First Published in Time Out, April 1st 2008

Henning Wehn explains German Humour

German duo Henning Wehn and Otto Kuhnle are very much wanting to share their laughter revolution with you – all 87,687 minutes of it. Better pay them a visit, or they’ll be visiting you…

Guten Tag! Mein Name ist Henning Wehn and I am German Comedy Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Let me explain: I arrived on these shores in 2002 from the Ruhr valley, the most scenic part of what little is left of the once-great Fatherland. I initially planned to stay in the UK for only 12 months to improve my English, but the good weather, the tasty food and the classy women made me stay. In order to blend in with the locals I decided to get extremely lazy, spend money I don’t have and, most importantly, to unjustifiably bang on about my great sense of humour. This is why I decided 1,646 days, nine hours and 42 minutes ago to try my hand at stand-up and become the German Comedy Ambassador.

It was plain obvious to me from the start that the comedy circuit is one of the most efficient branches of the British service industry. Most gigs run on time, which is something that can’t be said about the public transport to and from the venues. What instantly attracted me to the comedy scene was its Teutonic structure. The fun seems to be based on strict rules, which have to be obeyed at all times.

Even the process of getting booked and the performing itself are also very thorough.
An act will agree with a comedy club promoter months in advance to be funny on a specific date at a specific time for a specific length of time, say June 12 from 9.34pm to 9.53pm. This only goes to show that, like everything else in life, success in stand-up comedy is down to determination and efficiency, which explains why Germans are best suited to do it.

Having performed up and down the UK, I know for a fact that there is a severe lack of yodelling, gnome-juggling, wurst-eating, thigh-slapping and rabbit-in-and-out-of-a-hat routines – the foundations of good entertainment. Hence I have teamed up with Berlin-based German TV entertainer Otto Kuhnle, who is an expert in all those fields. The quality of his set-pieces varies between precise and very precise. Between us we have 87,687 minutes of stage time and can draw on years of experience in intercultural field studies. Herr Kuhnle and I developed ‘A Beginner’s Guide to German Humour’ especially for British audiences. In order to impress them, we add stereotypical props such as lederhosen (short leather trousers), Maßkrug (beer stein) and Gartenzwerge (garden gnomes) to our repertoire.

The show is based on the six iron regeln of the Fatherland’s hilarity bible ‘Lachen, Lachen, Lachen’ (‘Laugh, Laugh, Laugh’).

Regel 1) Be arrogant.

This is why Germans like Australians. It’s just their attempts of coming across as jovial that isn’t consistent with German humour.

Regel 2) No self-deprecation.

How can trying to laugh off failure be regarded as a positive character trait? Nobody deserves to stay in their job simply because they tell the tale of their underachievement in an entertaining way.

Regel 3) Never ever laugh with failure.

Only ever laugh at failure. For example: Stuart Pearce 1990, Gareth Southgate 1996 and Paul Robinson 2007. You get the gist.

Regel 4) Don’t mention the war.

Because we lost. Admittedly we were the moral winners, but merely winning the sympathy vote simply isn’t good enough. We’re not Scottish.

Regel 5) Physical humour is best.

Vorsprung durch slapstick. An old codger falling over or getting a cake in the face is always funny. Even during a famine.

Regel 6) Stand-up comedy is pointless.

The best-case scenario is leaving the stage after plenty of hard work to the same level of applause to which you were initially brought on to the stage. Excitement can only be lost. What a waste of time.

Aren’t all these regeln refreshingly common sense? Definitely a lot more than that mantra of British wit: ‘laughing about everything indicates a great sense of humour’.
It doesn’t. It indicates mental illness.

Hence, be sane and join Herr Kuhnle and my laughter revolution. You will visit us or we will visit you.
Auf Wiedersehen

Posted by Henning Wehn on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008.
Filed Under: Writing


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