UK vs. USA: The Comedian Stand-off

This battle may be tight and deadly, but it's hilarious.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

The world’s a pretty bleak place. There are riots, revolutions, wars and money worries: it’s almost enough to stop you from laughing… almost.

The UK and the USA’s comedians have frequently made the best out of a bad situation with their humour, and ironically it always seems that the most progressive and logical individuals in the spotlight are those who make a living by standing on a stage and making people laugh (though there are some exceptions… take a look).

In order to continue to make people laugh comedians must constantly push the boundaries of decency, and while sometimes they might overdo it, if it wasn’t for them our comedy might be limited to Dane Cook gurning his way through half a dozen fart jokes. The most recent case of a comic courting controversy was Ricky Gervais’ hosting of The Golden Globes.

Gervais’ hosting techniques didn’t come under fire as a result of the typical racist joke/disabled joke that usually gets comedians in trouble. No, instead he found himself targeted because of his “mistreatment” of Hollywood’s A-List. As he gleefully poked fun of everyone from Mel Gibson to Tim Allen, many humourless half-wits decided that his routine was rude and uncalled for, suggesting that he retire from future functions of that ilk and, as some particularly over-sensitive morons suggested, comedy altogether.

But Gervais isn’t going anywhere fast. His half-awkward, always honest style is comparable with the work of Larry David, creator and star of the excellent Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the misanthropic Louis CK, best known for his “Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy” rant on Conan O’Brien’s Show. Ricky on Conan.

He’s the next star in a long line of comedians unafraid to stand under the bright lights and converse with his audience as openly as any human should, and in a world where celebrities are scared to jump from their position on the fence lest they find themselves on the homepage of TMZ in the morning, his truthfulness should be applauded. Not that Gervais needs any more applauding, mind you.

While Gervais’ quick wit has managed to land him in trouble from time to time, it’s nowhere near as acerbic as some of the greats from the US, such as Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor, with the former in particular taking the concept of that elusive “American Dream” and stamping all over it in front of the eyes of his audience. Smearing his routine with a thinly-veiled dollop of hatred towards modern society, Hicks was one of those rare comedians whose stand-up consisted of very few jokes, but still managed to make audiences howl with laughter due to the sincerity in his approach. Bill Hicks tearing it up.

For me personally the peak of comedy is when the entertainer also educates. Sure, some of you may enjoy sitting back for 30 minutes to watch Dane Cook impersonate a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, but after you’ve watched Doug Stanhope tell an audience member that he has “made his own Christianity” or Chris Rock explaining the differences between black people and “n***ers”, you realise that a comedians job is to provide his/hers audience with laughs firstly, yes, but in being awarded the chance to directly communicate with a large number of people hanging on their every word, they’ve also got the chance to make a difference.

In a world where most entertainers can only make a dent in popular culture by wearing hats made out of beef and thrusting their genitals towards the nearest camera, it restores my faith in humanity that an overweight guy in a black t-shirt speaking the untainted truth can still grab people’s attention.

So who wins out of the UK and the USA? Who cares; we’re all laughing, right?

UK: 2

USA: 4


Photo Credit: HRC/