In December, I visited the V&A museum to see the exhibition “Laughing matters: the state of a nation”. Without doubt, it was one of the most fascinating and entertaining exhibitions of the year and truly had me in fits. A fantastic way to end the year! The exhibition focuses on the quintessential nature of our nation by exploring what it means to be British. It does so in a number of ways- most importantly the exhibition succeeds in answering such a comprehensive question by looking at it through the lens of comedy but also the way comedy may have changed through a 200 year period. 


One could see how the role of humour played and continues to play such an important part in representing society through the costumes, props, photographs, film and television clips and interviews with people shown. It also brought up several questions as I went through the exhibition. Was I laughing at or with the works? Do we get the joke or not? Are we insiders or outsiders? Though disguised as entertainment, it made me truly appreciate the wide- reaching power comedy has encompassing satire, subversion and celebration in equal amounts.


There were many instances in which comedians were shown to subvert beliefs by exposing the dark underbelly of corruption of leaders by painting them as grotesque caricatures; bickering and child-like in both sketches but also through television programmes. I won’t mention names for fears of being politically incorrect but a large number of jokes were predictably made at the expense of our Parliament and the Constitutional monarchy. My favourite one, perhaps reflective of my sense of humour, was “Royal Hare Force” a comic song whose lyrics are a veiled mockery of the German Luftwaffe after two rabbits were allegedly the only casualties in an air raid.


Overall this is absolutely an exhibition worth visiting. Although I’m not sure how Margaret Thatcher might react to her feature nor Queen Elizabeth II to her nutcracker, I can assure you that  you’re in for a treat.