German humour

German humour

German humour refers collectively to the conventions of comedy and its cultural meaning within the country of Germany.

Although comedy is a staple of German culture, with many Germans making light of situations in social conversation, and with a large amount of time allotted to comedy in German television broadcasting, [ [http://www.comedycentral.de/ Comedy Central - Home ] ] [ [http://www.sat1.de/comedy_show/ Sat.1 Comedy & Show ] ] [ [http://www.prosieben.de/show_comedy/ ProSieben.de Show & Comedy - Alles zu TV total, Stromberg, Kalkofe, Elton, Sonya Kraus und mehr! ] ] it is a widespread stereotype outside the country, especially deeply rooted in Great Britain, that Germans have little understanding (or a distorted understanding) of humorous situations. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/may/23/germany.features11 Stewart Lee on the German sense of humour | World news | The Guardian ] ]

Culture

German humour often follows many conventions which, due to similarities in cultural perception of events and day-to-day life (and other themes which may be discussed through comedy), can be interpreted by natives of other countries. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/worldcup/2006/06/german_comedy_1.html BBC SPORT | World Cup 2006 Blog | German comedy ha ha? ] ]

However, current events situations, traditions and cultural factors which are unique to the country may provide a barrier to the understanding of the meaning behind a joke or comedic reference to someone who is not aware of the events being referred to.

German history may also contribute to a negative attitude toward German humour and possibly a negative view of German culture itself. A common stereotype relates Germans to Nazis, which adds to the negativity which may be perceived of German humour. [ [http://service.spiegel.de/digas/find?DID=51536466 Archivsuche - Archiv - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten ] ]

Language

German humour is, for linguistic reasons, constructed differently to English-language humour (e.g., British humour and American humor). German sentence construction, and its fewer double meanings (due to the regular use of compound word constructions) mean that German humour relies more on humorous ideas than on plays on words.

Because having a good sense of humour is an essential part of the British national self image and resentments against Germans remain very strong in the country, the Germans still have a reputation in Britain for having no sense of humour at all. In May 2007, for example, the Spiegel magazine commented that the British now had an image of the typical German as "der gnadenlos effiziente, aber humorlose Ingenieur" ("the mercilessly efficient but humourless engineer") [http://service.spiegel.de/digas/find?DID=51536466] .

Non-German speakers may find understanding German humour difficult, simply due to the language barrier. However, it is likely that some jokes, puns and humorous turns of phrase would be lost in translation.

Traditional joke themes and forms

*Fritzchen ("Little Fritz"): A boy of 8-10, who traps adults (usually teachers, parents or policemen) in witty plays of question and answer, exposing their silly or bashful adult ways.:Example: "Fritzchen and his grandma walk down the pavement. Fritzchen finds a 10 Pfennig coin, but his grandma intervenes: "No, don't pick up anything lying on the ground!" Soon afterwards Fritzchen finds an 10 Mark note, but again his grandma states "No, don't pick up anything lying on the ground!" Soon again there is a banana lying on the pavement, grandma steps on it and slips off. "Help me, Fritzchen!", she cries, but Fritzchen says: "No, don't pick up anything lying on the ground!"
*Jokes about other nationals: Germans have their own set of stereotypes about other nations, that sometimes appear in jokes. For example, Scotsmen are portrayed as miserly, Swiss as slow, French as sophisticated lovers, Poles as notorious thieves, Dutch either as smokers of marijuana or slow drivers on motorways (typically with a caravan attached to their car), Chinese employ caricatures of Confucian wisdom. An Austrian is usually merely an antagonist of a German character, and may be presented as superior, inferior, or unacknowledged equal.:Example: "The United Nations initiated a poll with the order "Please tell us your honest opinion about the lack of food in the rest of the world." The poll was a total failure. The Russians did not understand "Please". The Italians did not know the word "honest". The Chinese did not know what an "opinion" was. The Europeans did not know "lack", while the Africans did not know "food". Finally, the Americans didn't know anything about the "rest of the world"."
*Ostfriesen ("East Frisians" - people living in East Frisia, the north-western corner of Germany): This national minority is portrayed as absurdly stupid or naive. Jokes often in the form of question and answer, both given by the joke-teller.:Example: "How many Frisians does it take to install a light bulb? Five! One to hold the bulb and four to turn the table he's standing on.":Example: "What would you do in case of the Great Flood? Go to Ostfriesland, because there everything happens fifty years later."
*Beamte: German state officials (Beamte). Within jokes they are considered slow and lazy, doing a nearly useless job in the bureaucracy.:Example: "Three in a room and one is working, what's that? - Two officials and a fan.":Example: "Three boys argue whose father is the fastest. The first one says: "My father is a race driver, he is the fastest." The second one contradicts: "No, my father is a Luftwaffe pilot, surely the fastest one." "That's nothing.", says the third one. "My father is a "Beamter", he is so fast that he, when work ends at 5 PM, is already at home at 1 PM."
*Mantawitz ("Manta joke"): The male counterpart to the blonde is the "Mantafahrer", the male driver of an Opel Manta, who is dull, lower class, macho, infatuated with his car and his blonde hairdresser girl friend, and often exceedingly proud and possessive about things that most people would consider embarrassing. Popular in the 1990s.:Example: "What does a Manta driver say to a tree after a crash? - "Why didn't you get out of my way, I used the horn!"
*Antiwitz ("anti-joke"): A short, often absurd scene, which has the recognizable structure of a joke, but is illogical or lacking a punch-line.:Example: "Two thick feet are crossing the street. Says one thick foot to the other thick foot: "Hello!":Other examples: "Nachts ist's kälter als draußen" (At night it's colder than outside) or "Zu Fuß ist's kürzer als über'n Berg" ("Walking is faster than over the mountain").
*Kalauer: Short, often deliberately clumsy puns and plays on words.:Examples: "See "Kalauer" in the german-language Wikipedia"
*Bauernregel ("Farmers' rule"): Told in the traditional rhyme scheme of weather lore. There are two variants: one is really about weather, but the rule is absurd or tautologous; the other can be about any other topic, makes some sense, often with sexual connotations, and may feature word play or some real, hidden or twisted wisdom.:Examples of the first variant: "Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist, dann ändert sich das Wetter, oder es bleibt wie es ist." (When the rooster crows on the dungheap, then the weather will change, or stay as it is):"Wenn noch im November steht das Korn, dann isses wohl vergesse worn" (If in November there is still much crop on the field, then the farmer must have forgotten about it).

Types of stage and television comedy

German distinguishes between "Comedy" (using the English word) and "Komödie" (the German word of the same origin). "Comedy" refers to post-90s TV-comedy, usually broadcast on private TV stations, which is characterized by the typical German Schadenfreude, whereas "Komödie" speaking about TV productions is a more old-fashioned word for productions which are stylistically based rather on comedy on stage. "Komödie" refers to one of the classic Greek literal genres of play and thus includes e.g. some of Shakespeare's plays.

ee also

* Anti-German sentiment
* GDR jokes
* German television comedy
* List of German comedians
* Stereotype

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7286459.stm Allo Allo dubbed into German 1 (April 2008)]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7368058.stm Allo Allo dubbed into German 2 (April 2008)]
* Stewart Lee, "The Guardian, May 23 2006, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/germany/article/0,,1781004,00.html "Lost in translation"] and a [http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003181.html comment on this article in the Language Log]
* [http://www.thegermanjokeoftheday.com "The German Joke of the Day"]
* [http://www.acgusa.org/JoshSchonwald.pdf Chicago based researcher Josh Schonwald on German Humour]
* [http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/media/newspapers/news/old_news/tobin2.html "It's almost Comedy Central: German humor has ties to the past..."] By Paulette Tobin, published in the "Grand Forks Herald", August 22, 1999, page E1

References


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