Throughout film, television, and radio, British comedy has become known for its consistently peculiar characters, plots, and settings, and has produced some of the most renowned comedians and characters in the world.
"[Pulcinella] went down particularly well with Restoration British audiences, fun-starved after years of Puritanism. We soon changed Punch's name, transformed him from a marionette to a hand puppet, and he became, really, a spirit of Britain - a subversive maverick who defies authority, a kind of puppet equivalent to our political cartoons."
—Punch and Judy showman Glyn Edwards. 
British comedy history is measured in centuries. Shakespeare incorporated many chase scenes and beatings into his comedies, such as in his play The Comedy of Errors . The quarrelsome couple Punch and Judy made their first recorded appearance in Britain in 1662, when Samuel Pepys noted a "pretty" puppet play being performed in Covent Garden, London.  The various episodes of Punch and Judy are performed in the spirit of outrageous comedy — often provoking shocked laughter — and are dominated by the anarchic clowning of Mr. Punch. 
Satire has been a major feature of comedy in the British isles for centuries. The pictorial satire of William Hogarth was a precursor to the development of political cartoons in 18th century England.  The medium developed under the direction of its greatest exponent, James Gillray from London, who has been referred to as the father of the political cartoon.  With his satirical works calling the king (George III), prime ministers and generals (especially Napoleon) to account, Gillray's wit and keen sense of the ridiculous made him the pre-eminent cartoonist of the era. 
In early 19th century England, pantomime acquired its present form which includes slapstick comedy and featured the first mainstream clown Joseph Grimaldi, while comedy routines also featured heavily in British music hall theatre which became popular in the 1850s.   British comedians who honed their skills at pantomime and music hall sketches include Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, George Formby and Dan Leno.   The influential English music hall comedian and theatre impresario Fred Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue in the 1890s, and Chaplin and Laurel were among the young comedians who worked for him as part of "Fred Karno's Army". 
See British comedy films (Cinema of the United Kingdom).
Radio comedy in Britain has been almost exclusively the preserve of the BBC, and a number of British radio comedies achieved considerable renown in the second half of the 20th century.
In the 1940s and 1950s, variety dominated the schedules, and popular series included It's That Man Again and Much Binding in the Marsh . In the mid-1950s, however, two notable series emerged which would help to shape the future of radio and television comedy in Britain. The Goons (Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe) starred in their own anarchic series The Goon Show which ran throughout the 1950s. At the same time, the BBC was also running Hancock's Half Hour starring Tony Hancock, the first of a new generation of comedies based on believable characters and situations. Hancock's Half Hour later transferred to TV and was phenomenally successful throughout the 1950s, running concurrently on radio and television until 1960.
Another notable radio show was the double entendre-laden Round the Horne (1965–1968), a sequel to the earlier series Beyond Our Ken , which ran from 1959 to 1964. I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again (1964-1973) gained a devoted youth following in the late 1960s.
Later radio shows made use of the panel game format, including the long-running Just a Minute (1967–), I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (1972–) and The News Quiz (1977–), which often broadcast a dozen of so episodes a year, normally split over two series broadcast at different points in the year. The success of the panel show format has in turn has influenced TV series like Have I Got News for You (1990–), They Think It's All Over (1995–2006) and Mock the Week (2005–).
BBC Radio has continued to be a breeding ground for new talent and many programmes have transferred successfully to television, including Whose Line is it Anyway? , On the Hour , Goodness Gracious Me , Knowing Me, Knowing You and Little Britain .
Although many popular shows of recent years began life on BBC Radio, there have been many successful and influential series which were designed purely for TV. In contrast to their US counterparts, which have seasons of up to 26 episodes a year, British sit-coms traditionally have series of just 6 episodes. The main reason for this is that British shows are generally written by one or two dedicated writers - often the people that created the show in the first place - as opposed to the US model of having a larger writing team. In part, this is a reflection of the difference between the size of the TV audience in the two countries, and the economics of television production; for decades sit-coms were the shows on US television that delivered the highest ratings; in Britain the highest ratings figures were normally for soap operas, which generally run several times a week, year-in year-out, and as a result generally required larger writing teams.
Following the success of Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son , the sitcom became firmly entrenched in the television schedules. Some of the most successful examples include Dad's Army , Absolutely Fabulous , and Red Dwarf .
The BBC has generally been dominant in television comedy, but the commercial stations have also had some successes. ITV's most successful sitcoms were generally produced in the 1970s, including Rising Damp , On the Buses , and George and Mildred . Commercial station Channel 4 has been more successful than ITV with situation comedies in recent years. Some of the better-known examples are Drop the Dead Donkey , Spaced , Green Wing , and The Inbetweeners.
Other formats have also been popular, with sketch shows, stand-up comedy, impressionists and even puppet shows finding success. Although impressionists experienced a lull in popularity in the 1990s, the success of Dead Ringers (another BBC Radio cross-over) and Alistair McGowan's Big Impression has been notable.
The most notable satirical comedies are the ground-breaking 1960s series That Was The Week That Was , 1980s series Not the Nine O'Clock News , and ITV's puppet show Spitting Image . One of the most-watched shows of the 1980s and early 1990s, Spitting Image was a satire of politics, entertainment, sport and British culture of the era, and at its peak it was watched by 15 million people.  British satire has also washed over into quiz shows – popular examples include the news quiz Have I Got News for You , Mock the Week , 8 out of 10 cats , Shooting Stars and music-based Never Mind The Buzzcocks .
One of the most influential groups in comedy is Monty Python. Their Flying Circus sketch show aired on the BBC between 1969 and 1974. The group itself consisted of six members, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. All were UK-born except Gilliam, who was US-born. Chapman, Cleese, and Idle attended the University of Cambridge, while Jones and Palin attended the University of Oxford. Gilliam was an alumnus of Occidental College. The Pythons went on to produce a large body of other legendary work including two TV specials for Germany, four feature films, a concert film, and various documentary specials detailing the group's history. Their unique brand of humour has had a profound influence on British comedy and on comedy in general.[ citation needed ] They themselves had been influenced by The Goons and Spike Milligan's Q series. Python found surprising popularity in the US in the 1970s, as did the less cerebral humour of Benny Hill and his ITV sketch series The Benny Hill Show .
Other notable sketch-based series include Morecambe and Wise , The Two Ronnies , The Goodies , French and Saunders , The Catherine Tate Show , and The Fast Show .
In the 1980s, alternative comedy was spearheaded by Ben Elton and The Comic Strip group which included Alexei Sayle, Rik Mayall, and French and Saunders.
Vic Reeves Big Night Out influenced the style of a whole new generation of comics in the 1990s until the present day. 
The 1990s and 2000s also saw the rise of a new set of British comedians who made innovative contributions mainly in the form of sitcoms. Shows such as Mr. Bean , Green Wing , Peep Show , Black Books , Teachers , Spaced , Smack the Pony , Big Train , The Office , and Extras have used editing, surreal humour, and cultural references to great effect. A loose clique of stars, including Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Jessica Stevenson, Mark Heap, Tamsin Greig, Bill Bailey have revolved around these series.
Monty Python were a British comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show Monty Python's Flying Circus, which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed from the television series into something larger in scope and influence, including touring stage shows, films, albums, books and musicals. The Pythons' influence on comedy has been compared to the Beatles' influence on music. Regarded as an enduring icon of 1970s pop culture, their sketch show has been referred to as being "an important moment in the evolution of television comedy".
The Goon Show is a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series, broadcast from 28 May to 20 September 1951, was titled Crazy People; subsequent series had the title The Goon Show.
Anthony John Hancock was an English comedian and actor.
Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props such as saws and ladders.
A British sitcom or a Britcom is a situational comedy programme produced for British television.
Eric Sykes was an English radio, stage, television and film writer, comedian, actor, and director whose performing career spanned more than 50 years. He frequently wrote for and performed with many other leading comedy performers and writers of the period, including Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Peter Sellers, John Antrobus, and Johnny Speight. Sykes first came to prominence through his many radio credits as a writer and actor in the 1950s, most notably through his collaboration on The Goon Show scripts. He became a TV star in his own right in the early 1960s when he appeared with Hattie Jacques in several popular BBC comedy television series.
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish, or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian.
Radio comedy, or comedic radio programming, is a radio broadcast that may involve variety show, sitcom elements, sketches, and various types of comedy found in other media. It may also include more surreal or fantastic elements, as these can be conveyed on a small budget with just a few sound effects or some simple dialogue. Radio comedy began in the United States in 1930, based on the fact that as most United Kingdom music hall comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel progressed to silent films, they moved to Hollywood and fed the radio comedy field. Another British music hall comic, George Formby, stayed in the British movie industry, and in 1940 joined the Entertainments National Service Association to entertain British World War II troops. UK radio comedy therefore started later, in the 1950s.
Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe were British television comedy scriptwriters, best known for their 1960s and 1970s sitcoms The Rag Trade, Meet the Wife (1963–66), On the Buses (1969–73) and Romany Jones (1972–75). When their partnership began in the mid-1950s, Chesney was already known to the public as a harmonica player.
Michael Joseph Pennington, better known as Johnny Vegas, is an English comedian, actor, writer, and director. He is known for his thick Lancashire accent, husky voice, overweight appearance, angry comedic rants, and use of surreal humour.
British humour carries a strong element of satire aimed at the absurdity of everyday life. Common themes include sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek, banter, insults, self-deprecation, taboo subjects, puns, innuendo, wit, and the British class system. These are often accompanied by a deadpan delivery which is present throughout the British sense of humour. It may be used to bury emotions in a way that seems unkind in the eyes of other cultures. Jokes are told about everything and almost no subject is off-limits, though a lack of subtlety when discussing controversial issues is sometimes considered insensitive. Many British comedy series have become successful internationally, serving as a representation of British culture to overseas audiences.
David Peter Renwick is an English author, television writer, actor, director and executive producer, best known for creation of the sitcom One Foot in the Grave and the mystery series Jonathan Creek. He was awarded the Writers Guild Ronnie Barker Award at the 2008 British Comedy Awards.
Canadian humour is an integral part of the Canadian identity. There are several traditions in Canadian humour in both English and French. While these traditions are distinct and at times very different, there are common themes that relate to Canadians' shared history and geopolitical situation in North America and the world. Though neither universally kind nor moderate, humorous Canadian literature has often been branded by author Dick Bourgeois-Doyle as "gentle satire," evoking the notion embedded in humorist Stephen Leacock's definition of humour as "the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life and the artistic expression thereof."
David Schneider is a British actor, comedian, and director, best known for playing Tony Hayers in the Alan Partridge franchise.
Steve Steen is a British television, radio and theatre actor and comedian, known for improvisational comedy works.
Comedy is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any other entertainment medium. The term originated in ancient Greece: in Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by political satire performed by comic poets in theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance pitting two groups, ages, genders, or societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old". A revised view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions posing obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth then becomes constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to resort to ruses which engender dramatic irony, which provokes laughter.
Australian comedy refers to the comedy and humour performed in or about Australia or by the people of Australia. Australian humour can be traced to various origins, and today is manifested in a diversity of cultural practices and pursuits. Writers like Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson helped to establish a tradition of laconic, ironic and irreverent wit in Australian literature, while Australian politicians and cultural stereotypes have each proved rich sources of comedy for artists from poet C. J. Dennis to satirist Barry Humphries to iconic film maker Paul Hogan, each of whom have given wide circulation to Australian slang.
Lawrence Geoffrey Stephens was a BBC radio scriptwriter, best remembered for co-writing The Goon Show with Spike Milligan. Stephens was a regular writer of the show for the first two years, and then returned to The Goon Show to assist Milligan. From his association with Milligan, Stephens became involved with Associated London Scripts (ALS), and was said to have been "one of the most eye-catching characters, in the earliest days of the company...he played a significant cameo role in the first phase of success for ALS".
Derek Thomas Scott was a British film, television and stage musical director, film and television composer and musician. He started his career as a double act with both Terry-Thomas and Tony Hancock before becoming a composer for film and television and "one of Britain's best known light entertainment musical directors."
Television comedy is a category of broadcasting that has been present since the early days of entertainment media. While there are several genres of comedy, some of the first ones aired were variety shows. One of the first United States television programs was the comedy-variety show Texaco Star Theater, which was most prominent in the years that it featured Milton Berle - from 1948 to 1956. The range of television comedy has become broader, with the addition of sitcoms, improvisational comedy, and stand-up comedy, while also adding comedic aspects into other television genres, including drama and news. Television comedy provides opportunities for viewers to relate the content in these shows to society. Some audience members may have similar views about certain comedic aspects of shows, while others will take different perspectives. This also relates to developing new social norms, sometimes acting as the medium that introduces these transitions.