x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

German stand-up comedian Christian Schulte-Loh: 'We are funny, but in a different way

Loh, who returns to the UAE for a second tour this weekend as part of The Laughter Factory’s October run of shows, admits that a German comedian is something of a rarity on the circuit.

Comedian Christian Schulte-Loh says humour is universal, but cultural references are a sticking point. Courtesy Laughter Factory
Comedian Christian Schulte-Loh says humour is universal, but cultural references are a sticking point. Courtesy Laughter Factory

Christian Schulte-Loh is the rarest of finds – a German stand-up comedian.

“I started when I was studying in Belgium and started gigging in English,” he explains. “I noticed on stage that they weren’t really laughing at the stuff I thought was funny. They just laughed when I said ‘I’m from Germany’, and they thought that was hilarious.

“I realised that should be my act, because basically, everybody thinks we’re not funny. When I registered my website, Germancomedian.com, I was amazed to find it was still available, which was kind of funny in itself.”

Loh, who returns to the UAE for a second tour this weekend as part of The Laughter Factory’s October run of shows, admits that a German comedian is something of a rarity on the circuit.

“We are funny, but in a different way,” he insists. “The British, for example, they’re funny in everyday life. They use sarcasm a lot. If their train system’s awful, they make a joke about it. In Germany, to stereotype, people would be annoyed if the train was five minutes late. We’d joke about other stuff. But there’s not much humour to be found in everyday life.”

In the German mindset, Schulte-Loh surmises that there are two distinct settings, and comedy is only required in one.

“Germans take work and all the boring stuff very seriously, but when they party in their free time they’re hilarious. There’s very much a switch, and if the switch is on work, the switch is on work, and if it’s on fun it’s on fun, but it’s 100 per cent one or the other, there’s no middle ground. In Britain it mixes more. You can joke in the office, whereas in Germany you would almost never do that.”

Schulte-Loh regularly performs in the United Kingdom and Germany, dividing his time between London and Berlin. He admits that the German comedy scene is still perhaps 20 years behind that of the UK, but says the double acts and “guys in wigs” of the past are slowly giving way to the kind of stand-up you would see in the United Kingdom or United States.

So, does Schulte-Loh find that the two audiences have radically different senses of humour? “I can’t translate a lot of my stuff,” he concedes.

“For example, in Britain I do a long routine about the measurements here, and the metric system versus the imperial. I just couldn’t do that in Germany because there it’s just the metric system, that’s what everyone knows. They’re not aware that horses are being measured in hands, so you’d have to explain it all.”

In general, though, the comedian says audiences around the world laugh at the same things, but cultural references are the sticking point, not the type of humour or language. That said, he does note that British comedy can be particularly cruel compared to what you might find in Germany.

________________________

Read more:

From domestic helper to stand-up comic: meet Deepika Mhatre

Comedian Eshaan Akbar on trying to highlight the humour in Islam

What does it take to be a successful stand-up comedian?

________________________

“Maybe in Britain it’s a little bit darker, a bit closer to the bone,” he says. “If someone in Britain heckles you on stage, you can literally destroy the person, insult them, rip them to pieces, as long as you’re a bit funny. In Germany, if you insulted someone, the whole room would go silent and go ‘that wasn’t necessary. Why did you insult him?’”

Schulte-Loh reverts to a stereotype to both prove and disprove his point: “They always say Germans are too honest to be polite and Britons are too polite to be honest, but in a comedy show, it’s the other way round. When Brits go to comedy or football they just lose their inhibitions; it’s like they reset their source code. But generally, the same things are funny to everyone.”

We’ve established the differences between British and German crowds, so, having played around seven gigs in the Middle East when he visited the GCC in 2016, how does Schulte-Loh find audiences here? “I do expat gigs all over the world,” he says.

“They are probably my favourite gigs. There’s a great cultural mix, some have English as a first language, some don’t, but they’re all really up for it because they don’t get much in the way of live comedy and they form this really interesting bond and community between them. It’s like a village within a big city, and I love that feeling.”

For more information go to www.thelaughterfactory.com