The 10 Funniest British Comedies
Fawlty Towers (1975 - 1979)
First aired in 1975, Fawlty Towers is still considered one of the funniest British comedies every produced. The cast was headed by John Cleese, who remains a national hero and comedy legend in the UK. The success coming after his massive achievements with Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Fawlty Towers is about a seaside hotel run by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his long-suffering wife. Fawlty’s short temper, almost total inability to manage his staff and obvious dislike for his guests constantly gets him troubles of his own making which he deals with in the most British way possible. The dry wit and slapstick humour is smart, well-constructed, brilliant comedy.
Only Fools and Horses (1981 - 2003)
An iconic show, this cockney-based comedy, follows two working class brothers, Del Boy (played by David Jason) and Rodney (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst), trying to get rich quick in East London. Del Boy plays the role of the overly confident and happy-go-lucky "businessman," Rodney plays the lovable fool who is pulled into Del Boy's schemes and plans. The show is full of brilliant one-liners.
Blackadder (1983 - 1989)
A history-based comedy, Blackadder follows a group of characters who in each season appear in various periods of history. The main focus of the show is the antihero Edmund Blackadder, and his ill-fated misadventures with his foolish but likeable sidekick Baldrick.
The series stars Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Steven Fry among others. Each series was set in a different period of British history, beginning in 1485 in the fictional reign of Richard IV, then during the reign of Elizabeth I, then the reign of George III in early nineteenth century, before ending in 1917 in the trenches of the first world war.
Dad’s Army (1968 - 1977)
Dad's Army is a BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. The series regularly gained audiences of 18 million viewers. Dad's Army are all men over military age, featuring Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Arnold Ridley and John Laurie. Younger members of the cast included Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn, Frank Williams, James Beck and Bill Pertwee.
Morecambe and Wise (1968 - 1977)
Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were an iconic English comic double act, considered the best-loved, double-act that Britain has ever produced and the Christmas Day show was a highlight of the year. A cross between a sketch show and a sitcom - it is funny and family friendly in the same time. They played a couple of long-term platonic friends who shared a flat but also a bed – Morecambe always smoking a pipe in the bed - straight out of the Laurel and Hardy school of comedy.
The staged historical dramas were brilliant parodies of genuine historical television plays or films including Morecambe, Wise and the show's guest star, who would add to the surprise and humour.
Yes Minister / Yes, Prime Minister (1980 - 1987)
A political satire, this British sitcom was set mostly in the private office of a British Cabinet minister the Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington, leader of the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in Whitehall. The shows follow his struggles to plan and authorise legislation or make any departmental changes, all argued against by the British Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne).
His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), is usually caught between the two. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, follows Jim Hacker after he suddenly becomes Prime Minister after the resignation of the previous incumbent.
The Two Ronnies (1971 - 1987)
The show was written by some of the best comedy writers of the day, including Ronnie Barker, John Cleese, Barry Cryer, Spike Milligan, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones and others. The show featured comic sketches, like a variety show. The most famous sketches often involved complex word-play (the Four Candles sketch is a must see) and the parodying of the establishment. Considered by some as edgier than the traditional Morecombe and Wise with some surreal humour similar to Monty Python.
In the tradition of Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy, Mr Bean includes lots of slapstick and comedic tools as old as comedy itself. Mr. Bean is an almost silent character that plays the clown and you can laugh your face off with the iconic Mr Bean. The show is so good that it has become an international success and led to two movies, Bean (1997) and Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007) for all ages.
Monty Python (1971 - 1983)
Starring John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, this pioneering team of comedians changed British humour significantly and then travelled well overseas. Monty Python's Flying Circus was the original comedy show, with hilarious sketches that pushed the boundaries of broadcast humour of the day. The group had highly successful individual careers and made a number of films together under the Monty Python name. In 2014 the Monty Python live tour was a huge worldwide success.
Steptoe and Son (1962 - 1974)
Harold and Albert Steptoe were the father and son running a rag-and-bone business. The series focused on the inter-generational conflict of father and son. Albert Steptoe, a "dirty old man", is an elderly rag-and-bone man, set in his grimy and grasping ways. By contrast, his 37-year-old son Harold wants better for himself. The show contained elements of drama and tragedy, as Harold was continually prevented from achieving his ambitions.