13 British Comedies On Netflix To Help You Laugh Your Way To Stress-Free Bliss
Whether you're in the thick of a gruelling 9-5, or at the height of exam season, stress will sometimes come knocking on your door whether you like it or not. But who said adulting was easy? Thankfully, the comfort blanket that is Netflix will always be there for us. There's a thriving crop of British comedies on Netflix at the moment, proving that the streaming service's UK offerings can easily compete with its U.S. counterpart. The sitcoms and sketch shows up for grabs are more than we could ever ask for — Netflix, you're killing it.
The escapism that Netflix provides also exists in the climate of increased awareness around stress and anxiety. There are now guides published by health services across the UK describing the effect of stress and detailed solutions to alleviate its symptoms. According to the Mental Health Foundation, when stressed, your body creates "a stress response" which can present itself as feelings of constant anxiety, mood swings, depression, loss of appetite, and an inability to sleep. It is recommended that if you are feeling this way for a prolonged period of time, you should seek medical support, but if you're experiencing stress as part of a short-term pressure point, there are other ways to relax which might help you.
One such approach might be to look for a quick comedic pick-me-up. Hey, it might help restore your balance, or at least keep you distracted for a few hours. Below are just a handful of sitcoms and shows to calm your stress with the pure unadulterated joy of comedy. From the violent slapstick stylings of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson on Bottom, to the deadpan delivery of Steve Coogan, this is British comedy at its best. So pour a cuppa, sit down, and indulge in my picks of the best British comedies on Netflix.
1. 'Absolutely Fabulous'
A sitcom filled with addiction and self-destruction sounds like it might be light on the jokes, but when you throw Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley into the mix, it's downright hilarious.
PR agent Eddy (Saunders) and magazine fashion director Patsy (Lumley) relish in their fashion industry success just a tad too much, often blowing their money on alcohol and other pleasures in an attempt to relive their glory days.
Of course, they end up in dire situation after dire situation, accompanied by hilarious consequences, all of which will lift your spirits above and beyond where you started out.
2. 'The Office'
Often overshadowed by its U.S. equivalent, The Office (UK) is a staple of British culture. Created in 2001 by Ricky Gervais, the show took a mockumentary approach to the mundane daily operations of a Slough-based paper company.
The many, many flaws of boss David Brent (Gervais) and the inner-dynamics of the Wernham Hogg employees make office work simultaneously exciting and something to avoid altogether.
3. 'The IT Crowd'
The beauty of British comedy is its intrinsic relationship with the nation. The IT Crowd is a perfect example of this where one phrase — “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” — is relatable no matter where you like in the UK.
We all know where it’s from, and we’ve all spent nights marathoning the show to oblivion on E4. Who knew a group of IT nerds could steal our hearts, including a vampiric Noel Fielding?
4. 'French and Saunders'
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders ruled the late '80s and early '90s with their sketch series, proving that yes, women are witty, hilarious, and damn right genius, too.
Often spoofing cultural moments, as well as contemporary TV and film, French and Saunders paved the way for future female sketch comedians, whilst also cementing their careers — and legacy — in British comedy.
5. 'I'm Alan Partridge'
It’s hard to talk about Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge without cracking a smile. His portrayal of a local radio DJ from Norwich is absolutely impeccable. I’m Alan Partridge is such a strange show to even describe. It just works so well in terms of portraying innate Britishness through a bumbling middle-aged man who, despite his failures, thinks of himself as an utter success.
In some circumstances, I think we could all be a little more like Alan Partridge.
A show that my parents probably should not have shown me when I was under the age of 10, Bottom is a staple of British slapstick comedy.
Originally airing between 1991 and 1995, Bottom followed the disgusting lives of Eddie (Ade Edmondson) and Richie (Rik Mayall) in their Hammersmith flat, where fingers would be cut off, legs would be sewn to the couch, and punch-ups were on the regular. One episode alone will have you crying with laughter and wanting more calamity.
Admit it, the majority of us relate to Miranda on some level. I personally relate to Miranda's (Miranda Hart) height insecurity and her clumsiness. I'm sure there are countless other characteristics of Miranda, her friends, and her family that many Brits can relate to in some way, too.
That's what made the show so successful, especially in its portrayal of our well-known national awkwardness. Us Brits have a unique way of collectively laughing at ourselves, and Miranda is a champion at that — especially for a show that was semi-autobiographical.
8. 'The Mighty Boosh'
The surreal adventures of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding were a once-in-a-lifetime journey that hasn't been replicated since. There's no roundabout way to describe The Mighty Boosh — I can imagine it's what you would see after taking some kind of psychedelic. It'll certainly take your mind off work deadlines or exams, that's for sure.
Nevertheless, it was (and still is) a staple of British comedy culture, one that has certainly outlasted itself.
9. 'Bad Education'
Bad Education is one of those rare shows that emulates the atmosphere of British secondary school perfectly. Alongside The Inbetweeners and Some Girls, Bad Education encapsulates the absurdity of school life here in the UK, from in-class rivalry to a teacher trying their hardest to be cool and down with the kids.
Those who have not been to an British secondary school may think Bad Education is exaggerating... but no, it is not.
10. 'Friday Night Dinner'
Friday Night Dinner's simple premise makes it all the more perfect. A family gets together every Friday night for dinner — what could go wrong?
Well, a lot. From sibling fights between Jonny (Tom Rosenthal) and Adam (Simon Bird), to the often naked and forgetful antics of father Martin (Paul Ritter) and an exasperated mother Jackie (Tamsin Greig), Friday Night Dinner certainly rings home to many British families, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
11. 'Fawlty Towers'
Set in the "English Riviera" of Torquay, Devon, Fawlty Towers offers one calamity after another, often with little to no resolution. Everything goes wrong, yet hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) somehow manage to keep attracting an eclectic array of visitors.
The frantic pace of its 12 (yes, 12) episodes will swiftly transfer your stress from work and exams into the disastrous running of a fictional hotel.
12. 'Harry Enfield & Chums'
Harry Enfield, Kathy Burke, and Paul Whitehouse were the mainstays of alternative comedy during the '90s, and for good reason. Titled Harry Enfield & Chums, the trio would often take relatable British taboos and transform them into fantastic sketches, ones that are often emulated today by the British population.
At least I think so, but maybe it was only my parents that would make fun of me by referring to me as Kevin as a teenager.
13. 'Monty Python's Flying Circus'
When Netflix announced it would be uploading the entire Monty Python collection to stream, Britain collectively rejoiced. Probably best known among millennials for their films The Holy Grail and Life of Brian, their foray into television with Monty Python's Flying Circus is definitely the group's best work. If you want to laugh until your sides hurt, half an hour of Flying Circus will certainly do the trick.
This list isn't even breaking the surface of Netflix's catalogue of comedy, so go on, get to it — relish in that British humour!