What do The Greatest Showman, Horrible Histories and a smiling Queen Victoria have in common?

We are not amused
Queen Victoria
A rare picture of Queen Victoria smiling

Researchers from Edge Hill University are revealing the forgotten history of nineteenth-century humour in an exhibition opening Saturday 23 November at 10am.  Roll up Roll up and see the things that made Victorians chuckle, including bad puns, nonsense poems, and the first stars of stand-up comedy. You can even see the top hat of ‘The Greatest Showman’ P. T. Barnum.

We Are Not Amused will open with a day of family friendly activities and comedy performances where visitors can unearth old jokes from original Victorian joke books, or try their hand at cartooning and joke-writing.


In the evening, Greg Jenner – Chief Historian for the BBC’s Horrible Histories series and host of the hit BBC podcast ‘You’re Dead to Me’ – will join Dr Bob Nicholson on stage for a Q&A on history and comedy.

They will be followed by stand-up comedian Iszi Lawrence – presenter of Radio 4’s ‘Making History’ – who will host a stand-up comedy show about obscure figures from history featuring Greg Jenner and researchers from Edge Hill.

Events are free but booking is required, visit The Atkinson website or call 01704 533 333.

The exhibition has been developed and curated by Dr Bob Nicholson, Dr Laura Eastlake, and Dr Andrew McInnes, all specialists in nineteenth-century history and literature at Edge Hill University.

Bob, who is an expert in Victorian humour, said: ‘We tend to think of the Victorians as a rather dour and humourless bunch, but laughter and comedy were actually a really important part of Victorian culture.’

Laura added: ‘The exhibition also gives a great sense of how the Victorians played with new technologies of the age to make each other laugh. So you can see photographs (including some of the earliest selfies), the first laughter captured on phonograph, and some amazing early film.’

We Are Not Amused! is the team’s second exhibition in collaboration with The Atkinson.

Andy said: ‘Southport was a hotbed of humour during its time as a thriving Victorian seaside resort, so the Atkinson is the perfect venue for the exhibition and the exciting comedy events happening at the launch.’

We Are Not Amused! launches on 23 November and will run until March 2020. Entry is free and the exhibition is open Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm.



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