British comedy

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British comedy, in film, radio and television, is known for its consistently quirky characters, plots and settings, and has produced some of the most famous and memorable comic actors and characters in the last fifty years.


Film comedy

British comedy films are legion, but among the most notable are the Ealing comedies, the 1950s work of the Boulting Brothers, and innumerable popular comedy series including the St Trinian's films, the "Doctor" series, and the long-running Carry On films. Some of the best known British film comedy stars include Will Hay, George Formby, Norman Wisdom, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and the Monty Python team. Other actors associated with British comedy films include Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl and Leslie Phillips.

Recent successful films include the working class comedies Brassed Off (1996) and The Full Monty (1997), the more middle class Richard Curtis-scripted films Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999) and youth-oriented, pop-culture referencing Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and a movie based on a real life event The Boat That Rocked (2009)

See Cinema of the United Kingdom.


Radio comedy in Britain has been almost exclusively the preserve of the BBC, and a number of British radio comedies achieved considerable renown in the second half of the twentieth century.

In the 1940s and 1950s variety dominated the schedules, and popular series included ITMA and Much Binding in the Marsh. In the mid 1950s, however, two notable series emerged which would help to shape the future of radio and television comedy in Britain. The Goons (Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe) starred in their own anarchic series The Goon Show which ran throughout the 1950s. At the same time, the BBC was also running Hancock's Half Hour starring Tony Hancock, the first of a new generation of comedies based on believable characters and situations. Hancock's Half Hour later transferred to TV and was phenomenally successful throughout the '50s, running concurrently on radio and television until 1960.

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