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David Sproxton
"You've seen War Story, there's a lot of dialect in that. Even we find bits of it difficult to understand."
Emru Townsend: Okay, British humour. Do you ever find that you have a problem with your films, say, in the [International] Tournees [of Animation] or in other festivals in the States?

David Sproxton: Yeah. You've seen War Story, there's a lot of dialect in that. Even we find bits of it difficult to understand. And obviously overseas it's tricky, you know, France and Germany. And there is a difference, because the Brits laugh at themselves a lot, and there's quite a bit of that deadpan stuff, and they don't take themselves very seriously. And I think there's quite a lot of humour based on language, and also the class system. A lot of our humour stems from that, really. And it's weird, because when you're making funny films, it's just what makes you laugh, you don't think "Are they going to find us funny in Puerto Rico? What about Vancouver?" You just don't think like, ha ha, that's really funny, let's put it in.

In the Morph series, Peter and I just wrote that stuff for ourselves. And again, if it made us laugh, eight year olds might like it, twenty-eight year olds might like it. We're not going to be condescending. Because also, by the time you get to--we were about twenty-four, twenty-five when we made it--you've completely forgotten how you thought when you were eight years old. You vaguely remember how your head worked when you were eight, but really you've lost touch. So it's much easier just to do the thing for yourself.

Something like The Wrong Trousers, that's pretty international, but I don't know whether you picked up on the fact that he's a Northern character, lives in a Northern town, he's got some Northern sensibilities and a sort of simplicity in his life.

But it's funny, because Americans do have a very different sense of humour. They don't laugh at themselves so much, they laugh at other people.

I was here a few years back, and turned on the TV, and Monty Python was playing. And there was this sketch about playing cricket. But it was like the antithesis of cricket, everything was being done wrong. But if you don't understand of the rules of cricket, it makes no sense whatsoever. You're just, hold on, they're throwing spears. So what is this about LBW? And if you don't know what LBW is, Leg Before Wicket [the ball hits the batsman's body instead of the wicket, having been missed by the batsman--Ed.], it's kind of a standing joke, but [if you don't know] it doesn't mean anything. And that's extreme. But it's like Fawlty Towers. I've often wondered how Fawlty Towers translated here.

It's popular here, in Canada at any rate. I can think maybe three of my American friends who like it.

Yes, because that's very British humour there, kind of the stiff upper lip, trying to keep your cool while you're actually losing it, class humour, the old colonial character there, it's 100% British humour there, really.

Canadian humour maintains a lot of the outgrowth of that. I made an observation some time ago about the now-defunct Canadian troupe called The Frantics, that the way the structured their gags was very much reminiscent of Monty Python. With a particular Canadian bent, of course. Self-deprecating, jokes about Parliament--this would be our Parliament, which of course is an outgrowth of the British system, so it's pretty easy to find the common ground there.

What about the French humour here? How different is it?

It's very different. It's an acquired taste, I think. I find it tends to be more outrageous. In its own way, it's a lot like a cartoon. Exaggeration, facial contortions.

It's interesting, because we do French commercials, we have a tie-up with a Parisian company, and their stuff is much more outrageous. We did a spot for kids' school bags, and in fact it was a spot which we could not have done in England, because it was so violent. It [had] sort of a servant/master relationship, and the master just clobbers the servant, just absolutely smashes him as flat as a pancake. They're very, very cartoony characters, they really are, they were derived from a French graphic cartoonist. It was just extreme.

I don't quite remember the designer/artist's name, but he uses very heavy black outlines, like a thick felt-tip pen. Very plain, flat colors, Dark reds, blues, and greens. But it was absolutely outrageous. It was very funny, but subtle it ain't. It really isn't.

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Originally printed in fps #9 (Spring 1996)
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