What makes something funny? Is it someone slipping on a banana peel? Babies laughing? Or maybe the millions of cat videos on Youtube? Comedy and humour are heavily dependent on cultural references. The iconic Australian comedy T.V show, Kath & Kim, reflects Australian ideologies, ways of life and values, making the show relatable and understandable to Australian audiences. In order for something to appear funny, social rules must be broken according to Comedy Theory 1. And our beloved Kath and Kim break many!
The clip above illustrates the cultural ‘rules’ being broken in Australian culture which therefore make it funny. Australians love a good tan as well as saving money. We all know someone (or maybe have shamefully experienced) a bad tan thus when Kath tans just one arm to save money and suit her outfit, we can relate to Kath and laugh at the ‘rule’ of tanning gone wrong. Followed by Kim making the obvious suggestion of flipping the top, is greeted by her being a genius (where through her character, we know she is not). The final funny remark is where Kim is pulling at her pants asking if Kath had washed them incorrectly because they were too tight. The thing that makes us laugh is that we know it is not Kath’s washing skills but Kim’s tragic desire to wear sizes too small for her figure. Whilst these are lots of little instances where the Australian social ‘rules’ have been broken, the repetition of breaking the rules is what encourages us to laugh, thus making it funny.
In the Australian version, the funniest aspect of the show is the staggering difference between the way Kath and Kim view themselves, to how we (the audience) views them. They see themselves as some ‘foxy ladies’ and their respective men as ‘hunky spunks.’ Where in reality, Kim wears two sizes too small at all times and Kath has a blond afro, Kel is a middle aged man with a serious combover and dreadful fashion sense (the opposite to hunky) and Brett is frankly a bit of a pathetic loser. This is another aspect which adds to the shows comedy because of these distinct differences.
Something that is lost in the US version of Kath and Kim is this difference. The actors are actually quite attractive, thin and not that ‘cooky,’ you could almost say that they really are foxy! A quote which accurately defines the poor reception of the American version of Kath and Kim is summed up by Sue Turnbull saying “I would suggest that what has been ‘seriously lost in translation’ is the role and place of irony: in this case, the gap between how a character imagines him/herself to be and how the appear to the audience (Turnbull, 2008).
Despite NBC’s (not so) greatest efforts to make the American version of Kath and Kim a success, the video above highlights the awkwardness and the fact that the show simply ‘missed the point.’ I believe a combination of factors such as casting, costumes, ‘jokes’ and setting just didn’t hit home, supported by the San Fransico Chronicals article stating ‘it’s a contender for the worst remake ever’ (Goodman, 2008).
Maybe the US will get the delicate adaptation process right one day? Or maybe Kath and Kim should just keep to Fountain Lakes.
Turnbull, S 2008, ‘It’s like they threw a panther in the air and caught it in embroidery’: TELEVISION COMEDY IN TRANSLATION, The Australian Teachers of Media Inc, St Kilda.
Goodman, T 2008, ‘TV Reviews: Kath and Kim, Testees,’ SFGate, http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/TV-reviews-Kath-Kim-Testees-3266718.php, accessed 21 September 2014,