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Six UK Comedies That Showcase The Best Of British Wit

Six UK Comedies That Showcase The Best Of British Wit
From the wildly dysfunctional friendship in "Peep Show" to the dark, surrealist comedy of "Jam," these are some of the best TV shows to ever come out of the UK.
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Say what you want about the British, but if there's one thing they're good at, it's being funny (well, most of them, anyway).

To bolster this claim, and introduce our US audience to some TV entertainment they may be yet to discover, I (a Brit) have compiled a list of some of the UK's best comedy shows. I endeavored to include both much-loved characters and more obscure, but still brilliant, picks — so I don't want any British people out there complaining that I haven't included every great comedy to ever grace the nation's telly. That would take forever.

This list is full of wince-inducing cringe comedy — something the Brits are especially adept at — and most of the shows are pretty heavy on the expletives. You've been warned.

'Peep Show' (2003 - 2015)

"Peep Show" is without a doubt one of the most-loved comedies the UK has ever produced. It centers two friends and flatmates, Mark and Jez, who are unlikeable and morally bankrupt in their own ways. Mark is a pessimistic, socially awkward stickler, while Jez is a lazy, selfish, unemployed musician — and if they hadn't met years back at university, they'd never, ever be friends today.

Their friendship is just as dysfunctional as their relationships with everyone around them, and we follow the events of their lives — mostly disappointments, humiliations and failed relationships — at an uncomfortably close distance.

Mark and Jez's inner monologues are provided to us via voice-overs, and the show also makes use of point-of-view shots that very effectively intensify the cringiness of the awkward situations both characters regularly find themselves in.

If you like dark humor, protagonists you can't root for and regular appearances from the wonderful Olivia Colman, "Peep Show" is for you.

'Fleabag' (2016 - 2019)

This comedy-drama, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, began life as the one-woman show she first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2013.

Waller-Bridge stars as the main character: a hilarious, smart, sexy, confused and deeply flawed young woman living in London. In between her witty one-liners and breaking the fourth wall to make snarky comments to us, she has fragmented flashbacks of a traumatic memory that we eventually piece together along with her.

The less I tell you about "Fleabag" the better, but it's equal parts hilarious and utterly devastating, and truly some of the best TV that has ever been made.

'The Thick of It' (2005 - 2012)

"The Thick of It" is a satirical comedy that focuses on the inner workings of a small, fictional department within the British government. Every episode brings new conflicts between politicians, party spin doctors, advisers, civil servants and the press — all overseen by the Prime Minister's terrifying enforcer Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi).

Capaldi's character is famous for his staggeringly expletive and insult-laden rants, which the people around him seem to receive with equal intensity, whether they've leaked government data or simply dared to disagree with him.

The show ended in 2012 — which is just as well, really, because the UK government is now so far beyond parody that they'd likely struggle to write a single episode more ridiculous than the reality.

'Stath Lets Flats' (2018 - 2021)

Stath is a young Greek-Cypriot estate agent (that's UK for realtor) who's pitifully inept at his job and most other things. He works at Michael & Eagle Lettings, a company helmed by his father — which is the only reason he's managed to stay employed there.

The best thing about the show is its Stathisms. Stath's is a confused dialect, one consisting of nonsensical but comically perfect combinations of words, and borne out of his unsuccessful but endearing attempts to introduce popular sayings and Britishisms into everyday conversation. Some favorites: "I'm a right cherry," "oh my crump" and "silly Billy awards."

Each episode is full of silliness, but there are a good handful of genuinely heartwarming moments, too — like Stath's wholesome friendship with his co-worker Al, and Al's budding romance with Stath's loveably ditzy sister Sophie.

'Jam' (2000)

This won't be everyone's cup of tea. "Jam," the black comedy series by "Four Lions" director Chris Morris, has been described by critics as both "the most radical and original television program broadcast in years," and "adolescent" and "sick."

The experimental show consists of surreal and often deeply disturbing sketches, from a suicidal man attempting to die by falling off a first-floor balcony several times to a woman asking a plumber to fix her dead baby. The clip included here is probably the tamest of any of them, and many of the rest can be found on YouTube, if you dare.

'Derry Girls' (2018 - 2022)

This heartwarming sitcom follows a group of teenage girls — and one boy — growing up in Derry, Northern Ireland, during the last years of the Troubles. They attend a fictional Catholic girls school, based on one the show's writer Lisa McGee actually attended, and throughout the series attempt to navigate both adolescence and the political events unfolding around them.

Along with excellent writing and brilliant performances from the show's leading roles, "Derry Girls" has an excellent soundtrack featuring some of the most popular music of the 1990s. It's described as a teen sitcom, but don't let that put you off — this show is for everyone.

[Image credit: YouTube]


  1. Unknown 2 hours ago

    Oh and totally black books:

  2. Unknown 2 hours ago

    This list is totally missing "spaced" Simon Pegg and Nick Frost before they were famous.

    1. Unknown 2 hours ago

  3. Charlie Bess 13 hours ago

    I guess they are really looking at sitcoms (though ghost wasn't listed). For me Taskmaster is the funniest thing around (but not a sitcom)

  4. T. C. H. 15 hours ago

    These are bril, but let's add some older classics like Monty Python (duh), Little Britain, Ab Fab, Are You Being Served?...

    1. Lee Harrington 1 hour ago

      Little Britain was utter garbage. In the same unfunny league as Mrs Browns Boys.

  5. Unknown 16 hours ago

    How can you have the gall to not include Monty Python’s Flying Circus?

    1. Unknown 14 hours ago

      Does Monty Python really need the exposure? who has not already heard of it? it's like saying "here are US sitcoms you might have missed: Seinfeld and Friends"

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