The Funniest British TV Comedy


The laughDB database is dedicated to the funniest comedy movies, stand-up comedy and TV series.

This section is for TV comedy series from the UK. By default they are presented starting with the ones ranking highest on the laugh-o-meter, but you can also sort them by year, title or IMDB rating.

Funniest British Comedies sorted by Laugh-o-meter (descending)

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Fawlty Towers DVDFawlty Towers
      1975 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.1 | imdb: 8.7
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

I don't know how this series escaped me until my early forties, but it did. In a way that was good luck indeed, as it left me with one of the funniest TV series ever to discover and enjoy. I don't think any series has made me laugh as much.

British humor in general, and Monty Python's humor in particular, often borders on the grotesque. Sadly, that's not my brand of humor—sadly because there is a lot of it, enough to keep fans laughing into their old age.

But I do love John Cleese, and Fawlty Towers gives us Cleese at his best. He plays Basil Fawlty, the owner of a hotel in a small resort town. The guests, his wife and Manuel the Spanish waiter give him countless reasons to be irritated—a mood that really becomes Cleese.

Two seasons of six episodes each were made, a clear case of quality over quantity. I've read that it took Cleese and his partner six weeks to write each episode. It shows.

This is laugh-out-loud comedy. If you haven't seen it, don't miss it. (Last viewed: July 2010)

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Father Ted DVDFather Ted
      1995 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.7 | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

This show, which follows the staff of a church on a small Irish island, is the first of three comedy jewels written (at least in part) by the same man (the other two are Black Books and The IT Crowd).

The very first episode ("Good Luck, Father Ted") is a knock-out. It is rare for a show to start with a bang, with all actors fully in character. But that is how Father Ted begins.

For what it's worth, here are the other episodes that gave me the most laughs.
And Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest (Season 1, Episode 6)
Tentacles of Doom (Season 2, Episode 3)
A Song for Europe (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Plague (the rabbit episode) (Season 2, Episode 6)
New Jack City (Season 2, Episode 9)
Kicking Bishop Brennan (Season 3, Episode 6)
(Last viewed: July 2010)

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The IT Crowd DVDThe IT Crowd
      2006 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.6 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

This series makes me laugh consistently, with the exceptions noted below. The relatively small cast and set keeps it simple and honest. I love Moss's character, but I guess everyone does. If you haven't seen the show, all you need to know is that it follows the adventures of the three members of an IT department.

On the first episode the thick lines of the caricature dampened my enjoyment, and it took me a few episodes to get hooked. Here are the episodes that work for me:

- All of season 1 (six episodes),
- The first half of season 2 (three episodes). The second half of the season is appalling. Not only does it feel as though they've swapped the writers for a new team that doesn't get the characters; there is a noticeable increase in budget that results in more complex plots and far fewer laughs.
- All of season 3 except the last episode (five out of six). For my taste the sixth episode lacks in compassion.
I don't recall season 4 in great detail, though I seem to remember it moved further away from the original concept.
(Last viewed: June 2011)

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Mr Bean DVDMr Bean
      1990 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.3 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

Here are my favorite Bean episodes:

Mr. Bean (the first one)
The Curse of Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean Goes to Town
Mr. Bean Rides Again
The Trouble with Mr. Bean
Merry Christmas Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean in Room 426
Goodnight Mr. Bean
(Last viewed: May 2011)

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Blackadder DVDBlackadder
      1982 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.2 | imdb: 8.1
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

In season one, the Black Adder is a prince in medieval times. In season two, he is Lord Blackadder, a nobleman at the court of the Queen of England. In season three, Mr Blackadder is the butler and personal secretary to the Prince of Wales. In the last season, Captain Blackadder serves in the trenches during WWI.

I loved the series. My favorite season overall is season two, as it was consistently funny. Season three could have been the best as it started great, but it lost steam in the second half. Season four takes third place. The first season comes in last, because for my taste it leans too much on the old English tradition of theatricals, with its wild voice swings (and poor sound) that are hard on my ear.

Here are my favorite episodes:

1x6 The Black Seal
2x1 Bells
2x2 Head
2x3 Potato
2x4 Money
2x6 Chains
3x1 Dish And Dishonesty
3x2 Ink and Incapability
3x5 Amy and Amiability
4x2 Corporal Punishment
4x3 Major Star
(Last viewed: March 2011)

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Look Around You DVDLook Around You
      2002 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.0 | imdb: 8.4
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This two-season BBC series is a mock science show that imitates the pedagogic style of the early 1980s.

The first three episodes (calcium, maths and water) had me roaring, and I thought this was going to be love forever. However, the next episodes started to lose their focus, with over-the-top gags that drifted from the premise of credible science experiments. As a result, I lost interest and haven't yet finished the first season, but will probably return to it someday.

Whatever you do, don't miss the first two episodes. (Last viewed: December 2012)

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Black Books DVDBlack Books
      2000 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.8 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

With Father Ted and The IT Crowd, one of three great series partly written by Graham Linehan. This one doesn't make me fall off my chair laughing, but I find it consistently good. The show focuses on a bookstore, and features a tight cast that does a great job of making me smile. (Last viewed: June 2011)

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The Vicar of Dibley DVDThe Vicar of Dibley
      1994 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.0
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

This popular series follows a female priest in a small English village. It may be unequal and at times annoying, but it features a rich cast of characters, all interesting in their own right. That, and the laughs to be found in the better episodes, makes the whole series well worth watching once. (Last viewed: March 2012)

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Miranda DVDMiranda
      2009 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

If you dislike shows where the humor often hinges on situations designed to make you cringe, you'll want to skip Miranda. The show follows a youngish Londoner in need of romance. It often made me laugh, but it also often annoyed me—to the point that I probably won't want to watch it again.

For what it's worth, episodes 1 and 4 of season 1 and episode 3 of season 2 were probably the weakest.
(Last viewed: March 2012)

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I'm Alan Partridge DVDI'm Alan Partridge
      1997 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.9 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

A midnight radio host who has known better days aches to get a second chance at a show on BBC television. The first season follows him as he lives in a suburban hotel. The second sees him living in a caravan.

Like Larry in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Alan seems to specialize in making you cringe, but not to the point where you need to turn off the screen. The show is not full of eye candy (the English suburbs don't seem to make great scenery), but it's full of humor, and it delivers smiles consistently, if not laughs. If the production budget was as small as it looks, the show is good value. Well worth watching once. (Last viewed: May 2012)

More About I'm Alan Partridge:
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An Idiot Abroad DVDAn Idiot Abroad
      2010 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.5 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia | who was involved?

An Englishman is sent abroad to see the ten wonders of the world.

This is not a "laugh-out-loud" show, but it packs a lot of humor, and I very much enjoyed the first season. In a way, the show could have been called Two Idiots in London, because Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (who act in the show as the London producers) consistently act like jerks, while the supposed "idiot" shows a lot more respect and capacity to adapt than the title might let you suppose. In fact, he is a pretty bright guy abroad, one who approaches every event and landmark with a healthy dose of critical thinking, instead of buying the sales pitch.

It seems to me that the title (and the show) are an excuse, probably the brain-child of Gervais, to look at the world with candid eyes and say things about it that are often true but usually politically incorrect. After all, that is one of the devices of his stand-up comedy acts.

I am somewhat struggling with the second season, which seems to have lost direction, and have not yet finished it.
(Last viewed: May 2011)

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The Extras DVDExtras
      2005 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia | who was involved?

In the first season, this series follows a man who works in films as an extra. In the second season, it follows him when he has become a minor celebrity as the star of a comedy sitcom. I don't recall that any of the episodes made me laugh out loud, but the series is quirky, full of humor and well worth a watch. (Last viewed: October 2012)

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Monty Python's Flying Circus DVDMonty Python's Flying Circus
      1969 | U.K. | Laughs: 5.5 | imdb: 8.8
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

I love John Cleese on his own, but the Pythons rarely work for me. For me there's too much noise, too many shrill voices, too much cross-dressing. The skits where the noise level is under control work better for me.

I don't think I've seen all the skits—some day I might sit down and watch it all in hope of catching a few gems.

Here are a few that work for me:
The Cheese Shop
The Dead Parrot
The Ministry of Funny walks
(Last viewed: August 2009)

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The Office UK DVDThe Office UK
      2001 | U.K. | Laughs: 4.0 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | who was involved?

The UK version of The Office has too much cringe and other tension built into it to qualify as "comedy" for me, with the exception of episode 5 from season 2 ("Charity"). (Last viewed: August 2009)

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