Paco Erhard: Worst. German. Ever

Fri 1st – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Tania Nicole Clarke

at 23:21 on 13th Aug 2014

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Erhard’s priceless stand-up show is like a static, continuously electrocuting you right when you least expect it. For a solid hour of non-stop mockery (mainly of Germans, but also of smokers, Northerners and old people), Erhard entertains us with quality banter that is both incredibly witty and intelligent; he exists on stage with an acute self-awareness and regularly has internal conversations with himself adding verbal footnotes throughout the show such as ‘note to self, next time pick a different celebrity.’

The show covers a wide variety of topics including nationalism, religion, politics and first world problems, but always returns to the crux of the humour, which essentially pokes fun at Germany in every way possible. Paco Erhard certainly isn’t scared to admit that he’s sick of his German heritage, but at the same time refuses to settle in England; by the end of the show he makes this state of mind explicitly clear in sharing with us a side-splittingly hilarious anecdote of a sexual encounter he experienced whilst in England. As Hugh Grant would say, in his rich, round English accent… “Oh dear”. Oh dear indeed. I daren’t give any spoilers, but this particular tale has the audience in absolute stitches as Erhard culminates with a story about when he first realised he was becoming too British.

For the entire show Erhard manages to grip us.The show is fast-paced and intricately sign-posted. Erhard’s opening gambit gauges the number of German audience members, asking them to shout out and make themselves heard. He then asks them to back him up in agreeing with his central concern, as he exclaims “it’s hard to be German”. But Erhard is equally as interested in other nationalities, and he picks apart the cultural norms and values of various other countries; he talks of Berlin producing hipsters, Greece producing feta, and the Germans… producing cuckoo clocks and green energy.

His set is fairly interactive, probing audience members continuously to colour his paintings of cultural stereotypes, one rhetorical device that works particularly well is his quizzing the audience about whether or not a class system operates in Britain, to which we all to easily reply “yes”. This response is nothing but fuel to Erhard’s fire, and he dives right in elaborating in a Northern accent about his views on the class system in Britain, which he believes was best demonstrated when he went on a package holiday to Spain with Thomas Cook alongside a troop of rowdy Brits.

Erhard’s show does extremely well rooted in the comedy hotbed of the Fringe; he finishes his set with a broad, sweeping comment on how, regardless of our nationality, inside “we are all the same”. I know what you’re thinking, usually this would sound incredibly naff and cringey as hell, but somehow Erhard gets away with it, speaking to an incredibly diverse audience of all different cultures, all gathered together at one of the world’s biggest arts festivals. Erhard is surely a strong contender this year if you fancy a hot cup of free comedy to tickle your fancy.

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Oliver Collard

at 10:04 on 14th Aug 2014

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Apologetically, Paco Erhard promised that he was ‘not a practising German’. This was his opening claim in Worst. German. Ever. a show which irreverently examined a range of topics through the distorting lens of national identity, getting a few cheap laughs off some stereotypes about our old rivals, before moving on to a fantastic critique of nationality itself.

With material that made good on this original claim, he ripped into his native country – quickly getting a predominantly English audience on his side. Sporting banter cropped up in the first five minutes. As did Hitler. Erhard is a gifted comedian who worked life into these stock tropes but was at his best with more novel material, animatedly claiming that Berlin was a waste of space whose sole purpose is to provide an ironic backdrop for Angela Merkel to complain about Greece’s debt. Kick Berlin out of the euro!

As the show progressed, he turned on the ripe pickings of England too, with an eye for our national obsessions: the class system, Princess Diana, Spanish holidays. A comparison between Magaluf and Auchwitz showed nobody was going to be let off the hook. Along the way, a couple of jokes seemed slightly unpalatable but Erhard managed to avoid causing any major offence.

In a demonstration of his command of the audience, some planes flew over and he jested extempore ‘has the war started?’ to great applause. There were many playful moments where the edgy humour made way for zany observations about religion and consumerism. Islam’s ‘image problem’ could be solved by inventing ‘marzipan Ramadan’. Lynx offers us the same promises and illusions as the Bible.

Everything hangs together very well as Erhard takes us deep into and then well beyond national stereotypes. Deconstructing a racist joke about a Jew, a German, a Muslim and an Englishman, Erhard made us laugh not at the joke but at the stupidity of a boring man called Steve making the joke in the first place.

The last joke showed he truly had come full circle in his survey of nationality. I won’t give it away but it was a climactic flourish which showed the dangers of being too English, or too anything.

Erhard’s humour sometimes probed the boundaries of what it’s acceptable to laugh at, but he finally managed to keep everyone on his side by not really picking sides, in a stand up display that was at turns acerbic and uplifting. It wasn’t funny because it observed national stereotypes, it was funny because it jolted you to think about the way we can sometimes think about walking stereotypes rather than fellow human beings.

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