1000 Years of German Humour – The Round Theatre at The Dukes – 08/05/09

 Written by Reza Mills

 I was quite fortunate to get tickets for tonight’s performance as it was pretty much fully packed. Unfortunately the tickets we managed to get happened to be ‘standing’ under some spotlights which meant a very hot and sweaty evening (Not in a good way either). That will definitely teach me not to book so late in the day.

Tonight’s performance features the duo of stand-up comedian Henning Wehn and German Television entertainer Otto Kuhnle. Henning Wehn is probably the better known of the two, having lived and performed in the UK for roughly 7 years as The German Comedy Ambassador to The United Kingdom. He initially began his career as a warm-up to several stand-up comedians in London before establishing his own act. He has appeared on the TV show FAQ U on Channel 4, as well as on Radio Five Live’s ‘Fighting Talk’. The 2 comedians vary in style with Wehn adopting the subtle stand-up approach and Kuhnle the more slapstick and physical performer (and hence the more extroverted). The majority of the show plays upon long-held stereotypes of Germans lacking a sense of humour as well as an obsession with efficiency. Indeed this point is made plainly obvious at the beginning when Wehn states that many British people find it hard to believe that the Germans have a sense of humour and that he does not find this amusing (get it?), he then presses his stopwatch to indicate the start of the show. These 2 main stereotypes are frequently played upon throughout the show to terrific effect both by Wehn’s dry wit and Kuhnle’s very off the wall quirky physicality.

Whilst the show is to a large degree self-deprecating, that’s not to say we Brits get off lightly. Indeed Wehn does a great job of ridiculing the long held British ‘traditions’ of office parties, terrible football songs (making fun of the Germans mostly, i.e.- 1 world cup and 2 world wars) and laziness in the workplace in comparison to German productivity. The show also explores traditions in German humour and storytelling such as yodelling and German Folk Music to name but a few.

What makes the show so refreshing is the decidedly un-PC nature of some of the material with references to the bombing of Coventry in the Second World War, the laws in the UK regarding the sex offenders list (with particular reference to the Shannon Matthews case ) and various jibes at the likes of Max Moseley and Princes William and Harry. If you’re easily offended then this definitely isn’t the show for you. In this age of puerile vulgar humour from the likes of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross and irrelevant trendy nonsense from The Mighty Boosh, it is refreshing to have some genuinely intelligent, thought provoking and daring comedy that is not only self-deprecating but which also makes us look and question our own stereotypes and prejudices. However it’s not all ‘serious’ social commentary, there is also a fair degree of good old-fashioned silliness thrown in as well, which for the most part comes courtesy of Otto Kuhnle. Kuhnle is an extraordinarily talented and versatile performer adept at playing numerous musical instruments, performing magic acts and juggling. You could say that he is the sort of performer you would come to expect to see at a Royal variety performance. Whilst I have a preference for Wehn’s dry satirical wit, Kuhnle nonetheless does an excellent job of providing some light relief and frivolity to help counter-balance the more brutal below the belt lampooning.

All in all it was a great evening with the majority of people going away happy and convinced that the Germans do indeed have a sense of humour and if anything are doing it better than we are.

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2 Responses

  1. Good Review Reza, wish i’d gone now!!

  2. Cheers Rich,

    It was a really good evening. Not bad for a fiver!

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