Comedy night: Jeff Dunham

J and I had tickets for Jeff Dunham’s show “Spark of Insanity” on Thursday night. OMG! It was absolutely hilarious.
It is unbelievably hard to get tickets for his shows. They sell out pretty quickly and I got lucky last fall when I found out that his tickets would go on sale a couple of days later. I logged onto Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. sharp on that day, just to find out that all tickets for the first 20 rows were already gone. WTH?

I still got floor seat tickets which – if the show takes place in a sports arena – is pretty good. You don’t want to sit all the way up in the blocks just below the ceiling. Arco Arena is an especially steep arena which does not make a good venue for stage performances, if you ask me, but oh well.

Jeff Dunham and Achmed
Jeff Dunham and Achmed, the dead terrorist

The show itself was absolutely fantastic. Jeff Dunham is a ventriloquist and a genius. The way he argues with himself through his puppets is brilliant. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time! Do you know that feeling when you actually have to start rubbing your cheeks because the laughter is becoming too much to bear? THAT’s what it felt like.

If you don’t know Jeff Dunham, you have to check him out on I promise, you won’t regret it.

You know, understanding comedy in a foreign language is real hard. It’s not only about the language barrier that needs to be overcome with time, but also about “common knowledge”.
I never realized how much people are influenced and shaped by the environment they grow up in. Comedy makes use of that environment constantly and so it’s not surprising that by the time I had pretty much overcome the language barrier, I was still going “huh?” in obvious despair half of the time, because I still didn’t get the jokes. I got every single word that came out of the comedians’ mouths, but I could not for the life of me make sense of it or even find it funny.
Until I realized: it has nothing to do with language, but all to do with culture and environment.

Daily life is often the basis on which comedians built their shows and funnily enough, even if it doesn’t seem so different superficially, daily life in different countries/cultures is VERY different.
Comedians make connections or refer to people/events/situations that you might have NO idea of if you grew up somewhere else. It’s literally impossible to even catch up on all the references that are made in comedy.
I mean, for crying out loud, do you (Germans) know how many jokes had to be “changed” or completely omitted by dubbing the Simpsons? It’s virtually impossible to dub comedy.
Of course, there are generic jokes that will work in every language, but most of the best and subtle jokes will only work and be understood, if you grew up within the same culture from which the jokes originated.

With time (and J’s tireless patience to explain) I have come to understand, I would say about 90% of foreign comedy. Some of it isn’t even funny after J explained it to me, but I at least understand the connection that was made.
In return, J will never fully appreciate and understand “Loriot“- my favorite German Comedian (who will turn, oh only, 86 this year) – which makes me a tiny bit sad, but that obviously comes with the different cultural backgrounds of bi-national relationships.

On the other hand, there are a lot of good things that we “get” from having different cultural backgrounds. I guess in the end, we get the best of both worlds ;)

  1. I know what you mean. I’ve tried to explain Mario Barth to a friend. That stuff is hard to explain.

  2. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that many countries try to instill a sense of Patriotism or nationalism. Countries omit the humor from other cultures so that each country can be an individual. Unfortunately, for those of us who wish to submerge ourselves in another culture we have to suffer with a lack of full understanding. Its a little sad!

  3. sounds like a fun night! I totally know what you mean. Sometimes J is cracking up about something and I just dont know what he is talking about. But it is also just as hard to translate Mario Barth, whom I love. Or Hape :) I love comedians though, I really like Kathy Griffin, I could always pee my pants listining to her. haha.

  4. i’m glad to hear you had such a good time :) and i’m backing up the girls here. totally understand what you mean. it does make me sad that i can’t go to see a german comedian with C because it just wouldn’t make sense. oh well, on the other hand, those cultural differences lead to our own little comedy show at home all the time, so ;)

  5. I know what you mean. It took me awhile to get American jokes but I am slowly catching up. Collin is teaching me well! Hehe.

  6. Aw, I LOVE Jeff Dunham! How awesome that you got to go see him live! My mom and I used to watch him on YouTube all the time (obviously we can’t go to any of his shows since we’re in Germany). My mom loves the Achmed one and Walter. I’m more of a Peanut kind of girl myself. Heh.

    And yes, you’re absolutely right about the dubbing of comedy. I have always hated German versions of American comedy shows, even such easy, banal comedy shows as Friends (which I love nevertheless). Also, and this may just be me?, I find that English in itself is somehow a much better language for comedy. I can’t think of any German show or comedian that’s as funny as all the American examples are just because of how they’re able to present a joke or a pun in English. (Of course there are also really awful American exmaples. ;) But I meant in general.)

  7. I’m so glad you got to go see this comedian…it sounded like great fun! I agree with you about Arco Arena, I went to see Kanye West/Rihanna there last year and was in the VERY LAST ROW at the VERY was horrid! Luckily we got to sneak down to some closer lower-level seats :)

    I can’t youtube at work…or I would check him out right now!

    I know I’m not from another country, but having parents who are, I definitely understand what you’re talking about. I am fluent in Spanish but there are things I don’t understand about Hondurans and their humor because it’s not “my experience” I didn’t grow up there and haven’t absorbed life from that perspective.

    I’m glad you posted again :)

  8. Na übersetz mal Hape Kerkeling! Du hast schon recht, aber ich bin froh, dass du auch manchmal nicht lustig findest, was Amerikaner, die hier aufgewachsen sind zum brüllen finden.

    Wann kommst du mich denn besuchen??? Hätte nächsten Freitag und Sonntag frei.

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