Last year The Fringe was awash with German comedians. This year it’s more of a trickle. There’s always Henning Wehn who was die erste but maybe not die beste. Challenging him for the USP (which is not so unique these days) of being German and a comedian is Paco Erhard; whose image – to all those living in Edinburgh over the few weeks – must be more familiar than that of close family members by now. I’m not lying – Paco’s professionally produced hoardings, proclaiming five star reviews, are everywhere. So it’s no surprise there was a capacity crowd in a no-too-small venue pretty early on in the run. Of course, that is going to put the more cynical and critical among us on guard… but happily I thought Paco equipped himself pretty well. The tick-box subject matter (war/football/Europe) was dealt with swiftly at the start and in a way that assumed the audience had heard all that stuff before. But had they? And even if they had – could he be sure they didn’t want to hear it again?
Paco’s thing is that he’s a rubbish German. Inspired by On The Road, he has free-wheeled around the world, lived a counter-culture life and has been a UK resident for some time. In these respects he can claim to be more chilled than his fellow (original) countrymen. So when he barks like a control-freak at latecomers to his show – it’s a joke, right? I’m not so sure, as there’s an extended piece when he recalls getting tetchy with an elderly female neighbour and her imagined fear of local crime. At this point he gets quite animated and agitated – in fact, he’s like that most of the time and while that isn’t typically German behaviour there’s a steely core that makes him appear more of the stereotype and less Jack Kerouac. Maybe that’s the point though – that he’s rubbish at being a rubbish German. Cowgatehead, 20.45 until 25th Aug
Quite different is Comedy from the Middle and the East (Capital Bar, 17.20 until 24th Aug) which showcases young comedians based in Berlin. The host and main man is Stefan Danziger who has a confident and assured manner – oh, and his material is very good as well. It’s always going to be difficult during the whole Fringe circus to come up with fresh and funny, and Stefan has the added burden of having to deliver the expected to those who have chosen to see a German comedian. But before anyone gets the chance to mention the war Stefan has already set out his stall and racked up a fair few laughs. His brief biog is: born in East Germany and moved as a child with his parents to Russia and he’s now based in Berlin. Those brief facts give Stefan a stack of comedy material that is interesting, original and – teamed with his excellent timing and well-judged slapstick – very, very funny. From being beaten up by his Russian classmates for supposedly being a fascist to targeting Berlin hipsters – it’s all good, intelligent stuff.
The other resident star of the show is Carmen Chraim who is originally from Lebanon. Animated, with a kind of indefatigable energy, she expertly controlled the crowd which included a ‘Fife posse’ of older guys who looked as though they had wandered in. I’m sure they never expected to be laughing and singing along with a young Lebanese feminist on a wet Saturday afternoon far less eating out of her hand by the end! I’ve seen a few male comedians with Middle East connections so far this year but none have had the balls to address ‘the troubles’ so head-on. It’s been left to the women to do it – and get the laughs. The brilliant Daphna Baram was one and I think Carmen is on the road to being just as good. Highly recommended.