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Comedy In Translation: Hahahaha! Wait…what?

Alright, look at moiye. Look at moiye. Laughter and comedy do often tend to bring people together, but only if both parties find what they are witnessing to be actually funny. It can be argued that comedy can only truly be successful when the actors are the right choices for the characters and if the audience actually understands the cultural contexts of the comedy.

It is argued that comedy ‘plays an absolutely pivotal role in the construction of national identity, because it invites us to belong by sharing the joke’ (Turnball, 2008, p. 10). When looking at Australian comedy, no stars shine brighter than those of Kath and Kim.

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Australia’s gems. The epitomes of class, sophistication and beauty. Ladies and Gentlemen. Kath and Kim.

This Australian comedy has been perceived by most Australians as being hilarious, with the nation growing to love these two monstrous personalities. The humour and sarcasm of the show was widely accepted throughout Australian society. Australian viewers thoroughly enjoyed the irony of the show, though this was all lost in translation when the American version of Kath and Kim was aired. Karen Brooks ultimately argues that ‘the US Kath and Kim were not monstrous enough to be clichés, stereotypes, parodies or even brave enough to be adherent or funny’. The casting also proved to be another key aspect of why the show was not considered to have translated well. Below is a photo of the original and Australian Kath and Kim, contrasted to the US adaption of Kath and Kim.

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The USA appropriation of Kath and Kim (left) and the Australian Kath and Kim (right).

From looking at the photo above, we are physically able to see the difference is casting between the two countries. The USA adaption has Kath and Kim elements of glamour, which contrasts to Australian Kath and Kim, who are presented to be more trashy. This is what makes the comedy so successful to an Australian audience. Kim in particular lives her life believing herself to be ‘a princess’ and drop dead gorgeous, though it is ironic as this is not the case.

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Ultimately, it can be understood that each differing culture and country has different standards of what they believe to be comedy. I even found it interesting that during this week’s lecture itself, most of the students were laughing at the clips of the Australian Kath and Kim, whilst almost nobody even smiled or sniggered when watching the USA adaptation.

– BJS

References:

Turnbull, S, 2004, ‘Look at Moiye, Kimmie, Look at Moiye’: Kath and Kim and the Australian Comedy of Taste’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 113, pp. 98 – 109

Turnbull, S 2008,  ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught It in Embroidery’: Television Comedy in Translation  [online]. Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, No. 159, 2008: 110-115.

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