Paperclips with Jan und Friedrich

Sat 2nd – Sun 24th August 2014


Rowena Henley

at 04:24 on 18th Aug 2014



Paperclips with Jan and Friedrich described itself as being an act of “exceptional stand-up”. I’m not sure how the rest of the world interprets the word ‘exceptional’, but I’m confident that I’m not alone in thinking a piece of comedy has to be pretty impressive to warrant this title. Unfortunately, this show was anything but exceptional.

James Veitch acted as compere and (after telling a few half-hearted, anecdotal jokes) introduced the performers by presenting a slideshow consisting of the band’s fictional back-story. It honestly felt as if I was being forced to listen to the reveries of a pre-pubescent teenage boy. I’m fine with the occasional crude joke. I enjoy it, even. What I do not enjoy is an attempt to compress every single crudity known to man into a five minute period. Prostitutes? Yep. Dildos? They were there. Blow jobs? Of course. The content was painfully juvenile and haphazard.

When Jan and Friedrich arrived the evening followed the same general pattern: artless humour, unnecessary vulgarity and utter ridiculousness. Since this was a musical comedy, we were treated to songs about urethras, sexual surprises and semen. While Jan (Matthew Cosgrove) took lead mic, Friedrich (Jonathan Stanley) stood upstage. If Friedrich’s role was to enhance the comedy, he failed miserably. His occasional interjections simply echoed Jan’s tasteless gags.

Near the end of the show, the duo threw in a real curve ball: it turned out they weren’t really a German band after all, but actually two gay Englishmen acting out a sexual fantasy. Thankfully this allowed us a brief respite from the feeble and mildly offensive German impersonations (which was made all the more awkward by the presence of a German man in the audience). Sadly, we then had to endure a few moments of the duo’s childish and worn out approach to homoeroticism, which had underpinned the performance from the start.

Despite the written material being of an incredibly poor standard, there were fleeting moments of hilarity during the impromptu interactions with the audience. I found myself wondering why these three men had not recognized that this was where they were getting the real laughs and could have tapped into some astute comedy. The piece had another redeeming feature in Cosgrove’s guitar playing. I was seriously impressed by his strumming, just not the mindless drivel that was sung above it.

If these three men sat down and worked out were their true talents lay, they could have an exciting piece of comedy. Instead, they have gone for the cheap laughs. I’m hoping to see them again in a different light.


Kate Wilkinson

at 04:43 on 18th Aug 2014



It’s very difficult to give a sense of this show in a few sentences. I will do my best. In a nutshell: a distinctly average compere took the audience through an introductory PowerPoint presentation, the ‘German’ double act performed a couple of songs and stormed off, comic Inder Manocha delivered a brief ‘spontaneous’ stand-up routine, the pair returned to do a few more songs, and then it ended.

The loose structure felt very roughly stitched together, but this could have been forgiven if the material had been at all funny. Matthew Cosgrove and Jonathan Stanley played the main act, Jan and Friedrich. The latter seemed almost entirely unnecessary and supported Matthew/Jan with a few lines of rap as well as one loud emotional outburst.

The pair was meant to be a very camp German musical duo and the entirety of their humour was founded on a very puerile belief that anything vaguely German and/or gay is intrinsically hilarious. We were presented with the broadest caricatures imaginable and toilet humour galore. Their songs featured electrocuted urethras, semen in ears, pantomime drag queens, and the repeated refrain of ‘hammer it home’. The titular song about paperclips was the only one not to involve anything sexual.

The humour worked best when it involved audience member interaction. A few ‘fruity’ individuals provided some genuinely spontaneous comical moments. The halfway stand-up routine from Inder Manocha, though not without its flaws, also worked well. However, it was so distinct and separate from the main act that it would be hard to adequately review them alongside each other.

The end of ‘Jan und Friedrich’s set took a meta-dramatic turn as all façade was supposedly broken down. This twist was sadly lacking in purpose and the highly exaggerated pseudo-emotional ending struck an odd note. It mustn’t be omitted that a few laughs were raised among the audience. Nevertheless I sadly felt that Paperclips with Jan und Friedrich left much to be desired.


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