Grappling German grammar, Eddie Izzard proves humor can travel

Grappling German grammar, Eddie Izzard proves humor can travel

Comedian Izzard speaks after being presented with the 6th Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard University

Wed, Jan 29 2014

By Victoria Bryan

BERLIN (Reuters) – If anyone wants to know the German for “weasels covered in gravy”, then comic Eddie Izzard, who unlike some of his countrymen is a lover of all things European, is the go-to man.

The stand-up, already known for doing shows in French, is bringing his Force Majeure tour to audiences in German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic – all languages he doesn’t actually speak. Until now.

Standing somewhat nervously in front of a 250-strong crowd in Berlin’s Quatsch Comedy Club, the 51-year-old Izzard tells the audience his aim is to encourage harmony among Europeans.

“It’s comedy without borders, not borders without comedy,” Izzard, who sported deep red nail varnish for Saturday’s sold-out hour-long set, said in British-accented German to laughter and applause.

The comic and actor is on a mission to prove that everyone, whether in Britain, Germany or elsewhere, has a sense of humor that can be understood by others. He won’t be adapting the show for audiences just because they’re in a different country.

“There’s no ‘British’ sense of humor,” the man once referred to as the ‘lost Python’ by Monty Python co-creator John Cleese, told Reuters. “All humor is human, it’s the references that are national.”

“I predict that someone should be able to go to a native tribe, learn their language and then make them laugh.”

Certainly there have been instances of other comedians crossing borders. Henning Wehn, who describes himself as ‘the German comedy ambassador’, and fellow German comic Michael Mittermeier have enjoyed English-speaking success.

“I want to do it because I believe in people. If you grow up in Britain, you have no idea what the kids in Germany, France, Spain, Russia are into,” Izzard, who has often poked fun at eurosceptics in his shows, said.

He admits, though, that for foreign comics, doing shows in English can be the start of more film or stage work and it would be hard to persuade people to go from English into other languages – for whom the audience pool is smaller.

“I hope other stand-ups will do it in French or German. But it’s not about going just the extra mile. It’s about going the extra 25,000 miles… okay, maybe an extra 100 miles.”

MAGNA CARTA AND KING JOHN

Izzard, who once completed 43 marathons in 51 days for charity, only started learning the German version of the show, translated by his linguist brother, at the start of January.

“I’m learning it like a play… It’s the most advanced language course you can do,” said the comic, who last learned German at school back in the 1970s.

In case he gets stuck, the script has been written down in full, a first for the comic, who usually improvises.

Just a couple of weeks in, though, Izzard is already improvising at the start in German.

The show’s run in Berlin has been extended until the end of February, and Izzard’s set will get longer each night as he grows in confidence. After German comes Spanish, which Izzard says he hopes will be easier given his French knowledge.

During the Force Majeure show, Izzard gets to grips with German sentence structure and declensions, earning knowing applause from the Berlin crowd for his perfect use of the fiendishly tricky genitive case at one stage.

He also references British historical figures like Richard the Lionheart, his brother King John, the Magna Carta and King Charles I.

“King John is not that well known outside of Britain, neither is the Magna Carta,” Izzard says. “But it doesn’t matter as long as you explain your references.”

Even if the surreal image of those weasels (“Wiesel mit Sosse bedeckt”) to describe the human body during the ageing process had the Berlin audience a bit bemused at first, Ulrike Schneidewind, a 33-year-old psychologist who had come from Halle near Leipzig to see Izzard, said she approved of him keeping the show the same for everyone.

“You don’t need to make it more German. You want to see him, to see his show,” she said, adding that one of her favorite bits was the sketch involving King Charles.

Jokes about the Nazis also received applause.

“I’m happy to talk about Hitler being a mass murderer,” says Izzard. “Everyone said ‘Don’t mention the war’ but anyone in the audience has got to be pretty old now to have been in any way responsible. The Nazis stole stuff, we should steal it back.”

And Izzard’s favorite German word? “Ausgefuckinzeichnet!” – which means “fan-bloody-tastic”, for polite English society.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: