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aka: German Humor
Bill BaileyOkay, Joke #1...
: There's a certain efficiency about it. [German accent] "He does something and falls over! It is very amusing! Before he was valking in the straight line, zen he walked into ze door! Zis is genius!"
Contrary to some opinion
, Germans have a sense of humour
. Well, considering that a person who lived in Chemnitz from 1900 to 2000 would have to go through the Kaiserreich
, two World Wars, Nazi Germany
, East Germany
(during which time his city would have to endure being called "Karl-Marx-Stadt" even though poor old Karl was born and raised in Trier—about as far from Chemnitz as you can get in Germany) and The Berlin Republic
, possession of one would become pretty much mandatory.
There also are strong cultural differences. Bavarian (and Austrian, if they can be counted here) humor is more down-to-earth and gritty, while the Western Germans seem to carry their Karneval/Fasching/Fastnacht (Mardi Gras/Carnival) lightheartedness in all their comedy. Since the major low-brow TV stations are based in that area, this translates into an almost unwatchable fare nationwide. Between these, the national character of German Humor
is darker than what many Americans are comfortable with
. However, it is seldom as dark as Russian Humor
, which can veer straight into Black Comedy
Britons may even be surprised to hear that German (especially Northern German) humour is actually very similar to their own - a bizarre combination of dry wit and slapstick. The "No Sense Of Humour
" stereotype appears to originate in a combination of the
Prussian reputation for efficiency
and a perceived lack of the (uniquely British) habit of using humour as a "default mode" for dealing with the world in general.
Part of the reason for the image of Germans as humourless is that there are comparatively few comedies in German dramatic writing, however this impression is in no small part due to the fact that German critics and literary scholars tend to put a bigger premium on "serious" writing, and thus only very few stage comedies are described as "classic". However, there are quite a few comedies written in dialect
, comic operas and operettas. Also, as Robert Gernhardt, a great writer of comic poems, has pointed out, Germany has a great tradition in the short form, with an unbroken line of highly original comic poets spanning back at least to the beginning of the 18th century, something no other national literature other than the British can boast of.
Germany has a strong tradition of satirical cabaret shows dating back to the 19th century, with some cabaretists becoming nationally famous. This satirical fixation somewhat mirrors a perceived whinyness in the German nature generally. However, the nature of the medium means it doesn't travel well.
Some examples of German humour:
Famous humorist writers from Germany:
- (This works much better in German, as "Warenhaus", the German word for warehouse, is a homophone to "war 'n Haus", the contraction of "War ein Haus", which means "[there] was a house". That's why, as seen above, in English the plural is a better/more homophonic translation.)
- It's even better translated as: "The land of Warehouses. As in, Where is my house? Where is my house?!"
Famous German comedians:
The all-important smallish Austrian subsection
- Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, dramatist, critic and writer of humorist verse. When e. g. the German Literature department of Cambridge University talks of there being only three German classical comedies, Lessing's play Minna von Barnhelm is named first (the other two are Heinrich von Kleist's Der zerbrochne Krug and Gerhart Hauptmann's Der Bieberpelz).
- Johann Nepomuk Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund, the two giants of Viennese stage comedy in the early 19th century (at the time Vienna belonged to the German Federation). One of Nestroy's plays, Einen Jux will er sich machen was adapted into English by Thornton Wilder as The Merchant of Yonkers and The Matchmaker (later turned into the musical Hello, Dolly!) and by Tom Stoppard as On the Razzle.
- Heinrich Heine, of Loreley fame (yes, he wasn't exclusively humorist / satirist)
- Wilhelm Busch (creator of Max and Moritz (spiritual predecessors of The Katzenjammer Kids) and many other famous characters)
- Christian Morgenstern
- Joachim Ringelnatz
- Kurt Tucholsky (also a great satirist and novelist)
- Curt Goetz, known mainly for his light comedies, many of which were also turned into movies.
- Erich Kästner
- Ernst Jandl
- F. W. Bernstein
- Robert Gernhardt
- Walter Moers
(they love being counted as Germans every bit as much as Canadians enjoy being lumped in with Americans
- Christoph Grisseman and Dirk Sterman, hosts of the Austrian late-night show 'Willkommen Österreich' (Welcome Austria). As mentioned above, the show's humour is typically Austrian, which is quite dark, often dealing with deportation of immigrants or the antics of the far-right parties in Austria.
- Also: Alfred Dorfer, host of 'Dorfers Donnerstalk'. Quite similiar to the above mentioned show, though the humour is more of the random and satirical variety. A popular segment on the show are the comedy group maschek (másik in Hungarian, meaning 'from the other side') who dub television reports or similiar passages, giving them entirely new meanings. They also made three puppet theater shows, each making fun of the current Austrian chancellor or president.
- Not to mention that he created MA 2412, a hilarious show about Austrian bureaucracy.
- Josef Hader is commonly regarded as the most successful stand up comedian, having now a thriving career as an actor in Austrian movies (Indien, Komm, Süsser Tod, Der Aufschneider).
- EAV (Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung - First Public/General Uncertainty/Un-Insurance) is a band with many satirical and humourous lyrics and themes.
- Michael Niavarani, who was voted "funniest Austrian of all times". Uses his partly Iranian ancestry and rich body hair, among other things.
- He does a couple of shows with Viktor Gernot, another famous comedian and a good friend of his.
- Vienna in general has a pretty active standup comedian ("Kabarettisten") scene, many of which have performed in movies or made movies of their own (Muttertag, Indien, Hinterholz 8, Komm, Süsser Tod)
- The Viennese' love for self-deprecation is also exemplified in the infamous and very typical TV series Mundl - Ein echter Wiener geht nicht unter und Kaisermühlen Blues.