The Amsterdam Underground Comedy Collective, a brotherhood of stand-up comedians (there are no women in the group, even though the Guardian talks about every “stand-up in the country”), whose heavy hitters includes Theo Maassen and Hans Teeuwen (shown here), will be performing at the Assembly in the Edinburgh Comedy Room until August 26.
And now I gladly quote the Guardian:
According to Maassen, and as those familiar with Holland’s sex and drug laws might expect, there are few boundaries to Dutch humour, and a veto on kowtowing to audience tastes. The members of this profit-sharing collective (which seems to include practically every stand-up in the country) “push each other to go further, to ‘fuck the audience’,” says their manager, Xander Wassenaar. The British attitude to crowd-pleasing confuses them. “People tell us, ‘At Edinburgh, make sure you make some jokes about the English, because Scottish people like that.'” Wassenaar looks disgusted. “That doesn’t happen here.”
So much for the cultural differences. What of the linguistic ones? The Dutch speak impeccable English, but stand-up is nothing if not idiomatic, and I wonder whether Maassen has had to adapt his act for a UK crowd. “More than half of my material is not translatable,” he says. “When I say it in English, it’s not funny any more.”
Give us an example. “I have a joke in Dutch,” he says. “The muscle in your anus …” The sphincter? “Yes. In Dutch, it’s called the circle muscle. So I make this joke, ‘I don’t understand: my anus is a circle muscle so why are there stripes in my underpants?'” Maassen and Wassenaar fall about laughing. Then, collecting himself, Maassen says: “In English, it isn’t called the circle muscle, so it wouldn’t be quite as funny.” Quite.
My two cents: I once saw Hans Teeuwen run to get on the tram downtown Amsterdam and try to pay with a EUR 50 bill, which should be perfectly possible, but pissed off the cashier. Non-crowd pleasing again.
(Link: Guardian, via Onze taal)