Having successfully avoided any Brexit-based comedy this year (harder than it sounds) I thought I’d get a fresh angle from someone without a vested interest. Who better than Germany’s self styled ‘Comedy Ambassador’ Henning Wehn? But it turns out he is very vested. Having lived in the UK for nearly twenty years he has learned to understand and enjoy some aspects of British society that even the British dislike.
Wehn’s comedy formula is brilliantly simple; he leverages our own prejudices to highlight the traits we share with other cultures. For instance, our differing attitudes to work can be summed up as ‘the British are lazy bodgers, Germans care about doing a good job’. But in Wehn’s hands the cliché becomes much more elegant; to become a plumber in Germany one must achieve a level of competency and skill, whereas in Britain one merely needs to “self-identify as a plumber and then, ‘just give it a go, mate’”. It is clear he loves the British, and our polite tolerance of trivial grievances that his native countrymen would find unacceptable.
He has also picked up a lot of juicy vernacular which peppers his conversation (including a uniquely German take on Cockney rhyming slang) . Delivered in his strong accent, this adds a layer of fun to what are often brilliant insights. Wehn doesn’t phone his mum, he “gets on the blower”. And the EU referendum was basically Britain voting for “never-ending palava”.
Which brings us back to Brexit. Wehn was against dismantling a union that has ensured peace in Europe for 70 years but, since it is important to respect democracy, we should now just ‘get on with it’. He demonstrates the pointlessness of a second referendum by asking us to put our hand up if we would vote differently in a second referendum. Not a single hand goes up in the packed 900 seats of Queen’s Hall.
So we should get on with it because, in Wehn’s view, on the World stage, Brexit is pretty well insignificant. indeed, so is Britain: “Did you know that Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK. But in the list of Chinese cities it would come in at… 418th”. The audience gasps. There is a pause and then “I didn’t actually research that, but it sounds about right”.
Henning Wehn has been a regular on UK television and radio for a few years now. His stock keeps rising and as our “never-ending palava” unfolds no doubt his outsider-inside perspective will be more in demand. Germany’s ‘Comedy Ambassador’ is in danger of becoming a British Institution.
You can see Henning Wehn: Get On With It at The Queen’s Hall until 25th August at 19:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com