"You know what I like? British comedy."
"Me too! Most Americans really don't get it, you know."
"Yes, most Americans don't understand irony."
I feel like I overhear this conversation about once a week. And like saying the same word over and over again, it has lost all meaning for me.
When Americans abroad get together, there are certain coded phrases put out. When Bush was in office, it was always a political disclaimer. Since he's gone I've noticed a sharp rise in the "British comedy" conversation. Its a way of identifying others in your clique, I guess. Maybe Americans watching British comedy are a minority in the US, but among expats they are definitely the majority.
The more I hear this conversation, the more I question it. Yes, I think on average British TV is more interesting than American network TV, but I'm not sure its inherently intellectually superior. Like Monty Python. Its funny because its absurd and bizarre. Even children laugh at silly things. That doesn't make it a bad TV show, but it also doesn't make you Albert Einstein for getting it.
"The Colbert Report" is the most satirical and ironic TV show I can think of, and while I did know a kid who liked it because "its like 'The Daily Show' except for conservatives" I'd say most Americans get it.
Frankly, I'm tired of these sorts of coded conversations. Maybe next time I'll just ask, "what's irony?"