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A Beginner’s Guide to Aussie Humour

aussie humour

Have you ever found yourself wondering if your Aussie friends are making fun of you?

Or have you wondered why your Aussie work colleagues would imply that they themselves are lazy, slobs or downright incompetent?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone! Welcome to the quirky world of Aussie humour – situated somewhere in the middle of British and American sensibilities, with a dash of modesty and anti-authoritarianism thrown in.

Australians’ unique strain of humour (combined with the accent and the Australian slang), has been bewildering visitors for decades. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate the murky waters.

Yes, Australians will make fun of friends… but in a good way

“Nice haircut, did you get run over by a lawnmower?” – An Australian talking to a friend.

There aren’t many cultures where making fun of someone is a sign of friendship, but Australia is one of them.

In some cultures, the idea of ‘saving face’, that is, preserving the dignity of others is priority no.1, and you wouldn’t dream of making fun of a friend or family member.

But it can’t be said that the same holds true in Australia. Australians might make fun of someone’s bad habits, like being late or being messy, they might even play a few practical jokes on really good friends. It’s all a part of building rapport and showing trust.

In some ways, being comfortable enough with someone to make a joke at their expense is in itself, a signal of mutual respect, equality and closeness.

For examples check out:

Hamish and Andy (Comedians)

Lano and Woodley (Comedians)

Australians will also make fun of themselves

Self-depreciation is a staple of Australian humour.  They’ll call themselves all kinds of names, tell embarrassing stories and even act out impressions of their own worst selves.  Australians are wary of ‘showing off’ and so this self-depreciation is a tactic to disarm others and prove that we don’t think a lot of ourselves.

Don’t be fooled, though. Just because they have a tendency to mock themselves, doesn’t mean that Australians actually think little of themselves.  It’s simply a way of letting people know that they don’t think they’re extra special and that everyone is on the same level.

For examples, check out:

Josh Thomas (Comedian)

Michael Hing (Comedian)

Some sarcasm may pop up

Australians use sarcasm like it’s going out of fashion but, our particular style of sarcasm can really fly under the radar. Sometimes it will be said with such a straight face that it can go completely unnoticed.

Detecting sarcasm (and whether or not you find it funny) has been found to be influenced heavily by where we’re from.  If you’re ever stuck, pay close attention to context and what you already know about the person.  A wry smile, tone and pitch might also tip you off.

For examples, check out:

Dave Hughes (Comedian)

John Safran VS God (TV Show)

Charlie Pickering (Comedian)

They’re not afraid of the dark side

Psychologists think that dark humour is probably a way of dealing with adversity.

So, just imagine you’re from a country that’s incredibly hot, prone to floods and bushfires and home to some of the most frightening animals on earth… After some time spent in Australia, you might find yourself indulging in a little black humour as well…

Australians joke about all kinds of things that might be considered in bad taste in other countries including death, illness, accidents, sex, bodily functions, the list goes on.  If you’re ever feeling confronted by an Aussie’s dark humour, remember that it’s probably just an effort to relieve the tension surrounding a subject and to look on the brighter side of things.

For examples, check out:

Please Like Me (TV show)

Judith Lucy (Comedian)

Two Hands (Movie)

Anti-authoritarianism is rife

Australian’s anti-authoritarian strain of humour can be traced right back to its history as a penal colony.

Occasionally, Australia’s convict origins might be thrown around as if it’s some kind of insult. But Australians know well that many convicts were just people trying to keep themselves and their families alive at a time when Europe’s Industrial Revolution was forcing people out of farms and into cities.  So, many Australians are proud of their country’s convict heritage and their endurance in the face of imprisonment and hard labour under the watchful eye of guards and masters. This is where the ‘stick-it-to-authority’ attitude so prevalent in Australia is derived from.

Australians have no qualms making fun of politicians, royalty, moguls or celebrities. While it may seem disrespectful, it’s really another way that they bolster the egalitarianism ideal that they hold dear.  No-one is allowed to escape derision in Australia, no matter who they are.

For example, check out:

The Feed (TV show)

The Chaser’s War on Everything (TV show)

They’re not shy of a little stereotyping

Once you’ve been here for a while, you’ll notice that Australian’s aren’t all blonde-haired surfers, but that in fact, Australian society is a real melting pot of cultures and that there are also definite ‘classes’ (though they can be hard to spot at first).

Australians love to exaggerate and fondly satirise all the different types of Australians which is why stereotypes are the bread and butter of many popular Australian TV shows.

For examples, check out:

Kath and Kim (TV show)

The Castle (Movie)

The Wog Boy (Movie)

Plus, for an international student’s perspective on the Aussie experience and adjusting to a new life, make sure to check out Ronny Chieng: International Student.