Comedy is said to be the international language – sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not.
Rather I believe that the pivotal part to comedy is how it is constructed around “national identity” (Turnbull 2008, 112) – this is particularly so in Australian comedy. Comedy’s nuances only really make sense in its original context as it is a “cultural and social practice” (Turnbull 2008, 112)
Time after time, television series sell their rights to international networks in the hopes of expanding their comedic genius to other nations. But there is always something missing. It is that classic Australian humour that pokes fun at ourselves and our inabilities. International audiences may not find this funny at all and plain rude or they just do not get it. However, place in front of Aussies and the room will be in raptures within seconds. For example, Kath and Kim. When this was reworked into an American version, the Aussie humour was lost. They “dropped the key concept” (Turnbull 2008, 112) and this made it a huge international flop because there was that one, tiny element missing and as Robert Bianco says, “that’s what happens with copies, something great gets lost.” (Turnbull 2008, 113).
Whilst I still believe that there are some areas of comedy which are timeless and transnational – such as slapstick or crude jokes – there are some that are reserved for the nation’s audience. For Australia, a 2004 show called Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures is a prime example of how comedy can be transnational yet targeted for Australians. Coight – if you do not know what that word means then search it on Urban Dictionary goes on adventures around Australia and acts a bushman who loves the outback. But there is one thing – he is absolutely hopeless and hilarious. Whilst the mixture of comedy can be transnational, the subtle contextual humour in the show appeals to Australians.
For example, he uses the wrong tow ropes to pull a 4WD out of the mud. It is this humour that incorporates stupidity and lines that make you think, “Whaaaat?” that appeals to the Aussie sense of humour as we like poking fun at people. My favourite is, “some animals are nocturnal whilst others only come out at night”. It is these sort of things that would be lost in translation – not because they do not understand, but because their context does not allow for the full extent of the joke. He is the quintessential bushy who is such a dag.
Comedic genius may be lost in translation but as long as there is comedy – I’m happy.