Mike Harling (an American in Britain, and author of Postcards From Across The Pond, which I happened to blurb) and Toni Hargis (a Briton in America, and author of Rules, Britannia: An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom) squared off yesterday on which country is better — the US or the UK — on BBC Radio Scotland. The interview starts about 1 hour and 12 minutes into the broadcast — you can move the pointer to that spot.
Toni wrote on her blog that she didn’t say Americans had zero sense of humor as the host claimed (Toni, I loved your Labrador puppy line!). And I think Mike is turning into a Brit because he never interrupted and he wasn’t all rah-rah-America, but calmly and humorously defended his homeland. Who won? Well, poor Mike was outnumbered and being an American myself … come on, of course America rules! Do we really have to debate this?
I liked the discussion about the difference between US and UK humor. Hargis said she dumped her sarcastic sense of humor years ago because Americans don’t get it — we take everything literally. Hmm. To some degree this is true, especially if you’re kidding around with a Midwesterner or Southerner. But in the Northeast — places like the outer boroughs of NYC, south Boston, or northern New England — sarcasm, irony, and black humor are the gold standards for humor. Indeed, Mike — from upstate New York — gave Britons a little taste of this with his comment about guns being the efficacious way to kill someone, versus stomping on them or lighting them afire as they typically do in the gun-wary UK. And I had to tone down my ironic commentary when I married my husband, an earnest corn-fed boy from Michigan who, along with his family, takes everything at face value.
Nevertheless, I give the British the edge on their collective sense of humor, as well as their conversational skills. And it’s not just because I love the way they sound, I swear.
Anyway, it’s a fun listen and both Toni and Mike spoke their sides very well.