Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Now it is time to laugh
Everyone knows the old myth believed by Brits that Germans have no sense of humour, and for a couple of years, the Germans themselves have been exploiting it by sending over some of their finest comedians with a brand of humour that probably wouldn't work in Germany.
Calling yourself a German comedian is supposed to be a joke in itself in this country, and whole routines can be built up around it - a bit like calling yourself a black racist, as if such a think couldn't exist.
I know that the German sense of humour is every bit as sharp as the British, and I also know that there are many Brits who show no sign of having any sense of humour at all - Margaret Thatcher was a perfect example. So how did the Germans get this reputation?
Well, watching the same Freddy Frinton film every New Year's Eve and still managing to roll on the floor laughing doesn't help, but I see that as a reassuring ritual, in the same way as most of us watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' every Christmas, and still manage to roll on the floor crying.
Referring to your work colleagues as 'Herr' and 'Frau' when you have known them for years cannot help either, but I much prefer that than being condescendingly referred to by my first name by a salesperson who I have never met before and is half my age. I find the way that the police always call you by your first name very scary as well.
Then there is the structure of the language itself, which (as far as I can make out) requires you to say the punch-line or key word of any joke right at the beginning of the sentence, rather than the very end which is the ideal for a standard British joke.
The RAF bombed the humour out of Germans a few years ago, and it has taken a couple of generations for them to find it again. I cannot blame them for that. An awful lot of fine Dresden china was destroyed then, and it can never be replaced.
I briefly travelled around Egypt with a young German man who I met up with once, and when we eventually parted at Luxor railway station to go our separate ways, his final words to me were, "I want you to know that I too have a sense of humour, but my English is not so good. For instance, I really love Monty Python." It was a vey touching farewell. At that time, every American I ever met would at some point tell me that they 'understood' Monty Python (not find it 'funny') and I always knew that they were lying, because I never understood it myself and neither did anyone else - even the people who made it.
One of my good, German friends told me this stereotypical joke:
In an ideal world, the British are responsible for humour, the Italians are responsible for cooking and the Germans are responsible for engineering.
In Hell, the British are responsible for cooking, the Italians are responsible for engineering and the Germans are responsible for humour.