Henning Wehn styles himself as "Germany's comedy ambassador", intent on defying stereotypes and proving that his country can produce comedians. ...[Helen Lewis-Hasteley] spoke to him about German puns, silly words and performing stand-up in a second language.
How did you learn to be a stand-up?
By doing it, really. I came over to the UK nine years ago, and was working in football marketing for Wycombe Wanderers. Then one night I walked past a pub that said "Tonight: Stand-up Comedy" and thought, I'll have a look. I watched it and thought I'd like to have a go, so I treated the headliner - Gary Delaney - to a few beers. In return, he wrote me down a few phone numbers for open mic nights. It became a hobby and then, two years later, a job.
What was the first gig that you did like?
It was the Purple Turtle on Essex Road. It was a rough place and a half. The pub dogs were barking more loudly than any of the acts. But I realized the concept of standing on stage worked, and I was hooked.
The idea of doing jokes in a foreign language seems incredible to me. Did it worry you?
Not really, as the gig I watched, most of the acts were appalling. I was fortunate that my first contact with comedy was horrendous - if I'd gone to the Comedy Store things might have been different.
Have you done stand-up in German?
I haven't, for no other reason than to do that I would have to back to Germany and go through the clubs and build up and polish an act. You can't just take a comedy act and stick it into Google Translate! The reference points have to be known for the comedy to make any sense. I don't have the time and energy to do that. Whenever I've performed in Germany it's been for international audiences who want a gig in English.
Image: ad for Wehn's upcoming performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Here's a link to a video clip of one of Wehn's routines: Henning Wehn - Edinburgh and Beyond.