole that the Canadian's don't seem to have been able to secure - namely a pair of absolutely stunning, blonde, twenty-something identical twins. It's a staple of candid camera shows that gullible men will do pretty much anything if asked by a pretty girl - combine that with the ability to then do a seamless switch between them and the possibilities are endless. The best set up had to be at a supermarket. The member of the public is left standing at the till whilst the sales assistant goes to the stockroom. One of the twins stands slightly behind and to the left of the dupe. There is a CCTV camera above the till, and like men the world over the dupe can't help but check out the girl on the monitor. Except it's not. They've cleverly spliced the picture with a green screen of the other twin - who starts to strip. The look of bewilderment as these guys turn around in delight, to find the girl behind them simply demurely waiting in line is brilliant.

I've been relieved to see that Brits and Canadians have a broadly compatible sense of humour. Not everything translates of course, and I am careful not to be too crude until I've figured out the limits, but I've had a lot of laughs whilst I've been here. Jokes about US foreign policy seem to go down well, but I'm aware that I can't yet tell the difference between the two accents yet, so I have to be sure of the nationality of anyone within earshot! I've also been watching a lot of Canadian standup on the Comedy channel, and I am definately contemplating a trip to Montreal next summer to catch the festival live.



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