Language Barriers

Less a blog today, more an observation. Perhaps store it somewhere and use it for studying or something interesting/rubbish to say at a party.

For the last two nights now I’ve have watched Danish comedians do stand-up in Danish, before taking to the stage myself, often late into the evening’s proceedings to shout funnies in English at the predominantly Danish crowd. There’s a number of oddities to this. One being that up until I go onstage, I have no idea of what the acts have been talking about. They may have covered every topic I’m about to do, ruining my set entirely. They may have said something that, unbeknownst to me, is a real taboo and ruins the room. Worse still, the compere may introduce me by saying ‘and next we have a massive bellend from England’, or ‘and now we dine on the blood of a British man’ and I stroll onto applause and a horrible trap. I’ve watched most of the acts on before me though, and the strangest thing is that no matter what language comedians are speaking in, there is a rhythm and a body language that appears to be universal. I have no idea what the set up is, but I can tell when the punchline is coming. There is a high use of clowning amongst Danish stand-ups, with large amounts of physical movement and expressions and so most of this I find myself chuckling away even though the context is completely lost. Its all very weird.

More weird is then going on stage and speaking English. I’ve been made to headline two small shows due to ‘being all the way from England’, the audience having no idea how unglamorous that actually is, and I’ve been doing my own hour show here too, the last one of which is tonight. I was asked to do my Edinburgh show which was primarily about UK politics and so I have spent several days tweaking it so it might work for a Danish crowd, worried I’ll have no clue of their parliament or how it works and that my points will be completely irrelevant to them. Turns out, after last night’s show they are not. The only thing they didn’t like/get was a reference to Wind In The Willows which was only popular here about 20 years ago. Its things like this that throw me. Doing an old routine at an amazing open mic night in caverns underground last night, I talked about having spots to some odd stares. After coming off stage one of the Danish acts looked at me and said ‘you have to say pimples’. Something so small yet the whole gag would’ve worked so much better.

Still, as it is, all the shows have been lovely. Danish audiences, rather wonderfully, sit and listen. I’ve been told several times now that ‘heckling is a British thing’ and apart from the odd attempt to contribute politely, they just laugh and applaud. An ideal audience despite only speaking English as a second language. It’s funny how the British people’s stubbornness to become bi or tri lingual helps us in these situations. Danish comics can only really perform in Denmark, as nowhere else speaks Danish. English comics can perform across the world without ever having to learn a single word of any other language. Its awful, but sometimes I feel lucky for our sheer forceful pig ignorance, and ever so respectful for the learned knowledge of other countries. It makes my life a lot easier.

Only one show to do tonight before I’m off to Copenhagen tomorrow so my aims are to walk around in the snow, then drink a ton of coffee – remnants of my monumental hangover from yesterday are still kicking about – to warm myself up again. Its properly shitting freezing here, and I’m donned in several layers from thermals to jumpers and still feel the bite, while local Aarhusians stroll around in a thin leather jacket looking all tall and pretty. Every one here is tall and attractive and I honestly feel like a tiny cold hobbit man scuttling around between them. Well more fool them, because at least I only know one language. Hah.

One thought on “Language Barriers

  1. Hello mate; read your blogs with interest! Nice to see you doing so well in something you clearly love and can still afford to get drunk! 🙂 I think comedy and storytelling are very similar, if not the same thing (hence, I’ve been booked for Doncaster comedy festival and one in loughborough this year), while I often tell stories both to english and foreign people I think body language has a key part in this. I spent some time in Bulgaria after uni and watched storytellers who spoke no English; but the sound of there voice was comforting enough to lull me into something. I think language barriers are often taken apart from this and we are able to laugh and smile even if we are not quite sure what is going on or what “the” punch line is…….enjoy your coffee and snow adventures and if you are ever performing West Midlands way let me know, be nice to catch up and have a beer or two! Andy x

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