A Life Lesson

“The world’s a big place. You can’t do or be everything, nor should you. Life is bigger than any one man. But when you read about other people’s lives, when you read their stories, you catch a glimpse of a world bigger than your own. You may never travel a hundred miles from where you were born, but if you read stories, you’ll get to see the entire world.”Steve Dublanica

It’s funny how your perception of the size of the world changes as you grow up. As a child, your house is your nation, the backyard your countryside, and the fences your national border. A play date at a friend’s house is the equivalent of travelling overseas, as you are whisked away to a foreign land bursting with strange and exotic sights, sounds and smells.

There are many times that I wish I could be transported back to this blissful ignorance of childhood. As our knowledge of the world ripens with age, so too does our responsibility as global citizens to act on the injustices that face us all. Poverty, famine, war, asylum seekers. As a university student studying in a first world country, these issues, like a difficult math equation, are almost impossible to fully grasp. Growing up in a prosperous environment, where both food on our plates and clothes on our backs are a careless given, it is difficult to fathom the hardships suffered by many people around the world. We are caught up in our own microcosmic bubbles. A bad day is when our phone prematurely runs out of battery before the sun sets, when we step in a puddle with our new Gucci heels, or the only milk left in the fridge is skim. First world problems.

And yet, when it’s all that we know, we can hardly be blamed in our exaggeration of these struggles. BCM 111 has opened my eyes to the world beyond our horizon. My global ‘consciousness’ has grown through exploration of key concepts including globalisation, transnational film and television, hybridisation and glocalisation. Furthermore, it is the insight into the lives of other people and their stories that have expanded the borders of my international knowledge exponentially. While this personal growth may seem like a drop of water in the ocean of truly tackling global issues, this education is what I believe to be the first step towards enacting real change, and to making a difference on the world stage.

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Why isn’t the Koala a Real Bear?

Because it doesn’t have the right koalafications.

Sharing this joke with a group of mates in your local Aussie pub may see you escape shouting the next round of drinks, depending on how well your friends respond to the stereotypical pun. However if the same joke were to be repeated in, say Spain, you might see yourself greeted by the awkward silence of a bewildered crowd… and be lucky to escape the second coming of La Tomatina initiated by the bemused locals.

Comedy and humour are culturally specific. Whilst a person slipping on a banana peel is universally accepted as amusing, the more subtle and unique humour encapsulated within a comedy show from a specific country cannot be so easily translated across cultures. As Susan Purdie explains in her book Comedy: the Mastery of Discourse , comedy finds its niche in breaking rules of language and behaviour.  While all cultures may laugh at the same ‘rule’, such as the slapstick hilarity of the banana peel scenario, in many cases these ‘rules’ are context specific.

Kim's 'hornbag' looks were lost in translation by casting Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

Kim’s ‘hornbag’ looks were lost in translation by casting Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

Kath and Kim typifies a failed attempt to export a local Australian comedy series. Many key points of humour in the show fell short of laughs in the ‘copycat’ American version. For example, while self-proclaimed ‘hornbag’ Kim (played by Gina Riley) suffered constant jibes from her mother about her ‘muffin top’ in the Australian series, the irony of this situation was lost in translation by casting slender Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

However, when the FORMAT of a comedy show, rather than the program in its entirety, is exported and adapted to suit another culture, the result can be very different.

Satirical panel game comedy show Good News Week was a huge success in Australia during both of its two runs between 1996 and 2012. Hosted by comedian Paul McDermott, the show drew its humour from Australian current affairs, topical news issues and important media and political figures.  Here is a typical example of McDermott’s opening monologue, in which he cleverly summarises the news of the week, in this case- Julia Gillard taking over leadership of the Labour Party in 2010.

With jabs and jibes specific to Australian culture, it is little wonder this show was well received, averaging a rating of 7.5/10 over its airtime.

Many people are unaware that Good News Week was originally based on British satirical panel game show Have I Got News for You which remains one of the leading television shows in British comedy to this day. Broadcast for over 40 complete series, the program was the first collective act to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 British Comedy Awards. Once again, this show drew its humour from current affairs, however in this scenario, from issues relevant to Britons.

While comedy and humour remain generally remain unique to a culture, it appears that the FORMAT of comedy is a product that, just as with many cultural forms, adheres to the modern notion of ‘glocalisation’, of fashioning a universal product to local preferences. Perhaps your safest bet in Spain would be a bull joke. They are usually well herd.