Comedy in Translation

Although many of the films and television shows we watch may be American or at least Americanized, due to the growing diversity in competition in the film industry especially when it comes to comedy. It is evident that culture shapes comedy and so humor doesn’t always translate from one country to another affecting its success, and must be adapted so it will suit the values and humor of the culture so that it may be more relatable and accepted.


American Kath and Kim (right) and the Australian Kath and Kim (left)

American Kath and Kim (right) and the Australian Kath and Kim (left)

This is seen in Kath and Kim, originally made in Australia. Kath and Kim was a success in both the Australia and the UK and was a minor success in the US. The large success it had in the UK and Australia may have been due to the shared cultures we have. In response to this success NBC created the American adaptation in 2008 order to adjust the characters, actors, language and references so that it would suit their culture, however the series was canceled after only 17 episodes.


Although the adaptions were made to suit the US audience the storyline Kath and Kim followed simply didn’t suit the television culture that most American shows followed and so was lost on them. Gone were the ‘derro’ Kath and Kim of Australia who delusional themselves time after time into thinking that they were high class women who so obviously weren’t and in come the glamorized American Kath and Kim, as Kim pranced around in crop tops sticking out her non existent tummy pretending to have a muffin top and Kath who tried to have the audience believe she was lower class pretending to be upper class when in reality she was pretty much was living a glamorous life.

Although this isn’t to say that all adaptions fail for example ugly Betty has about 20 adaptions across the world all successful as they have each had not only the characters, actors, language and references adapted but also had the story line tweaked to suit the culture.


In order to have a comedy show translated to suit the intended culture it must suit all aspects and adapt both things such as characters all the way to the plot itself such as ugly betty did. Changing the plot may not seem as important after all it’s what made said show a success right? But like shown in Kath and Kim it will not always be received well amongst the audience.


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