Americans Pretending To Be British Part 8: Stand-Up Comedy

Ah, stand-up comedy, how I love you. Where else can you bear witness to someone attempting to describe an idea no one even knew they thought, or express political thought in a puckish and teasing fashion, or to admit to an embarrassing truth that turns out to be universal (they hope), or simply to make gross generalisations about everything: men, women, race, dogs, cats, sex, religion… it’s a lucky dip, only some of the prizes are disgusting, and some are more like medicine.

But one topic that does seem to crop up with alarming regularity is the British accent. Some comics think it makes people seem more attractive, some think it makes people seem cleverer. One guy even did a whole routine in which he began his act pretending to be British (with almost 40% accuracy, so quite good, considering), and pretended that he needed to explain he was British (which he wasn’t, remember) so that his audience didn’t think he was gay.

Luckily the examples I’ve picked are funnier than that, although they’re all fairly NSFW on the language front.

Here’s Matt Morales holding forth on the British accent, something he shows no facility for impersonating whatsoever:

And here’s Jordan Rubin echoing Ricky Gervais’s gag about Stephen Hawking (“he’s not a genius, he’s pretentious. Born in Oxford and talks with that fake American accent”), and then setting up a thing about people absorbing regional accents which would be funnier if British people used the word movies when they mean going to see a film at the cinema.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8dO74-GS4U

And here’s Elon Gold doing his routine about accents in general. He’s spot on about the missing t in words like letter and better, that’s called a glottal stop. You can hear it in the first line of the Small Faces song “Lazy Sunday,” where Steve Marriott sings “a-wooden’ it be nice, to ge’ on wiv me neighbors” like a rockin’ Eliza Doolittle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liNVaGWYHYc

And in the interests of international harmony and balance, here’s Eddie Izzard – who is both British and a transvestite, but not gay, not that it matters – making something out of the cultural differences between our two nations, while sending up this whole train of comedic thought AND pointing out that the Brits aren’t the only nation to drop letters when they speak:

There again, his accent is British already, so he had a head start.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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