Time Out Guide to English Comedy in Berlin
Berlin - Comedy - Time Out

Time Out Guide to English Comedy in Berlin

Anglophone comedy has exploded in Berlin in the past two or three years. Once relegated to small packs of lost-looking expats working out their artistic frustrations in second-hand bookshops, it’s now broken out into a ‘scene.’ Time Out hunts out watering holes for wisecrackers.

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Inevitably much of the material is centred on living in Germany, but it’s rather endearing, the resemblance between this small pool of comedians and a support group for the alienated foreigner. It is, however, a fast-growing pool. An ambitious group of performers draws loyal crowds to regular stand-up nights in bars and comedy clubs – and now guest comics from the UK, the US and around the world are making a point of stopping in Berlin to perform. Even German comedians have started to try their hand in a new language. The competition means that for English-speaking comics in Berlin, jokes about shelf-toilets and pedestrian crossings as training wheels. Here’s a guide to the main events…

Kookaburra Comedy Club

On most nights shows are in German, but this is still the most venerable of Berlin’s English comedy venues. The wood-panelled walls are festooned with cartoonish posters of German club acts who have performed here in its decade-long history. Plenty of these, such as Kurt Krömer, have gone on to be stars on German TV, while the owner, Sanjay Shihora, is an Indian comic with an impressive track record on the small screen. If he’s not performing himself, he usually keeps his expert eye on the shows from behind the bar. There’s more than a whiff of nostalgia about the place, with its carpeted stage, those garish pictures of gurning comics and its resolutely un-trendy decor, all of which belies its location at the centre of Berlin’s chichi Mitte district.

It does its best however to capitalise on the streams of tourist trade in the area, being styled the ‘Home of English Comedy’. It currently features four regular English-language nights. The most established is the monthly English Comedy Night hosted by Kim Eustice. Kim is an Australian entertainer who does a great line in Victoria Wood-esque comedy songs on her piano and keeps strict quality control over her mainly British and American guests. She has a well-honed spiel, pitching equally to locals and out-of-towners. (First Tuesday of the month, €10/€8).

At the rougher end of the Kookaburra’s range, there’s Comedy Gone Wild, a late night open mic hosted by the Californian Summer Banks (11.45pm every first Saturday of the month. €5). You get what you’re given, and people have been known to emerge from drunken parties in the audience and clamber on stage. But for all the uncertainty, Summer keeps the evening together with school-masterly authority. There’s a vote at the end of the show, and the winner is invited to Comedy Gone Wild Prime Time later in the month (8.30pm every third Tuesday. €5).

ComedySportz, Berlin’s one and only English improv night, has also taken up residence at the Kookaburra, after many years in the nearby yoga studio of its founder Brian Kapell – another Californian. ComedySportz has become something of a franchise in the improv world, with branches in several cities in the US and UK, but this is the first in a non-Anglo-Saxon city. Kapell, a man with a quarter of a century of improv experience, has formed a well-practiced group of performers. The show is organised into competitive games between a red team and blue team, with a referee to keep the contest moving and the audience offering suggestions in the traditional manner. Expect it to get hare-brained and hysterical. (8.30pm every second and fourth Tuesday; 11.45pm every second and fourth Saturday of the month. €10/€8).

The newest English show in the Kookaburra’s stable is Fish and Whips, a burlesque cabaret featuring the virtuoso piano-playing of Mancunian Jack Woodhead, plus special guests. Jack is usually wearing an elasticated outfit of some kind and his show is a set of rambling, camp monologues drawing on his eventful life – punctuated by some beautifully performed songs. The guests are generally highly-rated burlesque performers. (8.30pm every third Tuesday; 11.45pm every third Saturday. €10/€8).

Comedy in SIN

If the Kookaburra is the ‘Home of English Comedy’, the SIN Bar in Kreuzberg is its dark basement. Comedy in SIN has built up an impressive following in its two-and-a-half-year history, steadily progressing from monthly shows to twice-monthly to weekly (it can now be found on the 1st and 3rd Thursday), and continually attracting a chirpy young crowd – Germans and non-Germans alike, many of whom have been inspired to perform themselves. The ambience is more obviously ‘Berlin’ than other comedy venues – furniture is mismatching, there’s video art projected onto the walls, the stage is basic and all watched over in a laissez-faire manner by former rock musician owner Konrad Kinard.

Hosts vary, although at least one of the two founders – American Paul Salamone and Honduran Rey Melara – always perform. The night itself can be uneven, as some newcomers and experimentalists make up the numbers at every show, but there’s an encouraging, indulgent – protective even – atmosphere in the audience. And anyway, the overall quality is invariably raised by stalwarts from the roster of Berlin’s dedicated homegrown talents – David Deery, James Harris, Naomi Fearn and Drew Portnoy are some of the best.

Comedy in SIN also has a reliable euros-for-laughs ratio: for €4 you get about ten comedians, performing five to ten minute sets each, and a free shot of whisky to warm you up. (9pm, 1st and 3rd Thursday monthly. €4). There is also an a special German version of the show on the 4th Thursday of the month hosted by Drew Portnoy.

East Side Comedy Club

A newer presence on the scene, and one more squarely pitched at the tourist trade, is the East Side Comedy Club, a weekly Saturday night show presided over by Dutch performer Didier Chabi. The event is currently on a summer hiatus, and has recently moved to a new location near Potsdamer Platz, away from its original base in the grimier surroundings of Warschauer Straße. Guests so far have included a mix of experienced veterans from the international circuit (David Baker, Jeff Ross) and Berlin-based comedians. New shows are planned for the winter, so keep an eye on the website.

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