Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2

S03 - 1 Humour

August 23, 2021 Real Exam English Season 3 Episode 1
Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2
S03 - 1 Humour
Show Notes Transcript

Native English speakers answer questions about family from previous B2, C1, C2 and IELTS  exam papers.

You will learn a bit about the culture of different English-speaking countries as well as some great language in the form of phrasal verbs and idioms. You will hear speakers from England, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland so a wide variety of accents for you, as usual. 

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Music: Wholesome by Kevin MacLeod

Thanks to all of the contributors, including Ian from the We Dig Music podcast, Konner from The Blunt Report podcast(, Rosemary, David, Mary Alice and Ursula.

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Hello and welcome to season three of Real Exam English. This is Trevor speaking here. This season we have ten great new topics for you, we have animals, fashion, money and much much more, and as usual with a bunch of brilliant native English speakers from all around the world. Something new you will hear this season is people speculating on what they can see in photographs, this kind of language is needed in many English exams so make sure to keep an ear out for that in later episodes. Something else new is that we have set up a page for anyone who would like to make a donation to say thanks, you can find details of that in the show notes, and also on the Real Exam English website, Remember that you can download the transcripts for every episode on the website too, which is a great tool to use to help improve your comprehension as well as your vocabulary.


Ok then so today´s topic is sense of humour. Everybody likes to have a laugh right, but as you are about to hear, what is funny in one country isn´t necessarily funny in another. You’re going to hear loads of vocabulary about humour in general as well as a bunch of idioms, phrasal verbs and really cool expressions. In terms of accents we have US, English, Irish, Australian and New Zealand so superb listening practice for your advanced English exams!


Right then, let´s go with the questions:


Describe, in general terms the sense of humor in your country.

I believe the sense of humor in the UK.He is.Sarcastic, for the most part.Dry as well like.You don't see a lot of jokes being telegraphed like it takes you. You know you can hear the sentence. It doesn't necessarily sound like it's a joke.But you know, it's a joke because culturally, you get it.

Also, there's a lot of, UM, really, really out there Humor like the Monty Python kind of stuff is quite slapstick and ridiculous.Yet still done with a weirdly straight face.

Uh, is it possible for different countries to find each other sense of humor funny? 

To an extent, yes.Depending on how different the culture is.Uhm, like obviously.You know the UK and America have quite a lot of cross pollination of humor because culturally there are a lot of similarities.So yeah, it depends on the amount of difference between the culture.Of the country as to whether the sense of humor Transfers ors translates.

Ok so here are out first few types of humour, sarcastic, dry and slapstick. So sarcasm is Sarcasm is an ironic or satirical remark tempered by humor. Mainly, people use it to say the opposite of what's true to make someone look or feel foolish. So for instance, if you friend has bought some shoes which are really ugly you can say “nice shoes”, and they can tell from your intonation that you are joking with them. This is very typical in the UK, or in Ireland, where I am from. What´s funny with this kind of humour is that American’s don’t use it as much and very often don´t understand that you are joking. So if you say “nice shoes” to an American, they are likely to reply with something like, “Thanks man”, which in itself is kind of funny. Next was dry humour, this is where a person says funny things with a serious, calm expression, again super common in the UK, like the speaker said, you tell the joke with a straight face, which means without any expression.  Slapstick then is a more physical type of humour, you know where someone might fall into a hole or get hit in the head in a comical way. This is a more universal type of humour really I guess, as there are usually no words.

We heard about jokes being telegraphed, so if something is telegraphed you can see it coming from a long way away, it is very predictable, like the endings of many romantic movies are completely telegraphed. This, by the way, would make a brilliant sentence if you were writing a review of a movie, or TV series or book. 


Are there stereotypes in jokes in your country?

Not anymore. In fact there are not any jokes anymore. Everybody is afraid to be funny. You know nobody wants to offend anybody.And if you do offend anybody, you're cancelled and banished. Unfortunately, so, uh, no, there is no more humor in this country. In fact, if you look back at movies.That have been released like over the past. I don't know a year or so you don't find a single good comedy.

Ok so this speaker, who is from the US by the way, mentioned that if you offend anyone there that you are cancelled. This use of the word has cancelled has emerged over the last few years and it means to stop supporting someone, usually a celebrity, because of something bad that they have done. So imagine your favourite music star does or says something offensive, then you might cancel them, meaning you won’t listen to their music again or go to any of their concerts. A related expression is cancel culture which relates to this recent phenomenon of cancelling people. 

describe someone who tries to be funny but you think is totally unfunny.

I think I have a few of these to More serious and less serious degrees, and I think we've all met somebody like this, and this is the type of. Person that feels the need to think that they are, or at least desire to be, the center of attention to be the performer in a work setting or a classroom setting or whatever it might be. And literally everything has to be turned into some sort of attention-seeking joke because That's the way that they sort of live their life, and it really moves focus away from whatever you're trying to do or anything like that. I love sense of humor I have. I have some amazingly funny friends. I love to laugh. However, there really is a time and a place, and there's a time and a place to be serious too. And I like to bring humor into as many things as possible, either myself or my friends, but this type of person only have one energy, and that energy is to make jokes about everything. To me, that just is not funny.

The question is what kind of sense of humor do you share with family and friends?

I think a lot of family and friends who are close with each other share the same type of sense of humor that I have with my family and friends. And maybe it's quite a British or Australian thing and I'm unfamiliar with maybe other countries or English speaking countries, but. Me and my family. And friends are very harsh to each other, very dark. Jokes are very rude and awful to each other honestly, but insulting your friends saying some nasty things completely in a joking way is honestly a great way of showing affection. And if my friends were too nice to me and didn't say mean or rude things to me every now and again, I'd feel really uncomfortable.

Haha, I can totally relate to this speaker, it’s quite similar in Ireland, if you’re friends aren’t taking the piss out of you, or making jokes at your expense then something isn´t right. The best of friends tend to be very tough on each other, in a joking way and this speaker had some super negative adjectives to describe the way he jokes with his mates, we had harsh, dark, rude, awful, insulting, nasty and mean. If this were an exam that would be showing a great range of vocabulary to the examiner, 7 different ways to say more or less the same thing, top marks!

This is just a reminder that if you are looking for classes, either individually or in a group then check out for details. In addition to regular classes all of my students can attend free conversation classes and I sometimes have extra places available for non-students too, so keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram for notification of those.




Describe in general terms the sense of humour in your country?

Can I tell you what it's not?Maybe that's a little easier, so it's something that it's not.Uhm, it's.The US Americans stay way, way, way, way way clear of anything that is remotely, politically incorrect.And many times humor is about Lining up two comparisons that are very similar and then disaligning them at the at the Last minute and.And US Americans really, really, really. It's it's very bad for….people don't like to to in the states they don't like to laugh at that kind of thing or black humor it. It isn't very black humor it.I’d say people sort of go more towards.Uhm, slapstick.Word play.Say puns, spoonerisms uhm.Or reactionary humor of themselves putting themselves in a situation of feeling ridiculous. So instead of Personifying the and projecting the ridiculous, it's about me and there I was and I.Was you know in the middle?Of the Medina, and you know so. So you become the buffoon.

Wowzers, another whole load of types of humour here. We heard black humour, which is making jokes about things that are normally taboo, or maybe morbid. We heard slapstick once again, then we heard about word play, which is using the different meanings of words to be funny, she gave examples as puns, where a word has two meanings and you use that for your joke. For example, I bought a boat because it was for sail/sale. (if you don´t get the joke, look at transcript!) and spoonerisms, where you mix up corresponding letters from two words, like instead of saying pop corn, you say cop porn. One of my speaking examiner colleagues recently shared a very funny spoonerism which someone said in a speaking exam. The student meant to say the people in the photo are breakfasting, but instead said they are breastfucking, which is a totally different thing. What a disaster!

Is it possible for different countries to find each others sense of humour funny?

Not always.Yeah, no, I find not always. There's only certain people that find my sense of humor funny because I'm a Kiwi and we have a very different sense of humor than a lot of people. So yeah, not not always, no. Especially in you know, some of the Asian.Countries where I've lived and I've made a joke and they they haven't understood me at all.

It’s quite dry isn’t it. 

Yeah, not like England. No, we're not sarcastic like.That we're a lot quicker we.Have a different kind of wit than the English, yeah?

Describe a programme or film you find particularly funny.

I used when I was.When I was living in New Zealand, I used to watch a British TV series called keeping up appearances and it was about a lady called Hyacinth Bouquet was spelt bucket and she was always trying to keep up with everyone and I found her really funny because every attempt that she made went wrong. So yeah, so I like that it's trying to be something that you're not.And you know, making fun of it, so yeah.

So this speaker called herself a Kiwi, which is what people from New Zealand are known as. So she again mentioned sarcastic humour and also a different kind of wit than English people. Wit is basically intelligent humour, being funny in a clever way. 


Describe a programme or film you find particularly funny.

At the moment I am finding every single episode of Yes Minister and yes Prime Minister very very funny. Also very apps and uhm.Just completely on the nose, uhm?

I suppose it's one of those. It's one of those comedies. It's a comedy, but it's also quite satirical. But then it's being satirical. It's actually really expressing quite a lot of what happens in that setting of working in in government.So you know, I think if you work in government and you're watching programs about government, you can be.Quite sort of critical.Of it, but this is hilarious because it's absolutely spot on for me and it's essentially about a minister.So a politician who is part of the government and part of making things happen, uhm?Not being able to really know what he's doing or what he's talking about, and he's got these civil servants who help him whilst also making fun of him and so for me.

What subjects do you think should never be joked about?

Ooh, that's quite tough. I mean, personally I don't think anybody should have a joke about someone race. UM, I don't think they should. Should joke about, UM.

I think, well, I mean it. It's not so much a topic. I think for me it's don't joke about things.That is, put, that are putting somebody down in a kind of mean way. If the person got a good sense of humor, then they're not going to take offense and it's fine.

We had this awesome idiom at the start here, the tv show is completely on the nose, which means it´s exactly right, like his impersonation of the actor was on the nose. We also heard spot on, which basically means the same thing, exactly right. For example, I´d say from your accent that you’re from Liverpool, yea…spot on. 

We heard about having a good sense of humour which means that if someone makes a joke at your expense, or puts you down, then you don´t get offended easily, and can maybe joke back with them, you don´t take offence, as the speaker said.


Ok then so that´s more or less it for today folks. Who would have thought that the topic of humour would give so much brilliant vocabulary, I think it´s fascinating how each of the different nationalities today each had their own acceptable ways of being funny, and I’m sure in your own country it´s completely different too. As an exam topic this really only comes up at a C2 or maybe a C1 level, but at any level you can be asked about what kind of TV or movie you like, or you might have to write a review about a series for example, and in that situation it´s useful to be able to pull out this great vocab to impress the examiners.

Ok folks, hope you enjoyed that, it was a bit of a cultural education as well as a linguistic one. See you next time!