Author: Lorna Thornber

When Claudia Taylor told her British workmates she would "shout morning tea" on her birthday, they literally expected her to start hollering.

"People were like "what the...?" Why would you shout morning tea? I think they thought I was going to sit there... demanding someone bring me a cuppa tea."

Steph O'Hagan, another Kiwi living in the UK, has a similar experience whenever she announces "it's my shout", saying people stare at her in horror "and wonder why I'm about to start shouting". Her amusement at their response no doubt only makes them think her madder still. 

American actress Scarlett Johansson, who worked with Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi on his latest flick Jojo Rabbit, told media at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere on Monday that she found the Kiwi sense of humour "totally weird". But she's far from the only non-Kiwi to think that what New Zealander's find funny - and how we articulate it - more than a little bewildering - or bizarre. 

Scarlett Johansson said she found New Zealand humour "a bit like Taika (pictured) - "totally weird, but totally awesome".

It seems Kiwis' attempts to crack jokes overseas often result in awkward silence - and sometimes even cause serious offence. 

New Zealanders in Canada find they often have to tone down the dark, sometimes crass Kiwi sense of humour and "colourful language" so as not to upset the locals. 

"The New Zealand sense of humour seems to be a little bit more dark and twisted whereas Canadian [humour] seems to be more like what we would call "dad jokes" -  bit more lame or innocent I suppose," says Toni Chapman, a Kiwi living in Canada.

"I said "s.... and giggles" the other day and got some weird looks." 

Leonie Bennet has also found Canadian humour to be a bit more PC (and PG). 

"Heaven forbid that they call a toilet anything but a washroom or bathroom. While I feel that a lot of Kiwis probably would feel comfortable using the terms "s……" or "take a slash"... with their friends at least."

Similarly, Sarah Turner has found it's best to avoid the word "bugger". 

Scarlett Johansson doesn't quite get Kiwi humour.

The New Zealand sense of humour is renowned for being dark, with Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows and the 2011 anti-drink driving ads in which a young guy tells the imagined ghost of his dead mate "you know I can't grab your ghost chips" being prime examples. 

Jenny Derby says she's been told she has a "morbid" sense of humour, while Teuila Kekapila said her Canadian/St Vincentian boyfriend describes the Kiwi sense of humour as "morbid sarcasm".

Sometimes, it seems, this may be a result of jokes or phrases being taken literally. 

Says Derby: "You don't want to know the number of times I've used the phrase "it will be as much fun as shooting myself in the foot" and get the weirdest looks…"

Kekapila reckons Kiwis gravitate toward black humour because "we're better at making light of bad situations and just laughing though it. Canadians and Americans keep it safe."

Waititi, who has made a career out of finding the humour in awkward or otherwise challenging situations, might be inclined to agree. He has previously said that his favourite kind of comedy "comes from the awkwardness of living, the stuff that makes you cringe but borders on tragic... It resonates; it comes from an emotional truth." 

Like Rhys Darby and The Flight of the Conchords, Waititi's humour often verges on the ridiculous - highlighting - and laughing at - just how ridiculous homo sapiens can be. 

"At the end of the day, the reality is we're all losers, and we're all uncoordinated," is another of the filmmaker's pearls of wisdom.

"We're the worst of all of the animals on Earth and there's something quite endearing about that."

Waititi stars as a 10-year-old's perception of Adolf Hitler in satire 'Jojo Rabbit'.

Rosie Carnahan-Darby, an LA-based Kiwi comedy producer, says New Zealanders' "very dry, sarcastic, sardonic, self-deprecating sense of humour" doesn't always translate well in the US. 

"Another thing to remember is that as a nation, New Zealand was very isolated for a very long time, so our language and culture has evolved to reflect that," she says, adding that humour from a country other than your own will almost always seem strange.

She reckons New Zealand comedy isn't as dark as many think, relatively speaking. 

"New Zealand is on the whole a really safe, happy place, so our humour has not necessarily developed in the face of adversity, so it is not as dark as some others. As a result it more readily steps in to the silly or absurd as it is a reaction against normal."

Not all foreigners find this absurdity funny though. Nine years after More FM host Gareth Lischner asked a caller named Solly numerous times "if the answer is Father's Day, what is the question", New Zealanders still laugh at the fact that she repeats "Father's Day on Sunday" over and over and over again.

When Jazmin Retimana played the clip to her British workmates though, they couldn't see why she found it funny at all. 

Several Kiwis in the UK said the Brits can find Kiwi humour a bit too out there at first, but tend to come around eventually.

Kylie Fullerton said everyone she's shown the comedic anti-drunk driving ads to in the UK has loved them. 

Says Taylor: "I've found most Brits find our Kiwi sense of humour a little "shock, horror, gasp" but hilarious as they think we are a bit out there but genuinely snort laughing…"

Like the Kiwis in Canada we consulted, Samantha VanRysewky has also found that New Zealand humour can unwittingly offend. 

"You might be teasing someone in a humorous way and these snowflakes take it the wrong way".

Both Kiwis in the UK and Brits in New Zealand felt that sarcasm is used differently in the two countries. 

Kiwi Caitlin Jenkins has found that sarcasm is often "passive aggressive" rather than truly light hearted in the UK. Jen Deacon, a British expat in New Zealand, on the other hand, says Kiwis often tend to take British sarcasm or irony literally. 

"We Brits have to curtail our daily banter or people are offended."

Annie Sylvia said her Kiwi husband still doesn't get her sarcasm or humour after nine years of marriage.

Other Brits in New Zealand, however, find the British and Kiwi senses of humour fairly similar, perhaps because so many New Zealanders have grown up watching the the likes of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Billy Connolly and Blackadder.  

Maria Jensson, an American living in New Zealand, doesn't understand why so many Kiwis seem to find taking swipes at others hilarious. 

"If humour is making fun of individuals, making people feel embarrassed or uncomfortable by "taking the p…", … no I don't like it at all."

A vampire supermarket shopping in Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows TV series. Funny or weird?

Waititi has made a point of saying, however, that he only ever makes fun of those in a position of privilege or authority. 

"If it's poor people or people who live on the outskirts or margins or the underdog, I'd rather be laughing with them."

Other Americans in New Zealand said that, while it took them time to get used to Kiwi humour, they have come to appreciate its, as Johansson might put it, inherent weirdness. 

Shawna Stolzenburg says she fell in love with Flight of the Conchords as a high school student in the US, saying "I find Kiwi humour incredibly weird and that's why I like it!". 

How To Dad, Jordan Watson, photographed with his three girls, seems to be popular with Americans in New Zealand.

How to Dad creator Jordan Watson, who describes himself as "a dad from New Zealand who makes videos about dad stuff and stuff about New Zealand... that's about it really" appears to be another favourite with American expats. 

Regina Paul reckons plenty of other Kiwis do a good job of making Americans laugh unintentionally. 

"I feel like what Americans think of Kiwi humour is just Kiwis being themselves. Though, yeah, it can be funny at times." 

Chris Everts, a Kiwi in Canada, by contrast, has found his Kiwisms have caused unintentional offence. Saying "sweet as" to a female customer at a liquor store he worked at, Everts saw that she was horrified. 

"She thought I was complimenting her on her buttocks, not using a classic Kiwi farewell."

Robyn Tanya can relate. 

"From a North American point of view, first time I heard "sweet as" I honestly turned around to see what my ass looked like."

Note from Nighthawk.NZ:

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