The idea of comedy in translation is taking a premise that is, like Kath & Kim, central to our unique comedy demands. The process then translates it, in this case almost word-for-word, to a community of people who have their own, respectively unique sense of humour. If it is intended to make the audience feel the same way as the original did, but it isn’t translated accurately to the context of that environment, then it won’t have the desired outcome. It’s suggested that the problem with translation of Australian television “is that a lot of Australian humour involves deliberately playing up or invoking the stereotypes to mess with foreigners. Especially Americans.” (Australia.gov)
The thing with comedy television and it’s adaption, if done unwell, it can make a mockery of our own creation. And with comedy having such a huge influence on national identity, especially in Australia, this can be quite problematic. American nationalism promotes a sense of unwavering pride in the American culture. Therefore a show like K&K, whose premise lies on poking fun at the nation’s colloquialisms and exaggerating stereotypes in a particularly unflattering way, isn’t compatible with this. While Kath & Kim is a poor example of successful television in translation a good example, and a widely recognised one, is the British & US versions of The Office.
While both quite different, which made both versions appealing and successful in their own merit, the US version seems to have a lot more closure and resolution. It was discussed in class this week, that as a general rule Australian and British television alike, don’t demand closure as much as our counterparts in the USA do. By looking at some of the classic American comedy tropes (here are 10 of the most obnoxious) it is clear that many of them exist in order to offer some sense of reason, an explanation, or an ending.
Another important reason to note why Kath & Kim US wasn’t a hit is that, many of the jokes (are meant to) rely heavily on the use of malapropism, stemming from Australian’s colloquial nature. In the American version, the characters are quite well spoken and annunciate themselves clearly – taking away the charm away from what usually cements the humour in the show. Further readings suggest also that class-based comedy has been a staple of our cultural milieu for decades, as it is has been in Britain.