If there’s anything that ITV’s Text Santa fundraiser proved it’s that, despite the dramatic nature of the show, the cast of Downton Abbey aren’t ones to shy away from a good joke. In fact, their oh-so stately bearing on Downton is part of what makes it so entertaining when they eventually flex their comedic muscles and break character elsewhere.
Whether it’s a video subverting the regal tone so carefully cultivated by Julian Fellowes over four seasons, or fans’ (sometimes head-scratching) demonstrations of devotion to the program, the Internet is full of Downton-inspired humour. And, more often than not, the lords, ladies and live-in staff at the Abbey are more than happy to be in on the joke. Here are five of our favourite quirky examples of the cast – and their followers – enjoying a laugh.
Get a group of Downtonites (or Downtonians?) together for an interview, and there’s a good chance that humour will play a large part in the proceedings. That was especially true in this session featured on Yahoo TV last month, as five of the show’s stars appeared to promote the stateside premiere of Downton’s fifth season. In a creative twist, Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Rob James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), and Lesley Nichol (Mrs. Patmore) swapped roles and reenacted a scene from the show’s early days, before switching gears to play art critics. Presented with a series of fan-created artworks, the Abbey’s residents pulled no punches as they commented on each piece’s merit, with entertaining results.
Everybody celebrated the release of Downton Abbey’s highly anticipated fifth season differently, but one broadcaster took its homage to the program to the next level. Of course, no party for a show’s launch would be complete without food – maybe even a 1920s-themed menu – but in honour of Downton’s return to the U.S., Georgia Public Broadcasting commissioned an edible likeness of the Dowager Countess. Most of us could happily go our whole lives without seeing a cake fashioned to look like a bust of Maggie Smith, but weird factor aside, the confection certainly represents some incredible culinary skill. No word on how uncomfortable it was for partygoers to eat the cake, but the effort was impressive nonetheless. Watch a fascinating time lapse video below of Atlanta-based cake decorator and chocolate artist, Karen Portaleo, creating this Dowager-inspired delight.
Two things most people would never expect to see together? The women of Downton Abbey, and a crude millennial parlour game. In a playful short video produced by Entertainment Weekly, Lesley Nichol, Phyllis Logan and Laura Carmichael play a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity, and come up with some cheeky phrases in their attempts to rack up points. As their competitive spirits take over, the English actresses seem to get almost as much of a kick out of the American diversion as we did listening to them read out their cards. Though the Dowager Countess would surely remind us that “vulgarity is no substitute for wit,” we couldn’t help but chuckle at some of these absurd lines, especially coming from Mrs. Hughes.
Remember the time that Downton Abbey – known for its producers’ fastidious attention to historical details – came under fire for a glaring anachronism? Well, maybe not glaring, but it only took a few eagle-eyed fans to spot a very out of place ‘prop’ in one of the show’s Season 5 promotional photos. It probably goes without saying that British ladies didn’t sip water from plastic bottles back in the 1920s, and yet, on the mantelpiece behind Lord Grantham and Lady Edith, sat a beverage container that stuck out like a sore thumb. Rather than dwell on the gaffe, the cast of Downton, water bottles in hand, laughed off the incident with a goofy group shot and, in the process, raised awareness for international charity, WaterAid.
Anachronistic water bottle confirms BBC crossover between Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. pic.twitter.com/airdOdSbDS
— John Kyle (@generaltzo) August 31, 2014
Sometimes, the actors of Downton are funniest when they play against character. And, other times, it’s hilarious to see them maintain their upper class veneer in inappropriate or unusual settings. Such is the case in this Funny or Die video, which places Michelle Dockery in the lead role of the hard-hitting (and utterly fictional) police procedural Tough Justice. Though cast as the titular Connie Tough, Ms. Dockery has some trouble letting go of her demure, Downton-ready ways, and elements of her aristocratic character make their way into the contemporary crime show. With some typically cool Lady Mary-isms scattered throughout, it’s great for a fish-out-of-water laugh.
Warning: Video contains coarse language. Viewer discretion advised.
And of course, Downton Abbey itself isn’t without its humorous moments. Catch up on all of the drama (and the occasional moment of levity) with episodes airing daily at 5pm ET/3pm PT.
– Kate Shepherd