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Sound the Crumpets

10 Binge-Worthy British Comedies

Catch Sharon Horgan on the new season of Todd Margaret starting January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: BBC America

It used to be said that Americans just didn’t “get” British humor with its heavy emphasis on irony, the absurd, and insults, but thanks to the growing number of ways people are both making and watching television on screens large and small, the Pond (as it were) between these two stalwart nations of comedy is growing smaller by the second. British comedy has influenced everything from All in the Family to the American version of The Office. Before you catch Sharon Horgan on the new season of Todd Margaret on IFC starting January 7th, check out these 10 hilarious series from the U.K. that will make you think BBC actually stands for Binge-worthy British Comedy.

1. Extras


Following the success of both the U.K. and U.S. versions of The Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote, produced, and starred in this series about background actor Andy Millman (Gervais), his best friend Maggie (the delightfully daffy Ashley Jensen from Ugly Betty), and his apathetic, awkward agent, Darren (Merchant). As Andy begins to work his way up in showbiz, he encounters various celebrities (all playing arch, exaggerated versions of themselves) and often finds himself majorly putting his foot in his mouth. Extras brilliantly satirizes showbiz, celebrity, and the perils of trying to “make it,” employing Gervais and Merchant’s signature style of cringe-comedy blended with some surprisingly tender moments.


2. Miranda


American audiences may recognize Miranda Hart from Paul Feig’s hit comedy film Spy or as the lovable Chummy on the excellent PBS period drama Call the Midwife, but in the U.K., Hart is a beloved, well-known comedian who wrote, produced, and starred in this traditional, three-camera style sitcom loosely based on her own experiences as a thirty-something woman. Hart’s endearingly klutzy onscreen version of herself owns a joke shop with her best friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland), fending off her overbearing mother’s (Patricia Hodge, loftily great) plots to marry her off whilst crushing on her restaurant-owning dreamboat of a high school classmate, Gary (Tom Ellis).  Hart, much like her Spy costar Melissa McCarthy, is a wonderful physical comedian who is equally as adept at delivering punchlines and genuine moments of drama as she is pratfalls. Miranda is a silly (there is the occasional fart joke), fun, if occasionally bittersweet look at one woman’s journey to true adulthood.


3. Absolutely Fabulous


If you haven’t heard of glamorous BFFs Edina and Patsy by now, sweetie darling, you are seriously behind the times. Ab Fab, as it is more affectionately called by its enthusiastic fan base, is one of the most beloved sitcoms ever produced in Britain. PR maven Edina (show creator and writer Jennifer Saunders) and magazine editor Patsy (Joanna Lumley) often can be found drunk, high, and hilariously trying to stay “hip” to the most current trends much to the increasingly bitter chagrin of Edina’s teenage (then twenty-something) conservative daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha). The show has such a cult-following in both the U.K. and U.S., a film version, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, will hit the big screen in 2016.  World box-office domination in style sounds just like something of which Edina and Patsy would approve.


4. Pulling


Though it lasted only two seasons, Pulling was a hit with both critics and audiences alike and was a breakout vehicle for its writer and star, Todd Margaret‘s own Sharon Horgan. The series focuses on three single girlfriends living in a southeast London suburb and their various romantic misadventures with often laugh-out-loud, cringe-inducing results. This delightfully filthy NSFW comedy is the perfect companion series to Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck (but maybe also don’t watch it with your parents).

Watch Sharon Horgan talk with David Cross about the new season of Todd Margaret.


5. The Thick of It


Largely considered to be one of the best political satires of all-time, The Thick of It also gave actor Peter Capaldi one of his two signature “doctor” roles (and it’s not the one where he’s a time-traveling alien in a blue police phone-box over on BBC America): as foul-mouthed PR spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker. This hysterical, expletive-laced show with razor-sharp dialogue focuses on the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship and its blundering cabinet-members, often using real life current political events in Britain for inspiration. Creator Armando Iannucci is also responsible for one of the best political satires on THIS side of the Pond: HBO’s hit, Emmy-winning series Veep.


6. Gavin & Stacey


These days, James Corden is busy hosting The Late Late Show over on CBS with our old pal Reggie Watts, but before he became a household name in America, he already was one in the U.K., thanks in large part to Gavin & Stacey.  Corden got the idea for this endearingly kooky, bittersweet romantic comedy about a young couple falling in love after meeting one another over a series of long-distance phone calls from his own real life best friend, Gavin.  The series follows Gavin (Matthew Horn) and Stacey (Joanna Page) as they meet one another for the first time, get engaged, and work through all the little bumps and milestones along the way while their best friends Smithy (Corden) and Nessa (co-creator/writer Ruth Jones) struggle with their own complicated feelings for one another. Gavin & Stacey proves love can go the distance…even the kind over the telephone.


7. Getting On


While HBO has pulled off a fairly successful remake of Getting On, the original U.K. version from BBC Four is not to be missed. Praised for its realism and the superb performances of lead actresses Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan, and Vicki Pepperdine (who also serve as head writers), Getting On is a scathingly funny, masterfully-rendered look at the ins-and-outs of nursing in the most difficult of conditions, leaving audiences unsure as to whether the tears in their eyes are from laughter or sadness. (Fun fact: the first two seasons were directed by Doctor Who himself Peter Capaldi.)


8. Coupling


Before he took on mega-hits Doctor Who and Sherlock, executive producer and writer Steven Moffat gave audiences Coupling, a sitcom focused on three men and three women in their late twenties and early thirties as they navigate work and relationships, partially inspired by his own relationship with his wife, producer Sue Vertue. If that formula sounds familiar, that’s because it’s something of a cross between Friends and Seinfeld. But as with most Moffat-penned shows, the brilliance of Coupling lies in the way he pushes the envelope of the traditional sitcom format by using devices like split-screens or non-linear storytelling, resulting in something intricately-plotted, wholly-original, and full of breezy wit. Which is something the short-lived American version of Coupling severely lacked.


9. That Mitchell and Webb Look


The U.K. has a rich tradition of sketch comedy (see: Monty Python, Catherine Tate, Fry & Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, etc.), but David Mitchell and Robert Webb form one of the most prominent and prolific sketch comedy duos in the modern era.  The pair wrote the popular Peep Show and also for Bruiser, the single-season BBC Two comedy that launched the careers of Martin Freeman and Broadchurch‘s Olivia Colman. That Mitchell and Webb Look features a number of recurring sketches and characters; some filthy (“Bawdy 1970s Hospital” comes to mind), some absurd (see the sketch, “The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar”), all laugh-out-loud funny.  It’s not hard to see why the show won a BAFTA for Best Comedy Program in 2007.


10. Moone Boy


Okay, this one is technically Irish, but it airs on British network Sky so we’ll count it. Chris O’Dowd has steadily been making his mark in the American comedy scene thanks to his 2011 breakout role as Kristen Wiig‘s adorable love interest in Bridesmaids, but some of his best work is his critically-acclaimed, semi-autobiographical series, Moone Boy, shot in his hometown in Ireland. The series, which is set in the late ’80s/early ’90s, centers on twelve year-old Martin Moone (Peter McDonald) and his imaginary best friend (O’Dowd) as they try navigating the perils of growing up using increasingly ridiculous schemes. The wondrous thing about Moone Boy is how O’Dowd brings Martin’s imagination to life by mixing animation and live-action to create something totally unique, surreal, and heartfelt. An American version is said to be in development at ABC, but the original is awfully hard to beat.

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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

car notes note

This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Dark Arts

Foot Fetish Jesus And Other Nightmares

Meet the minds behind Comedy Crib's latest series, Quirks and The Mirror.

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The Mirror and Quirks are really, really strange. Deeply disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful. But you really don’t need to read a synopsis of either of the aforementioned shows to understand the exact variety of nightmare-bonkers comedy these shows deliver — that’s why the good lord made links. Instead, take a peek behind the curtain and meet the creators.

Quirks

Let’s start with Kevin Tosi. Kevin does the whole show by himself. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner — Kevin has a day job with actual humans. But that day job is copywriting. So it’s only natural that his suppressed demons would manifest themselves in biting cartoon form, including “Foot Fetish Jesus”, in ways that somehow speak to all of us. If only all copywriters channeled their inner f*ckedupness into such…expressive art.

The Mirror

Onward to the folks at Wham City Comedy.

These guys aren’t your typical comedy collective in that their work is way more left-field and even elevated than your standard digital short. More funny weird than funny ha-ha. They’ve done collaborations with musicians like Beach House, Dan Deacon & Wye Oak, television networks (obviously), and others. Yeah they get paid, but their motivation feels deeper. Darker. Most of them are video artists, and that explains a lot.

See more of The Mirror and Quirks on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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