German Comedy Ambassador to Great Britain
Last week, while having lunch at a fish restaurant in Whitstable on the Kent coast in Britain, I saw a poster advertising a show with Henning Wehn, the German stand-up comedian. I had already come across him on the popular BBC Radio 4 show The Unbelievable Truth. In the show, a panel of celebrities have to talk about a subject, telling lies and concealing truths along the way, which the other panellists try to identify. After looking at his website, I realized that Wehn is fast becoming a cult figure, giving performances to large audiences all over the country.
Henning Wehn introduces himself as the "German comedy ambassador to Great Britain"; he plays on the stereotypes the British have about the Germans. Looking at the clips on his site reminded me of what Audi did with their Vorsprung durch Technik adverts in the 1980s. One Audi ad had a German comedian in a club where nobody was laughing; the punchline was something like "We may not be much good at telling jokes, but we do make very good cars."
Wehn’s approach is similar.
Underlying all this is the fact that different cultures have different approaches to humour. I wonder if Wehn could ever be as successful in Germany as he is in Britain. My German friends are almost always surprised when I tell them that Dinner for One is unknown in Britain, and that I don’t find it funny. A German friend of mine said, "The only funny thing about British humour is the fact that the British find it funny."
It would be good to hear some more examples of humour across cultures.