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What makes Britain laugh?

Why do British comedians not talk about black people? Is a Madeleine McCann joke ever OK? And when is a Hitler moustache funny?

By Mary Fitzgerald   March 2010

Miss Behave: a sword-swallowing cabaret madam

“A real comedian—that’s a daring man,” Eddie Waters tells a group of would-be comics in Trevor Griffiths’s 1975 play, Comedians. “He dares to see what his listeners shy away from, fear to express. And what he sees is a sort of truth, about people, about their situation, about what hurts or terrifies them, about what’s hard, above all, about what they want.”

Identifying what an audience wants has long been one of the trickiest parts of a comedian’s job. But today it may be harder than ever before. The archetype of the ageing white…

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