English in Australia: Does UK Humour Work Down Under?

Well I never! I had no idea. I’ll get to that in a minute though.

My mini-series about how the United Kingdom countries are represented here in Australia is about to draw to a close. What have we had so far?

Well, it all started with…

Next up we had…

And then last week it was…

… and each of those posts featured a video clip with a comedian from each of those countries.

This week, quite clearly, it’s the turn of…

The English in Australia

Tony_AbbottAnd that’s exactly what I had no idea about. That’s why I ‘well I nevered’ earlier.

Yes, Tony Abbott our current Prime Minister of Australia was born in England, London to be precise. He moved here with his family when he was about three year’s old, same age as my daughter Elizabeth. So who knows, maybe one day my little girl will be running the country.

Looking back through the history of all prime ministers of Australia, quite a few were either born in England or were of English ancestry; in total there have been 11 of them. In 11 out of 28 is quite a high proportion.

Yes, English Australians are far and away the most represented of the four UK countries or indeed of any countries and as the Wikipedia page says…

…Australians of English descent, are both the single largest ethnic group in Australia and the largest ‘ancestry’ identity in the Australia Census ….they make up more than half of the population.


In the 2011 census, 7.2 million or 36.1% of respondents identified as “English” or a combination including English, such as English-Australian. The census also documented 910,000 residents of Australia as being born in England.”

No wonder I’ve met a lot of English people since I’ve been here, there are thousands and thousands of us.

So, for as great an influence the English have had on Australia and its politics, this post isn’t about politics at all, it’s more about the closely related topic of comedy.

Comedy in Australia

In the very first post in this series there was a suggestion that Irish humour was not fully understood here in Australia. The Scottish guy didn’t seem to have any complaints but the Welshman certainly said that the Australian sense of humour freaked him out a little bit.

So, what about the English sense of humour in Australia?

Here is a very funny Englishman, Paul foot, who made the trip down under to appear at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2011. He obviously enjoyed himself, he has since returned to appear in many more Melbourne festivals. Coming up is a clip from the 2013 Festival, but before that let’s find out why he thinks men drink beer…

Not sure about him? Well, let’s see what he makes of those “baby on board” signs in the back of cars…

So there we have it, our little look at UK folk in Australia has come to an end. Here’s the big question though…

What’s funny in Australia?

Were any of these people funny to Australians? Did their humour travel? Who was the funniest, the Irishman, the Scotsman, the Welshman or the Englishman?

I suppose you really need to be Australian to answer this, but nobody is going to be checking passports, so please do let me know in the comments below if you found any of these people funny or not.

Finally, I really want to know who the funniest Australian comedian is according to Australians. Because although I have finished with UK folk in Australia, next week I would like to do a post on Australians in Australia.

So please, let me know in comments below…

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Shane November 30, 2013, 7:51 am |

    John Clarke, NZ born but here since 1977, is hilarious. Very unique sort of humour.

    • BobinOz December 1, 2013, 7:59 pm |

      Yes, I have seen him on TV, he is very funny. Well worth googling him for anyone who hasn’t seen him before.

  • Angela November 23, 2013, 2:21 am |

    I absolutely LOVE FOTC! I am a very big fan. I am moving to Oz next month from the US, but I am a huge fan of British Comedy. I love Rev., Are you being served, and no one will ever top Monty Python!

    • BobinOz November 25, 2013, 12:35 pm |

      I sat and watched the Holy Grail again just the other night 🙂

  • Russell November 13, 2013, 6:45 pm |

    Adam Hills is one of my personal favourites…


    … and a Welsh comedian on arriving in Oz…


    • BobinOz November 14, 2013, 12:21 am |

      I’ll check out Adam Hills, but that Welshman, you didn’t click through on my Welsh link above, did you? 🙂

  • Tim November 13, 2013, 6:00 pm |

    Bill Bailey came to Hobart as well where we saw him. Very funny indeed 🙂

    They’re New Zealanders and make a lot of jokes at the Aussie’s expense but I really like Flight of the Conchords. Super super funny.

    • BobinOz November 14, 2013, 12:10 am |

      Flight of the Conchords, yes I loved that show too. What happened to it? Maybe it was only me and you who liked it? 🙂

  • Renee November 13, 2013, 9:49 am |

    Well my 2 favourites are Ross Noble and Jimeoin so I do think the humour travels lol. I can’t really think of any favourite Australian comedians… Oh wait I like Kitty Flannegan

    • BobinOz November 13, 2013, 1:12 pm |

      I can’t remember having seen Kitty Flannigan, that’s another one I will need to YouTube.

      • Renee November 24, 2013, 4:16 pm |
        • BobinOz November 25, 2013, 1:32 pm |

          By some amazing coincidence no sooner had I mentioned not having seen Kitty Flannigan, she appeared on TV in a one hour programme “Funny As”. So now I do know Kitty 🙂

  • Heidi November 13, 2013, 2:39 am |


    I am in the uk still but still dreaming, been to the beautiful area of Brisbane in 2010.

    My fave Aussie comic is Kevin bloody Wilson and the expression dilligaf seems to sum up a lot of Aussie humour and mine too sometimes!

    Here i like Ross noble too and the scouser john bishop.

    Good luck on your quest.

    • BobinOz November 13, 2013, 1:05 pm |

      Heidi, you are a naughty naughty woman!

      Warning to all my readers:

      Do not Google Kevin bloody Wilson and in particular stay away from YouTube and “Hey Santa Claus”. Frankly, the language used by Mr Wilson in what should have been a very pleasant children’s song at Christmas is nothing but disgraceful.

      I remember being subjected to this song many years ago, I still need counselling every Christmas. And I’ve got a bike!

      Heidi, really! You’ll be saying you like Roy “Chubby” Brown next!

      That Ross Noble is a nice boy though 🙂

  • Kirri November 11, 2013, 9:21 pm |

    Favourite Australian comedian, jeez that’s a tough one. I do love Tim Minchin as mentioned above. We’ve claimed him as an Aussie no matter where he was born. In the same manner, Jimeoin is a big Australian comedian but no one listening to him could ever mistake him for being from Australia. Carl Barron is not one of my favourites but I doubt you can get more quintessentially Aussie than him. Josh Thomas, Hamish and Andy, and Tom Gleeson are all pretty funny. But a lot of my experience of Aussie comedians comes from their interactions on shows like Good News Week and Talking about your Generation etc so it doesn’t necessarily follow that their stand up acts would be as good.

    I definitely think the UK sense of humour works in Australia, Jason Byrne, Ross Noble and Bill Bailey are all among my faves. And I love the British comedies, Black Books and the IT crowd and a lot of my friends do too. I love the Australian comedy shows with a panel like format as the ones above or improv style like Thank God You’re Here but my favourites plot style comedies are British.

    The Chaser boys also deserve a mention I think for some of my fave comedic moments. The APEC stunt was brilliant and the Politics with Cats videos are absolutely hilarious. They’re not the sort of thing you would be looking for as best comedian but if you’re gonna be spending some time on YouTube then they are definitely worth watching.

    • BobinOz November 12, 2013, 3:36 pm |

      Hi Kirri

      Thanks for this, of the names you have mentioned that I know I’m with you all the way. Jimeoin is funny and he is undoubtedly an Australian citizen, but with an accent like he has I’m finding it really difficult to call him “Australian”. Tim Minchin on the other hand, well, maybe I should regard him as an Aussie as I think he moved here when he was a very young child.

      Is that a grey line I’ve just created there? 🙂

      I also agree that Carl Barron is 100% Aussie, but like yourself I just don’t find him very funny. For the rest of your Australian nominations, I’m going to need to look them up.

      As for those UK comics working here, Ross Noble seems to have gone down well when he has toured, loved his description of the emu, and I saw Bill Bailey live last year when he came to Brisbane, he was hilarious! IT Crowd is one of my all-time favourite British comedies.

      You mention those panel shows; Shaun Micallef, he’s quite funny, but is he trying to hard to be John Cleese?

      So we are in tune, but I have to ask Kirri, just for clarification, are you Australian?

      • Kirri November 13, 2013, 1:25 pm |

        We have rules for when someone can be called Australian. If they were born in Australia, they’re Australian, if they moved to Australia, they’re Australian, if they got their start on Neighbours or Home and Away, they’re Australian, if they’re married to an Australian, they’re Australian, if they’re from New Zealand, they’re Australian, (be careful with this one, if they’re in Australia, then they’re a Kiwi and should be made fun of accordingly but if you’re talking about them to someone overseas then they’re Australian, it’s not like anyone else has heard of New Zealand anyway). Just kidding, sorta, we do have a habit of claiming Kiwis as our own until they do something we don’t like then they’re a New Zealander again (think Russell Crowe)

        Shaun Micallef is an interesting one. All his jokes are incredibly lame but that’s clearly the point and I can’t decide if that makes it better or worse 🙂 I still laugh though so can’t complain.

        And yes I’m Australian, both born here and lived here my whole life which qualifies me under 2 of the above categories.

        • BobinOz November 13, 2013, 11:44 pm |

          Love those rules Kirri, got everything covered. We have similar rules in the UK; Andy Murray has been in more Wimbledon semis/finals than you can shake a stick at, but every time he lost he was Scottish. When he won this year, the press went mad, “First British tennis player to win Wimbledon for a million years!” (Or how ever many years it was.)

          You can’t beat selective nationalityism 🙂 Like yourself though, I’m exaggerating (a bit).

    • Renee November 13, 2013, 9:53 am |

      I forgot about those guys!

      Also I loved when Ross described Parliament House as Bilbo’s house haha

      • BobinOz November 13, 2013, 11:45 pm |

        Bilbo is in charge, isn’t he?

        • Renee November 24, 2013, 4:05 pm |

          Haha I wish it was bilbo in charge!

          Aussies are terrible for selective nationalityism lol

  • meg November 10, 2013, 4:00 pm |

    Hi Bob,
    firstly, thank you so much for your blog. I love it and read it all the time. In a couple of weeks my family and I are making the trek downunder and I cant wait!!! Our visas arrived about a month ago. Its so nice to be able to read about Aus from someone who is there and not just from a book. Hugely worried about the spiders tho!! my youngest is a spider magnet.
    Keep well and keep blogging,

    • BobinOz November 11, 2013, 1:52 pm |

      Congratulations on getting your visa Meg, hope you get to love this country is much as I do. Glad you like my website as well 🙂

      Keep your annual pest control up-to-date in your house and that will pretty much take care of the spiders. Cheers, Bob

  • Valter Russo November 8, 2013, 10:17 pm |

    Hi Bob

    i not quite Aussie, but my heart is in the place, can’t really answer to the first question, but for me the funniest Australian comedian is Tim Minchin. He’s from Perth, but incomprehensible as it can be, he moved to London.
    The guy is great, and if it worked in Australia, why not in Europe? in Portugal he’s not very ”known” cause most of us do not speak English, but i guess he had pretty much success in the UK.

    Valter Russo

    • BobinOz November 11, 2013, 1:03 pm |

      I don’t know much about Tim Minchin, never seen him but I will check out some of his videos. Not sure we can count him though, he was actually born in Britain.

      • Caroline January 10, 2017, 10:34 pm |

        You can count Tim as Australian. One of his uncles founded Clancys Fish Pubs, one of them is a very well known WA muso and larrykin and they are all very Aussie.

        • BobinOz January 12, 2017, 1:30 am |

          Interesting statement Caroline, and one that has got me thinking. All I knew (Googled) about Tim Minchin is that he was born in Northampton, UK, but was brought up in Perth.

          How old he was when his parents moved to Australia though, I don’t know. But does it matter?

          The reason it’s an interesting statement is because when we moved to Australia from the UK my daughter was three years old. Even though she got her Australian citizenship by the time she was 7, I would still regard her as ‘English’. Granted, she didn’t have any Aussie uncles opening fish pubs or any other Australian relatives, but I don’t think that changes anything.

          I also think it’s possible that some trueblue Aussies will say that only people born and bred here can truly call themselves Australian and that there are no grey areas. So the Bee Gees are not Australian, Tony Abbott is not Australian, my daughter is not Australian and Tim Minchin isn’t either.

          I don’t say any of these things in an argumentative way, but only to to try and clarify what defines someone’s nationality. Maybe Tim Minchin really is Australian, maybe both his parents are Australian, maybe they just popped over to Northampton for a holiday when he popped out. That, I reckon, would make him Australian.

          So did that happen?

          I just Googled again, according to Wikipedia ‘He was born in Northampton, England, to Australian parents’, so maybe it did. OK, I agree, Tim Minchin is Australian 🙂

          I need to lie down for a little while.

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