Tag Archives: Germany

A birthday present from Dartmoor and the crumbling of dark Nazi structures

The perfect birthday present for a man with a slip disc

The perfect birthday present for a slipped disc man

Last night in Nuremberg, I slept on the floor because of my bad back: I was hit by a truck in was it 1990 or was it 1991? I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check.

Rudiger, with whom I and my eternally-un-named friend are staying understands my problem. He had a slipped disc recently.

It was his birthday yesterday and one of the presents his mother gave him was a pad for his back containing, as far as I understand it, some soil from Dartmoor in England. The pad seems to be called a Moor-Rucken-Kissen. When I put that into Google Translate. it says that it is a Moor-jerking-cushion.

Multi-national life can be very complicated.

“You have to put it in a microwave or hot water and then you put it on your back,” Rudiger told me.

“But you don’t have a microwave,” my eternally-un-named friend pointed out. “It’s a heat thing?”

“Yeah,” said Rudiger, “yeah.”

Rudiger with his back pack yesterday

Rudiger with his back pack yesterday

“It’s a moor back compress,” I read out from the packet. “A pleasant heat source for your back… Helps to release neck tension. Long heat storage due to ‘ist’ whatever that means. Natural moor filling. Perfect fixation by means of individually-adjustable hook and loop fastener. Removable washable covering made from cotton and it’s from Dartmoor?”

“My sister told me it was,” replied Rudiger. “I do not know for certain. I hope so. It would make it more interesting.”

“How are you going to heat it up?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“You have to put it in a microwave,” said Rudiger.

“But you don’t have a microwave,” I said.

“I will have to use hot water,” said Rudiger.

“Do you sleep in it,” I asked, “or do you just walk around in it?”

“I think I walk around in it,” Rudiger told me. “I do not know.”

Later in the day, we went to the Nazi Party rally ground on the edge of Nuremberg where Hitler showpieced the best of his Thousand Year Reich.

It looked smaller than it seemed on the newsreels and in the films but, apparently, the rallies comprised 200,000 people.

One of the Thousand Year Reich’s Nuremberg Rallies

One of the Thousand Year Reich’s Nuremberg Rallies of 200,000 Nazis

The vast parade stands and outbuildings of the Thousand Year Reich’s iconic rally ground had started to crumble less than half a century after they were built. They were still crumbling. Reportedly it costs 100,000 Euros per year just to maintain the deteriorating structures and the local council is uncertain whether to keep maintaining them as historic monuments or to knock them down.

Afterwards, Rudiger told us that, once a year, in the 1930s, the Nazi Party would bring together top Nazi officials from all over the country for their own elite rally in the half-built Coliseum near the main rally ground. These vast annual meetings/rallies were filmed but took place only at night, never in the daylight. The reason was that most of the party elite looked far from the ideal of tall, thin, blonde demi-gods. Like Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and other top Party people, they were often short and dark.

Tall Aryan troops in black uniforms and with blonde hair fronted the assembled masses for the cameras with torches flaring and, in the darkness behind them, were the Nazis.

The Nazis always had a good eye for visual composition and good theatrical events, though I have never heard of any comedy clubs.

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Will following in Hitler’s footsteps help me at Britain’s Big Comedy Conference?

Will this help me achieve world domination?

Will this help me in a world of comedians?

I flew to Nuremberg this morning at the godawful hour of 07.40am – at least I did if I got up in time to be at Stansted Airport at 05.40am. So, if you spot any gibberish in this blog more than normal, it is caused by me writing it at some ghastly, inhuman hour. This blog was posted when I left for the airport. I may still be there at the airport. Who knows?

Why am I going to Nuremberg?

Well, going to Nuremberg did no harm to the career of Adolph Hitler so, I figured, why not? Someone has to and I may be able to pick up a few tips for speaking at The Big Comedy Conference in London on 30th November.

I am going to be on one of the many panels there. I am not quite sure which panel, but I am keeping schtum in case they realise that I don’t know anything and I lose out on the free lunch.

The Big Comedy location - Old Sessions House

Big Comedy Conference location – Old Sessions House

The Big Comedy Conference is billed as “a day of lively talks and workshops tailored to arm aspiring stand-up comedians, producers, performers and comedy writers with the knowledge and tools to help them forge a career in the British comedy industry.”

So… much like the Nuremberg Rallies of old, it is aimed at a bunch of sociopaths who dream of world domination – though, this time through the medium of HBO, Comedy Central and BBC3 rather than Panzers, Stukas and blitzkriegs.

Look, I’ve had no sleep.

“I’ve been wanting to run a comedy conference for a number of years and this year I took a deep breath and committed to it,” the Big Comedy Conference’s führer Mark Boosey told me yesterday. He is Guide-meister at the British Comedy Guide who are organising it.

You will gather I am trying to ease myself into my Nuremberg visit.

But, then, in the Conference publicity itself – written before my trip to Nuremberg was known – it says: “John Fleming is the entertaining comedy blogmeister general and keeper of the flame of alternative comedy”.

I recognise all the names except mine.

Lots of good people… but also me

The Big Comedy Conference have got performers like Jo Brand, Al Murray and Arthur Smith lined up. Well, not LIKE them. They ARE them… As well as writers, commissioners, promoters, agents, editors, BBC heads and, indeed, anyone and everything bigger than the late Basil Brush.

The number of big names involved presumably has a lot to do with the fact that writer Dave Cohen has overseen the programming of the event and he knows everybody. In fact, he knows so many people that he has probably forgotten I am the John Fleming who, as an Associate Producer, worked with him at Noel Gay Television in the early 1990s. I suspect he has me muddled up with some other John Fleming – there are millions of the bleeders.

My full name is actually John Thomas Fleming – I was named after my two grandfathers (John McLellan and Thomas Fleming) and I swear that any alternative meaning of ‘John Thomas’ was unknown to my parents at the time I was born. They were going to call me John Tuesday Fleming because, when my father first saw me in the hospital, he said to my mother: “Let’s call it a day.”

Anyway, when I applied for a National Insurance number after leaving college, it took ages to get one because there were five – yes FIVE ! – John Thomas Flemings all born on the same day, month and year. The Social Security people thought I was the one in Newcastle trying to con a second number out of them.

John Flemings – there are millions of the bleeders…

So I suspect Dave Cohen may have muddled me up with a more worthy John Fleming who is, as a result, going to miss out on the free lunch.

Anyway…

Dave told me yesterday: “It’s great to be involved in something that really covers what it’s like for people starting up now. There are conferences and talks for performers and similar ones for writers, but this is the first time anyone has tried to put something on that gives an idea of the whole picture.”

Dave Cohen may have got confused

Dave Cohen may have got me confused

He then wisely added: “I thought it would be a lot harder than this and it is. It’s like one of those toys where you stand on one thing and something else pops up that you have to stand on. Organising the talks has been a little bit like juggling jelly with one hand tied behind your back while swimming through an oil slick – actually the novelist Anne Tyler has the best description when she talks about organising toddlers – like herding water. I’ll go with that.”

I know what it feels like. When the late Malcolm Hardee and I compiled the short story book Sit-Down Comedy – alright, Malcolm made phone calls and I had to cajole, shepherd and sometimes advise 19 stand-up comics most of whom had never written for print before – it was like, I thought, doing a plate-spinning act. You had some plates happily spinning away but then one would suddenly go wobbly or would crash to the ground.

Don’t ask for more details.

Don’t intrude on private grief.

MarkBoosey

Mark Boosey – Big Conference Führer

Mark Boosey told me yesterday: “What I really want to emphasise is that The Big Comedy Conference is not just a day where people come along to hear about how nice it is at the top and what a lovely time everyone had on set with this star or that celebrity – I’ve been to some of those kind of things before and they’re pointless. This is going to be a day about arming people with the facts, knowledge and contacts they need to further their career. The speakers are going to be briefed to keep everything relevant and useful. No waffle!”

So, like I said, they may have got me confused with another John Fleming.

Don’t tell them.

It will be our little secret.

“Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

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What Hermann Goering’s great-niece told me about the Holocaust this week

Hermann Goering, leader of the Nazi Luftwaffe

Hermann Goering, the Deputy Führer

This week, via Skype, I talked to Hermann Goering’s great-niece Bettina Goering in Thailand. She is writing a book.

“Hermann wasn’t really a nasty Nazi, though, was he?” I asked her. “He wasn’t identified with the Holocaust. He was simply head of the Luftwaffe. The image I have of him is an overweight man, who liked art, stamping around in rather flamboyant uniforms.”

“That’s what I thought,” replied Bettina. “That’s the image I had too, until I started digging further and it’s much more complex. The truth is that he was involved in the Holocaust too. I didn’t know that until I started the process of writing this book. He was as involved as any of them. He might have not been as gung-ho in his rhetoric about Jews. He came across as ‘the Luftwaffe guy’. But he was just as involved. I first learned that when I did a documentary called Bloodlines. He was part of the Final Solution. He co-authored it. So he was very involved. He was part of setting up concentration camps. And, when they decided to do the Final Solution, he was part of all that.”

Bettina has no children.

In the documentary Hitler’s Children, she says:

“My brother and I had the sterilisation done in order not to give life to other Goerings… I was feeling responsible for the Holocaust, even though I was born after the War, because of my family, who had an active part in it.”

“You got sterilised,” I asked her this week, “because you didn’t want to pass the genes on?”

“I think that was part of it,” she told me. “I think we had a lot of other intellectual arguments. There are enough children. We don’t want children, blah blah. I think, deep down, that was part of it too. It’s kinda complex.”

“And your relationship to Hermann Goering is…” I asked.

“He is the brother of my grandfather on my father’s side,” Bettina explained.

“You were born in the decade after he died,” I said.

Bettina Goering - currently living in Santa Fe, USA

Bettina Goering – currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Yes. The only member of that direct family that I knew who was really involved was my grandmother. My book is also largely about her and her relationship to Hermann and her relationship to the whole family. They were a very close-knit family.

“Her husband – Hermann’s older brother – died very young when she was in her 30s. She had three young boys and Hermann took care of her. I just found out she actually looked after his household at the beginning of the Nazi times – 1932/1933.”

“So,” I said, “by the time you’re really aware of anything, it’s the early 1960s, when people are making films about the Nazi era, but it’s not the immediate past…”

“There was a bit of a limbo time in Germany,” said Bettina, “when really not much was mentioned in education or films and it really came home to me when I was about 10 or 11 and documentaries were shown and that’s when I really started to see how bad it was. Before that, I knew bits and pieces, but I didn’t know what it meant, really.”

“Which obviously,” I said, “must have had an effect on you…”

“There have been different stages to it,” replied Bettina. “I came of age around the end of the 1960s and I got into this whole ‘Anti’ movement. I became left wing, hippie and tried to somehow understand this whole dilemma more and create something else.”

“That’s roughly the time of Baader-Meinhof,” I said.

Baader-Meinhof: a troubled generation

Baader-Meinhof – in a troubled generation

“Yeah. They were around and one of my friends became one of the second generation of Baader-Meinhof. I was in a left-leaning organisation but for me to use violence was totally out of the question. But some of my friends were starting… You’d be surprised how many people were sympathetic to them (the Baader-Meinhof activists), including us, for a while. There’s a good movie that came out a couple of years ago…”

The Baader Meinhof Complex?” I asked.

“Yes. That was about the time I was growing up and I think they (the Baader-Meinhof activists and supporters) were partly in reaction to the Nazis in some ways, because most of them were born during the War. All that manifested in themselves.”

“A very mixed-up generation,” I said.

“My mother only met my father after the War,” explained Bettina. “My family was the Hermann Goering family on one side, but my mother’s family were the opposite. Very different families who married each other. My grandfather on my mum’s side was an anti-Fascist. He was once arrested. It was well-known he was supporting Jewish people. He had to be really careful.

“So here I have the Fascist side and the anti-Fascist side both in my family and that made it very… crazy. This trouble within myself was always trying to work itself out.”

“So your book is going to give an inside view of a troubled family?”

“Yes. It’s the inside view and trying to find some way to… You can’t really marry those two sides together… Also I was judging them so negatively that I was judging some part of me. Do you get that? That came to a head at some point where I realised I couldn’t really live my fullest potential  because I was really judging part of me so negatively. That is something I have been striving to overcome. Exactly that. To find some forgiveness in myself – of myself. It’s like an impossible thing to do, but just in order to feel healthy, I feel like I need to do that.

“There’s a lot been written about the Nazis on a very intellectual level but my book will be maybe a more emotional way to deal with it, which is hard for the Germans to do. There’s still all this guilt, conscious or unconscious, and I write a lot about this guilt stuff. On an emotional level, it is not resolved.”

“Who do you think would like to read your book?”

“Well, anybody who has any traumas in their closets. So far, we’ve only approached one or two German literary agents. Until now, we’ve really not been that ready.

“Maybe it will be that a British publisher will publish it first and then it will, in a roundabout way, go to the Germans. We are writing it in both languages and I have been living more in English-speaking countries than I have in Germany. I lived even in England for a couple of years.”

“You are in Thailand at the moment, but you and your husband live in Santa Fe in the US?”

“Yes, but we are moving…”

“… to where?” I asked.

“We’re not sure just now. We are sort of in flux. We have a house in Santa Fe that has still not been sold. It’s gonna take some time.”

“Could you live back in Germany happily?”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s not that I don’t like Germany. We go visit a lot. But I’ve never felt drawn to live there again. I feel it’s a bit limiting.”

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UK comedian Martin Soan once met a strange man at Bimbotown in Germany

Martin Soan at home in London last night, his mind boggled.

Martin Soan – at home in London last night.

I had never heard of Bimbotown in Germany until British comedian Martin Soan told me about it last night. He was raving to me about the joys of Leipzig.

“It’s a genius place, John,” he told me. “It’s full of such beautiful architecture. the central nervous system for 19th and 20th century music conservatoire education, great resistance against Fascism throughout the Second World War, the Green Lung.”

“The Green Lung?” I asked.

“Hitler created it,” Martin explained. “The Saxons were building the largest navigable waterway from the south to the north. The two parts ended up 300 metres apart. Hitler came to power, hated Saxony and stopped the construction and, to this day, those two canals stand 300 metres apart. But all the land in between and around was given over to the infrastructure – warehousing and goods yards, train systems – and it all turned into ruins in the Second World War. When they came out of it, it just grew up as a park.

“So now, in Leipzig, wherever you go, you go through glorious countryside. And Bimbotown’s there.”

“Bimbo Town?”

“Bimbotown,” Martin confirmed. “Probably the world’s greatest semi-automata-automated-automaton of a club. It’s genius. Run by Jim Whiting.”

“Ah,” I said, “I met him in London in about 1986, I was looking for people to be on Game For a Laugh and went to his first floor flat in Archway Road and, going up the stairs, I think there were moving robotic things on the walls and, in his flat, I think there were things moving on the walls and a mechanical man sitting on the sofa.”

There is a clip of his 1986 flat and work on YouTube.

“Yeah,” said Martin. “Jim Whiting’s in Leipzig now. Plus there’s this other art guy called Henrik Håkansson who has ensured that the Turner Prize winner gets exhibited second in Leipzig: so it’s now shown in London, then Leipzig, then New York.

“Leipzig’s becoming a hugely important cultural place. I’ve not been for a few years and I’m slightly worried that the romantic, slightly-decaying, forgotten East German aspect which is Saxon – they consider themselves completely different from West Germany obviously – might disappear.”

“And Jim Whiting?” I prompted.

“Genius artist,” said Martin, “dealing in welding, machinery and anything to do with the finer aspects of engineering. He does beauty on an industrial scale, but he’s also a fine engineer on a tiny scale too. Wide vision.”

“So what’s Bimbotown?”

“It’s a concept he came up with. It’s a club with music, bands, comedians. But incorporated into his club are things like…

“You sit down at huge, sweeping unusual-looking bars and stools are installed which are bolted to the ground and they have tractor-like seats. Very comfortable. They incorporate your bum. So you’re sitting on one of these and suddenly – WHOOSH! – your seat zooms upwards and you’re sitting up in the air on this seat and everyone’s laughing.

“Another thing was when I was standing at the bar and everyone had pints of beer. I looked along the bar and everyone simultaneously grabbed their drinks and took them off the bar. I thought What’s that about? and suddenly my glass was just – WHOOSHKKK – knocked over… There was a wire above the huge, sweeping bar which had six East German greatcoats moving round the whole club forever and ever and ever so, when people at the bar saw the next greatcoat coming, they just lifted their glasses off the bar.

“In one part of the club, you’ll be sitting down on chairs over here with a live band over there and suddenly everyone goes WHOOOOAAA! and the whole area with the chairs is on a false floor and suddenly you are sitting there on the chairs moving round the club.

“There was actually one bed ride where you got on these East German beds and it took off and you went round art instalations. Absolutely amazing.

“The people who push the buttons to make all this happen are just ordinary people sitting on armchairs with a table in front of them with BUTTON A, B, C, D. It takes them a while to work out what the buttons do. So they press this – What’s this? – There’s nothing happening! – But, when they press one button, a bar stool is rising with someone sitting on it – rising up into the air. Absolute genius! Loads of stuff.”

“Did you perform there?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Martin. “Three times.

“I met this guy in the club, an old guy – and he had a shopping trolley. He had his whole life in this shopping trolley. He had books and all the significant things in his life. He had a hat on his head, was wearing sunglasses, had a huge beard, a greatcoat, was hunched over this shopping trolley. And people were coming up to him and talking to him; some people were slightly abusive to him, trying to make him react. But he didn’t do anything. He just listened to them for a while, then just moved off. He went through the whole place like that. Enormous club.

“In the end, I actually went up to him and said: Man, you’re doing a fucking genius job. I’ve been watching you for about twenty minutes. I’m stoned, I’m drunk but – I tell you what – that doesn’t take away from my keenness and observation. You are a fucking performance genius.

“He just listened to me and moved off.

“But, as he moved off, there was the flash of a strobe light – because there were lights all over the club flashing and strobing – and I saw he had no legs.

“It was just an automaton machine going round the club. It took me in. It convinced me. I was drunk and stoned and the lights were flashing and the music was great and I thought it was real. I thought he was real. But it was a machine.”

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Mr Methane causes a right Royal stink with his “God Save The Queen” ringtone

Mr Methane blows his own trumpet for Queen Elizabeth II

My chum Mr Methane from Macclesfield knows how to cause a stink. He is, after all, the world’s only professional performing farter.

But he is also a true patriot and says he wants to capture the British nation’s nostalgic mood in this glorious Diamond Jubilee year with his unique rendition of God Save the Queen on what he calls his bottom bugle. His press release starts:

I’ve spent most of my life looking back, so I think I know a thing or two about nostalgia. Over the last sixty years of Her Majesty’s reign, the wind of change has blown through Britain and all its pink bits on the map. My latest release celebrates this. 

When Her Majesty first sat on the throne, it coincided with Edmund Hillary conquering the heights of Mount Everest. I cannot compete with that, but I hope my Royal Fanfare will reach new heights of memorability.

It may well do. The ringtone was released yesterday morning, but he has already received 19 e-mails complaining about it. He is unrepentant.

“Perhaps it sounds like me blowing my own trumpet,” Mr Methane told me in the early hours of this morning, “but I think my long experience means I’m uniquely placed to put the ring into ringtone.”

“You are a smooth-tongued wordsmith,” I told him. “But how did you come up with the idea?”

“Well,” he told me, “Originally, I decided to release an iTunes album of various national anthems. But then I realised it’s the Big One this year for Her Majesty. I remembered the Silver Jubilee of 1977 and what fun it was. And then I saw TV news reports of Gary Barlow doing his bit fixing up a concert for this year’s Diamond Jubilee and thought, I’ll release my own very special gift to Her Majesty – a Diamond Jubilee ringtone – with the emphasis on the ring. One that’s slightly more anarchic and in the spirit of 1977 and the Sex PistolsGod Save The Queen than all this current corporate X-Factor-type, pass-me-the-sick bucket, arse-kissing stuff. 

“And yet,” he continued, “it’s actually totally harmless and all in good fun. It’s a very British thing. It’s something we all do. Even Prince Philip… though I suspect he blames it on the Corgis. My ringtone illustrates in just a few short seconds the unique relationship between the British monarch and her people – I mean, John, you really wouldn’t get away with this sort of thing in North Korea.

“I realise some folks,” Mr Methane admitted, “may just see me as one of the many children of Margaret Thatcher and her Thatcherite revolution… just using my dubious talents by jumping on every opportunity to  make a few quid. But no, no… How could anyone really think that of me, John? People are so cynical nowadays. I am a patriot.”

“Indeed,” I agreed. “Anything else coming up?”

“I have just been approached to appear on France Has Got Talent (La France a un incroyable talent) possibly because, as you know, last year I got through to the semi-finals of Germany’s Got Talent (Der Supertalent). Then, later this year, I’ll be following up the release of my God Save The Queen ringtone with a full album of various fully-farted national anthems… Australia, America, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and others.”

“Are the British more or less appreciative of the art of flatulism than other places?” I asked.

“I think farting divides the British nation,” Mr Methane replied, “but not in the way you might think. The key to the UK is that, as a whole, we are a tolerant, polite and slightly oppressed nation with a class system that’s still intact and flatulism really takes off in that sort of an environment. The upper class gentry actually like a good fart performance more than the working classes but the middle classes, as a rule, hate it.”

“Will you be sending a complimentary copy of the ringtone to Her Majesty?” I asked.

“If she requested one, of course, I would send her the full blown-version as well as the shortened ringtone version. But, somehow, I suspect any request from the Palace is more likely to come from Prince Philip than from Her Majesty herself.”

“Why a ringtone and not a single?” I asked.

“A whim. But the downside is you have to find it yourself on iTunes. It has no direct link. I  can’t link to it from my website and you can only access it from a mobile phone, not from a computer – You just go to iTunes and search for ‘mr methane ringtone’. It’s only 99p.”

“I smell commercial success,” I told Mr Methane.

“It’s good to be British,” he said. “I look on it as a very British thing.”

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Three comedians & a baby in Australia + the problem of German stereotypes

(Part of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

Things are looking up Down Under.

I got a message yesterday from Australia, which started:

Carlsberg don’t do Press Releases, but if they did perhaps it would read…

It then told me that amiable British sub-mariner turned stand-up comedian Eric had had a baby. Well, Helen had. This somewhat belated (it arrived on 31st January!) ‘press release’ read:

Tuesday December 27 2011 at Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, South Australia …. 09:03hrs ACDT (23:33hrs Monday 26 Dec GMT)

Blonde Hair. Blue Eyes. Both mother and baby are doing well. After a process that began on Xmas morning at 9am Both parents are tired but absolutely delighted.

Sorry we couldn’t notify you before, but we are exhausted and so are our phone batteries. This info is somewhat belated, but as you can imagine our lives have been literally turned ‘upside down’. We have been trying to send you this for a while now…

I also got a message from a euphoric Bob Slayer in Australia saying:

Hey, Mr John, The Drum magazine wrote a nice feature on me on page 21 in their centre spread and I had an interview on RTRfm Radio in Perth. I like to think that I managed to be surprisingly funny, considering it was 8:25am. I did not know before this there were two 8.25s in the day. My first show is tonight, tickets seem to be selling at a beautiful rate and I have negotiated free beer from the venue!

Comedian three in this blog is Paco Erhard, who is taking his 5-Step Guide to Being German show to the Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne International Comedy Festival after a one-off at London’s Leicester Square Theatre on 13th February. This is the show I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe last August and wrote about in a So It Goes blog and in Mensa Magazine (Paco is a member).

On his re-designed website, he quotes a line of mine:

Paco Erhard is a German comic, not a comic German

“Quoting a nonentity like me smacks of desperation,” I suggested to him. “And you have five star reviews you can quote from reputable publications. Festivals Review said you were one of the ten best shows at the Fringe!”

“Well,” he replied, “your quote expresses too nicely how I want to be seen to not use it.”

So what will Australians make of Paco’s German show?

“I try to refute German stereotypes,” he tells me, “but, ironically, I actually have quite a bit of difficulty making people believe I’m really German. I don’t look or sound stereotypically German enough, especially outside my solo show – ie in normal comedy gigs.

“Some people watch my act for 20 minutes, hear me talk about being German and they’ll still think Why is this Irish guy pretending to be German? It’s a weird, paradoxical situation. Should I put on a German accent and dye my hair blond, in order to convince people that Germans are not like they think?  It’s ridiculous that I should have to desperately convince people I am German, thereby conjuring up all the stereotypes that they allegedly hold about Germans, just in order to then blame them for thinking what I have just brought up and then telling them what we’re really like. Okay, this is an extreme description, but there is a bit of that involved in some comedy club gigs that I do.

“That’s why I like festivals more at present, because there the people come to see my show because they are interested in the topic and it is established well before the show that I am really German. That way I can just be myself more or less. However, I do have some sort of accent, so if I don’t say anything about where I’m from, they’ll sit there more focussed on trying to find out where my accent is from than on my comedy. Maybe I should just use my real name, Erhard Hübener. But I wanna see the MC who can pronounce that or the punter who will remember it after the gig, no matter how much he liked me. I could be on TV every day and, in the credits, I’d probably still be called The German guy. Oh well.

“I don’t think my show is a show about stereotypes. I try to go beyond that. But I do address the stereotypes at the beginning of the show. It’s important to me to do that in a clever, deconstructive, ridiculing way (although I still have one or two in there that are a bit naff… but hey, they get a laugh and I’m a whore…)… it would be a lie to say I don’t do stereotypes at all. However, I think you have to address them to get them out of the way. It would be silly to pretend they aren’t there. And, especially when talking to people who still cherish some of those stereotypes somewhere deep in their hearts, you have to pick them up where they are… they won’t follow you on the journey of your show if you depart from a point of knowledge or an attitude that they don’t have yet.

“I am off to Adelaide and Melbourne on the 21st of February and I think doing the Australian festivals will make me a much better comedian. In my comedy here in Britain I still lean on the (alleged) British-German conflict too much, which is one thing I really want to get away from. I was strongly influenced by my five or six years of being a compere to those Sun-reading package-holiday imbeciles in Majorca, most of whom I actually liked, but a considerable amount of whom gave me a lot of (stupid) shit about being German.

“Some Brits seem to think that they have a sense of humour or know how to be funny (there’s a difference between these two) when in reality they are just stupid, unoriginal and offensive. (But it’s okay, you know, because everybody knows that, just like fish, Germans don’t have feelings.) So I came to Britain thinking I would be up against a lot of hostility just because of my nationality and that I’d better talk about being German a lot and also giving them a bit of a hard time for being British. While I realised quickly that British people in Britain were very, very different from the ones I had encountered on Spain’s beaches, that old feeling of hurt and defensiveness paired with a certain aggressiveness remained with me for quite a bit of time and I think hasn’t completely gone away yet. It was a real epiphany a few months ago when I realised that most Brits actually quite like the Germans.

“Anyway, this whole issue won’t be, well, ‘an issue’ in Australia. Which will be a relief, a challenge and an adventure all rolled in one. I’m free of all that old We don’t like each other bullshit, that subconscious unrealistic feeling that somehow there is a rift between me and the audience (that I then involuntarily fortify by addressing it implicitly). I can’t use that as a crutch anymore. All of that material I had best forget about doing in Australia. They won’t care. So I will have to dig deep within myself for the things I really want to say. Which I already did to a large degree at the Edinburgh Fringe last August. But I know my show can definitely be further purged of all that. And I have a lot of stuff I’ve been wanting to say for a long time… and I will say it now in Australia. Also, I will improve the show’s structure a lot for Australia. And then I’ll bring all that back to Britain. (And also I will have free rein to say some rough things about Britain without hurting anybody’s feelings or getting bottles thrown at me :-D)

“I will need quite a bit of new material for Australia, but I see that more as an opportunity to finally use some great material I’ve been writing for years and that I never got to do.

“I have some concerns, but they are less to do with the art, than the marketing. I’ve been bitching about having gotten a lot of grief from Brits about being German, but being ‘a German comedian’ simply is a fantastic selling point in Britain. I do think I had a good or maybe even very good show in Edinburgh, so yes, I delivered, but I think lots of people came because GERMAN COMEDIAN stands out of the crowd more than “British white middle-class comedian, number 2417”. It’s a selling point and it helps me. Not when I’m on stage – then I better be funny – but to get people into my shows. And I don’t know if this selling point is quite so strong in Australia. They live on the other side of the world, so their attitude to Germany is bound to be very different from Britain’s, which has had a direct relationship with Germany – in good times and in bad ones – for centuries. They might not go for it as much. Who knows? I hope they do.”

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Mr Methane: the man who put the art into fart-a-dart on blowing not sucking

Yesterday, I blogged about Bob Slayer and Mr Methane’s predilection for including darts in their stage shows: Bob Slayer encourages people to throw darts at him and Mr Methane – the world’s only professionally performing flatulist – a farter to you and me  – blows darts out of his bottom to burst balloons attached to the heads of audience members.

Bob Slayer now tells me the current showbiz obsession with darts goes further than I knew:

Dave Gorman,” he tells me, “is a big fan of darts and carries his ‘arrows’ everywhere in case he has time to kill and can nip into a boozer to chuck them at a board.”

Mr Methane, meanwhile, has been telling me how his fart-a-dart routine started.

“It was when I was touring with Bobby Davro back in the 1990s,” he tells me. “Bobby used to tell me that any show needs a good start, an at-least average middle and a memorable finish.

“I figured that farting a dart into a large balloon attached on top of someone’s head in a William Tell manner would provide that finish. But, at first, I could not figure out the correct type of dart, in terms of weight and velocity etc.

“I was using 2.2 air rifle darts and they were too heavy so, consequently, they were too slow and did not straighten up enough to impact the balloon properly. Then, one day, a Japanese TV show wanted me to ‘Fart The Dart’ into a balloon, so they studied my equipment and also videos of me farting a dart. Then they did what the Japanese do best – they improved the design and solved the problem

“When I arrived in Tokyo, I was ceremonially presented with a custom-made, MK2 balloon-piercing darts kit and we had a test run followed by green tea and sushi. Needless to say, the test run and the recording were both successful and, on taking the darts home with me to the UK, I took a leaf from the post-war Japanese Engineering Handbook and I ‘back engineered’ the product to unravel the manufacturing secrets of the darts so I could construct them myself.

“It is always a very tense moment during a live stage show when I fart-a-dart, as I like to burst the balloon first time. I suppose it is similar to the emotions that an England football player feels during the penalty shoot-out at the end of an England v Germany game in the World Cup when the pressure is really is on.

“I think my own worst time for nerves was during the semi-finals of the TV show Das Supertalent (Germany’s Got Talent).

“I was representing the United Kingdom on Germany’s No 1 prime time Saturday night entertainment show, so I had my nation’s and Her Majesty’s honour to uphold and – because it was going out live – there could be no room for any mistakes.

“The relief when I nailed the balloon first time was immense.

“It is all in the technique…

“I find it is best to grip the end of the blow pipe with your sphincter muscle in the same way you would use your lips if blowing a dart with your mouth.

“You have to be very careful not to discharge even the slightest amount of air from your colon once you are gripping the blowpipe with your buttocks and going for the countdown otherwise the dart will rise up and fall out the end with no velocity.

“Once you count zero, you blow-off big time and, hopefully, it will be a bulls-eye.

“The time lapse between the dart leaving the blowpipe and piercing the balloon in reality is very short but, for me, lying there on my back with my legs up in the air, it seems to be in slow motion, rather like events appear to be when you in a car accident or similar.

“On a Health & Safety note, I have a small filter at the end of the blowpipe which touches my bottom. This is like a filter-tip of dart-farting and is there for safety reasons – to stop the dart going any further in an inward direction, for obvious reasons.

“When farting a dart, it is important not to suck but to blow.”

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Do Germans have a sense of humour? Hitler is playing the Edinburgh Fringe.

I am organising Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, in memory of the late, great godfather of British alternative comedy who drowned in 2005 – all proceeds go to the Mama Biashara charity run by Scotsman critic and Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Kate Copstick.

As part of Malcolm Hardee Week, on Friday 26th August, there will be a two-hour variety show to celebrate Malcolm’s memory which will include the announcement of the three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

Previous Malcolm Hardee tribute shows have included Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili, Janey Godley, Hattie Hayridge, John Hegley, Richard Herring, Jools Holland, Phil Kay, Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery, Phil Nichol, Arthur Smith and Johnny Vegas.

We are not announcing who is on this year’s bill until nearer the time but the two comperes for the evening – you read it first here – will be cabaret legend Miss Behave – star of Olivier Award winning show La Clique – and the Third Reich’s favourite crooner Frank Sanazi – he is, according to The Scotsman, one of the “Top 20 Comedians to Catch” at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

For those who have not experienced Frank Sanazi, he sings like Frank Sinatra but looks like Adolf Hitler. Classic songs on his album Mein Way on a Steinway include Third Reich and Strangers on My Flight (about the 9/11 attacks) – and let’s not even mention The Guy From Al-Quieda (featuring Osama Bing Crosby).

You might think one place it could be problematical for Frank Sanazi to play would be Germany, especially as there have long been legal problems impersonating or representing Hitler on stage… well, you tend to get arrested.

But Frank played three gigs in Berlin last year.

His opening words in Berlin were:

“Nice to be back…”

“The locals were a bit shocked at first,” he tells me, “but then I added I know what you’re thinking… This guy looks like Charlie Chaplin and, when they realised it was all parody, they really got into the swing of it. One man even asked if I would consider performing for his company’s annual office party… though he did later phone, embarrassed, to say that his company directors didn’t share his sense of humour.

“By and large, anyone who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour or irony is severely mistaken as I never encountered a single adverse reaction or comment.”

Surely not?

“Well, OK…” he admits, “I must admit that, at my first gig in Berlin, there were a few stunned elders who didn’t really know what to make of me. But they kept a dignified silence apart from one older German lady who had a noticeable sharp intake of breath when I appeared. But maybe she was asthmatic…”

“All three gigs in Berlin were really well received,” Frank tells me. “However, my run in a cabaret show in Munich this October has been cancelled. The promoter thinks the locals in Munich would not take kindly to reminders of their past. As an act of protest, I have arranged to do a show on top of The Brandenburg Gate in October…

“No, I haven’t really but – seriously – I am back in Berlin in early October.”

So is he looking forward to the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe?

“Heil yes,” he says and waves goodbye to me with a cheerily raised hand.

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Why Roman Polanski’s glamorous rape-excusing friends should be ashamed

I once had to make a television trailer for a documentary on the Waffen-SS. It was very difficult to cut together any pictures that did not make the SS look glamorous because most of the footage was actually shot by the Nazi regime itself, therefore it had a Triumph of the Will style about it. Wonderful angled shots of smart, black-uniformed men marching down steps in formation. The Nazis tended not to film the Waffen-SS butchering men, women and children. Bad for the image.

Let’s be honest, Hitler’s Third Reich made good films and had a great sense of visual style in the design of their uniforms, their architecture and the staging of big-scale live events. But that doesn’t mean that The Holocaust was a minor matter and that Adolf Hitler “should be forgiven this one sin”.

I always find that, if you take an opinion or an event – especially on moral questions – and re-position it into an extreme situation, then that clarifies the opinion or event. My extreme situation is Nazi Germany.

If an argument works put into the context of Nazi Germany, then it probably works in general. Which brings us to Roman Polanski.

His glamorous showbiz chums sit around saying that he should be ‘let off’ the sex abuse charges on which he was found guilty in the US – and on which he jumped bail – in 1977. They say that he should be forgiven his trespasses because (a) he is famous, (b) he is or was a good film director, (c) he had a bad time in the War and (d) it all happened a good few years ago.

I admire Polanski’s earlier films.

But he drugged, raped and buggered a 13 year old girl. This is no small matter and the facts are not in dispute.

If Hitler were found living in Surbiton, the fact the Holocaust was a long time ago and he had had a difficult childhood would not quite merit ignoring what was done and letting him off with a slap on the head and “Don’t do it again, you naughty boy,” said in a disapproving tone.

I recently mentioned in passing on my Facebook page that when IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with attempted rape, was initially refused bail, one reason the judge gave for not giving him bail was the fact that Roman Polanski had done a runner on a rape charge.

Someone pointed out to me that the girl victim in the Polanski case “has been trying to drop charges for the last ten years… She has said that all of the publicity for this incident has hurt her more than the actual crime itself… She’s suffered enough; let it drop.”

Well, if Hitler were found living in Surbiton, the fact that the Holocaust was a long time ago and the people who suffered would be upset by a trial would not affect what crimes had been intentionally committed.

Raping a 13 year old is not right. Buggering a 13 year old is not right. And, equally, jumping bail to avoid a jail sentence for drugging, raping and buggering a 13 year old girl is not something to be ignored just because you used to be a good movie director and it happened a while ago.

The fact Polanski’s original trial judge in 1977 was running for public office, desperate for self-publicity and sounds like he changed his mind on giving Polanski a custodial sentence does not enter into it. I imagine some of the judges at the Nuremberg Trials were scumbags; it does not mean that Nazis found living in freedom 30 years later should not be tried.

My bottom line is that, if you drug, rape and bugger a 13 year old girl and then flee abroad to escape a custodial sentence, you deserve to be imprisoned for a considerable time. The fact glamorous showbiz names champion Roman Polanski and, in effect, say he should be pardoned for artistic merit nauseates me. Hitler was a painter and commissioned good movies. I don’t think his artistic merit or the artistic merit of Leni_Riefenstahl enters into it.

You can read the 37 page transcript of the Grand Jury proceedings against Roman Polanski in 1977 HERE.

According to the girl’s testimony, after giving her champagne and a Quaalude, Polanski sat down beside her and kissed her, despite demands that he “keep away.” He eventually, she said, “started to have intercourse with me.” Later, he asked the 13 year old: “Would you want me to go in through your back?” before he “put his penis in my butt.”

Asked why she did not more forcefully resist 43 year old Polanski, the teenager, who was 13 at the time of the rape, said: “Because I was afraid of him.”

The girl sued Polanski in 1988, alleging sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seduction. In 1993 Polanski agreed to settle with her and according to the Los Angeles Times he agreed to give her half a million dollars. Reportedly, she was still trying to get part of this money from him in 1996 but she and her lawyers later confirmed the financial settlement was completed.

The girl publicly forgave Polanski in 1997, twenty years after the rape and buggery.

In 2009, Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, argued that Polanski “should be forgiven this one sin.”

I say fuck him.

Details of what was in Polanski’s 111 page Polish Secret Service file are HERE.

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Why liars and the tsunami of history may yet lead to bloody civil war in Europe and Scottish independence

In 1985 I was on holiday in Uzbekistan.

Opposite our hotel, a new block was being built and its skeleton was showing massive cracks in the concrete. I asked an architect why this was.

“They are using the wrong type of concrete,” he told me. “The decision on which type of concrete to use in the building was made centrally in Moscow. They have a very cold climate in Moscow. This is Uzbekistan. We are in the middle of a scorching hot desert. They are using the wrong type of concrete because those are the decisions made by the bureaucrats in Moscow.”

The Soviet Union was partly an organisational disaster because it made centralised decisions for a nation which stretched from Uzbekistan and the Balkans in the west to Siberia and Mongolia in the east.

In 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated, largely because, like the Soviet Union, it was a fake country with such disparate constituent parts that it never made a sensible whole. It just never held together as a single country because it was not a single country.

The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973 and I remember the 1975 referendum in which English politicians Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and other pro-Europeans lied through their teeth and claimed we had joined an economic union which no-one had any intention of making a political union. The referendum was said to be about joining an economic Common Market.

The European Economic Community then became the European Union in 1993 and Eastern European countries joined after the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey is likely to join, if it can get over its habit of routinely torturing people (or even if it doesn’t). There is even talk of Uzbekistan joining – a ‘partnership and co-operation agreement’ came into force in 1999.

So we have the ludicrous spectre of a new Soviet-style Union with a centralised bureaucracy increasingly making decisions on the same basis for towns and cities from icy cold Aberdeen (I was partly brought up there in a council estate on a hill, so don’t talk to me about cold) to the baking hot deserts of western Asia (I’ve been there).

And, give me a break, Scottish culture bears no relation to Balkan, Turkish or Uzbek culture, let alone Italian culture.

In Scotland yesterday, at the time of writing, the governing SNP (Scottish National Party) appears to have won a decisive victory in elections for the Scottish Parliament, possibly helped by the fact the opposition Labour Party seems to have mostly attacked not the SNP, but the Conservative Party which is virtually non-existent in Scotland. It would be as if Britain, at the start of World War Two, had decided to concentrate on waging war against Italy instead of Germany.

Presumably this own-goal disaster of a strategy was masterminded from London – another example of why centralised control is a bad idea.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will introduce a referendum on Scottish independence in the next Scottish Parliament.

I used to think Scottish independence was a ridiculous idea because Scotland is not economically large enough to be independent but I have changed my mind because of the European Union.

Clearly I do not think we should be in the European Union but there seems to be no practical way to get out of it.

If Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom and become an independent country, then financially it would gain massively from being a small country within the European Union – I worked in Ireland in the 1990s and saw the massive financial benefits that country had reaped and was still reaping from Europe.

If Scotland became independent I do not know what would happen in Wales but there is some likelihood that it would move towards independence from England (for – whisper it quietly – it is in the United Kingdom not as a separate country but as a principality of England).

Instead of one country (the UK) being part of the EU, there would be three countries with three votes but the same outlook on almost all issues – an outlook shared by the island of Ireland (which is going to unify eventually, however it happens).

Quite what happens to Britain’s ‘voice within Europe’ and to the British Armed Forces at this point, I can’t even begin to get my head round. But we may yet live in interesting times as I cannot see a vastly enlarged European Union lasting very long without a Soviet style acrimonious break-up or a Yugoslavian type civil war.

Edward Heath, the lying cunt who took us into Europe may yet be the British leader who created a very bloody civil war within Europe.

We can’t escape the tsunami of history.

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