Sense of humour in Spain

Hello everyone,

Should we set out to explore Spanish’s culture through its sense of humour? Indeed, if one is planning to settle in the country, it is best to understand the cultural codes governing humour in order to avoid any faux-pas.

What is special about the sense of humour in Spain?

Is it acceptable to joke about any situations?

What is typically funny and what is absolutely not funny?

Are there any popular comedians in Spain and how would one be able to discover them (stand-up shows, festivals, internet, etc.)?

What is the funniest joke you have heard in Spain?

Please share your experience,


Five days without a reply.   Does that mean the Spanish have no sense of humour

Having lived here thirty years I am well aware that people requiring official documentation often need a sense of humour when it appears that the functionaries are being ‘funny’ in their demands for the only piece of paper you have not brought.   Or maybe that is just the Spanish sense of humour !!!!!

Well, Generally speaking understanding jokes, often depending  upon specific cultural references or double meanings attributed to a word is above the language comprehension level of most immigrants. Furthermore delivary of punch-lines is often at a higher than normal baud-rate making the jokes harder still to understand. In my case, I get many jokes  but for others, I have to ask my wife  who is Spanish, for the interpretation. A couple of examples. The classic comedy movie, "El dia de la bestia" has a scene where the actors identify where the antichrist will be born by the resemblance between Satan's signatute and the leaning Gate of Europe towers in Madrid. Watching the movie with my wife, I didn't understand why she laughed in that scene. She told me that it was well known that Opus Dei owned the towers at that time. Another example: While visiting a Spanish friend one evening, his daughter asked her father what he thought of the dress she was wearing to go out. He immediately replied, ,"Demasiado Gibraltar" which no one understood. He then clarified with "Demasiado cerca a la línea de Concepción", to which everyone laughed. I realized that I did not fully understand the joke and my wife informed me of the Spanish town near Gibraltar with that name. Another excellent movie is "Asi en el cielo como en la tierra" in which spirits arriving to "Spanish" heaven are required to identify a Franco era military piece and San Pedro is a civil guardsman with a tricornio, the Spanish heaven is a disappointment, a post civil war town, and San Pedro points out that the French heaven is much better. If your Spanish is good enough to recognize an Argentine accent and you have knowledge that a large number of Argentines emigrated to Spain and practice their profession here, you will get the joke of the Argentine psychiatrist in the movie.

So  Spain like any other country, has excellent comedies that operate at different intellectual levels, not easy to understand completely. On the other hand  I often explain to Spaniards the humor they are missing in episodes of the Simpsons.

As a man who has spent many years creating humour I see differences, as there are in every country and region - everywhere.
Humour in Spain is I think quite childish. Simple. Like their advertising. In my experience it is better to signal that you are about to say something funny, tell them what it is about and then deliver the funny bit. A bit laborious but if you watch their 'comedy' shows you will see this is how it works.
They have an inability to skip from subject to subject with humorous overtones as the Scots and Irish manage so well. Sex and religion are taboo! But it's fine to join in if your Spanish friends start it. No sexist jokes, however mild. Feminism is a strong part of the female character in Andalucia. Same with politics. They will joke about Brexit but we cannot joke about Spanish politics. As foreigners they believe we know nothing of their political life and their fragile democracy. I never challenge this. They get so het up that I prefer to leave that particular game alone as it is definitely not worth the candle!
Are they funny? Yes in their own way but that way takes understanding and if you live here then it is an effort you must make to become part of their society.

I disagree with a lot of Writerman's comments. In my opinion, every culture offers up, to the degree permitted by government or religious institutions, humor at various levels. I think this is a quality of being human. As for the comment that Spanish humor is childish, I can only say that as an American, we also have plenty of childish humor. I don't  know where Writerman lives or who his friends are, but where I live, in Alicante, there is plenty of humor at various levels. As for political humor, unfortunately, the Spanish judicial system still has vestiges of the Franco regime, who were not removed by the transition. One local artist here, who goes by "Marisol la Roja" was fined 6000 Euros, for calling  the king emeritus an "Elephant Assassin" in a public performance. Obviously, it is best to have a filter on social media or in public forums in this situation. As for sexual humor, there certainly is plenty of that in Spain  but I wouldn't fault the Spanish for being PC, with respect to certain issues. There was nothing more nauseating to me than to listen to right wingnuts in the US making jokes about "fags". In the end, what each of us views as funny depends upon our own cultural and linguistic experiences. I can sit through a Monty Python or a Mel Brooks movie, hardly cracking a smile , but I loved the Benny Hill and Mr. Bean TV series. The jokes in the Spanish film "Airbag" were out of my league, but younger members of my family enjoyed that film. Spain is a country with a rich culture - look at the humorous situations that arise in Don Quijote de la Mancha, written 400 years ago. That hadn't changed and can't be repressed politically. When my wife and I go out with friends plenty of jokes arr exchanged. I don't  understand them all, but I learn from the explanations that my wife gives me. The important thing is there is a great variety of humor out there, it is just a matter of finding what you like.

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