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6 British Comedy Shows Like Little Britain

Updated on October 9, 2017

Little Britain is a brilliant character sketch show. Sadly, fans of the series have to say goodbye to the characters they love after just three seasons. The good news is that there are plenty alternatives.

The Catherine Tate Show

Written by: Catherine Tate, Derren Litten, Aschlin Ditta, Gordon Anderson, Mathew Horne, Arthur Mathews, Bruce Mackinnon, Jenny Lecoat, Ella Kenion, Niky Wardley

Starring: Catherine Tate, Mathew Horne, Niky Wardley, Angela McHale, Bruce Mackinnon, Jonathan McGuinness, Ella Kenion, James Holmes, Derren Litten, Rebecca Front

No. of series: 3

No. of episodes: 22

IMDb ranking: 7.3

Doctor Who fans will recognise Catherine Tate from her part as Donna. But she is also a brilliant comedian who co-wrote and starred in her own character sketch show. As a treat for Doctor Who fans, she appeared alongside David Tennant in a sketch written for Comic Relief. In it, she played one of the characters from the show, the indolent Lauren Cooper.

In the show, Catherine Tate impersonates a wide array of characters, some of whom are recurring and some of whom appear once or twice. For example, she plays a posh mother terrified by mundane things, a foul-mouthed grandma, and a deluded woman who married a cannibal on death row.

The humour in The Catherine Tate Show is frequently based on the social ineptness of her characters, who are brilliant, full-fleshed caricatures. Almost all of them have hilarious catchphrases. The recurring characters create a warm sense of familiarity, and yet there is enough variation in every situation to surprise the viewer.

The Catherine Tate Show is certainly one of my favourite character sketch shows.

A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Written by: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie

Starring: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Deborah Norton, Geoffrey McGivern

No. of series: 4

No. of episodes: 26

IMDb ranking: 8.4

Most U.S. viewers know Hugh Laurie from his appearance as Dr. House. Seeing a younger version of the actor fooling around at the side of Stephen Fry and speaking with a British accent may come as a shock to some.

A Bit of Fry and Laurie has an absurd sense of humour of the best kind. The delight that the comedians take in playing with language is evident in almost every episode. Lots of jokes are based on innuendo and wordplay.

A Bit of Fry and Laurie ridicules different people, groups (such as film critics), and policies. There are few recurring characters, which meant that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie had to invent the majority of characters every time they were writing an episode.

Thanks to Hugh Laurie’s incredible musical talent, A Bit of Fry and Laurie has also quite a few musical jokes. Just listen to Mystery to appreciate it:

A Bit of Fry and Laurie features hilarious, short fillers in which people seem to be answering an interviewer’s questions. Here you can get a taste of it:

That Mitchell and Webb Look

Written by: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, James Bachman, Mark Evans, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, John Finnemore, Chris Reddy, Toby Davies, Abigail Burdess, Jonathan Dryden-Taylor, Simon Kane

Starring: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Sarah Hadland, James Bachman, Olivia Colman, Paterson Joseph

No. of series: 4

No. of episodes: 24

IMDb ranking: 8.0

David Mitchell and Robert Webb are famous mainly for Peep Show. But they also co-wrote and starred in a brilliant comedy sketch show.

Some of the situations and characters are recurring, whereas other sketches are one-offs. The show features regular “behind-the-scenes” moments in which Mitchell and Webb play themselves having a break from shooting. They fall out almost all the time.

The comedy in That Mitchell and Webb Look is a mixture of situational, character, and absurd humour. The comedians ridicule things like religion, British people, homeopathy, and historical events. Probably their most famous sketch is this one about the Nazis:

Robert Webb spices things up with his crazy dance moves like in this sketch.

David Mitchell uses his “angry logic” to offer fresh perspectives on many issues.

Not the Nine O’Clock News

Written by: John Lloyd

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Chris Langham

No. of series: 4

No. of episodes: 27

IMDb ranking: 8.0

All fans of Mr. Beans and Rowan Atkinson should watch Not the Nine O’Clock News. The title of the show refers to the Nine O’Clock News, a genuine news programme aired at the time. Not the Night O’Clock News is a brilliant satire on news stories, politics, and popular culture. It also has songs you’ll never be able to get out of your head, such as this one:

Not the Nine O’Clock News was an attempt to return to a more conventional comedy sketch show in the post-Monty Python era. There is less surrealism, and the sketches are self-contained. But the show still has a healthy dose of absurd.
I particularly enjoy Rowan Atkinson playing slightly camp characters, such as this one about the American election:

...and this one:

Armstrong and Miller

Written by: Alexander Armstrong, Ben Miller, Bert Tyler-Moore, George Jeffrie, David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Michael McLeod, Aidan Hawkes

Starring: Alexander Armstrong, Ben Miller

No. of series: 4

No. of episodes: 27

IMDb ranking: 7.4

Armstrong and Miller is yet another double act sketch comedy show. It features lots of hilarious characters, especially the famous World War II RAF pilots, whose speech is full of “blud”, “like”, “shit” uttered in a posh accent. Watch the below video for a taste of what it sounds like.

Armstrong and Miller has many more iconic characters and recurring situations. The catchphrase “kill them” is another example of this.

Armstrong and Miller is probably less known than A Bit of Fry and Laurie, but I think it’s still worth watching for its ingenious, absurd sense of humour and flawless acting.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Written by: Monty Python, Neil Innes, Douglas Adams

Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Carol Cleveland, Ian Davidson, Connie Booth

No. of series: 4

No. of episodes: 45

IMDb rating: 8.9

Monty Python is the icon of the British sense of humour. Some people love them, some people hate them. The show was perhaps best described by John Cleese himself as “silly”.

The show breaks with many sketch comedy conventions. It is presented in a stream-of-consciousness way. Many jokes lack a punch line. Terry Gilliam’s surrealist animations also make the show stand out. Monty Python’s Flying Circus is laden with absurd, innuendo, and wordplay.

Some Monty Python’s sketches are classics, known in the whole UK and beyond. One example is the dead parrot sketch:

...or the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

Some phrases from the show, such as “And now for something completely different” or “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” are well-known pop cultural references.

The video below is a spoof documentary about grannies from hell terrorizing their neighbourhood. Paraphrasing Stephen Fry “Love them or loathe them, you’d be mad not to love them”

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