Berlin is renowned for its thriving nightlife, for being a mecca of alternative culture, and a hub for artists of all kinds. It doesn’t take a great deal of searching to find, well, anything you might want in this vibrant playground. Still, amidst the articles, reviews and ads for great places to eat, unusual bars, 24-hour clubbing venues, exhibitions and live performances, Berlin’s small but thriving international comedy scene has often appeared overlooked.
The international comedy scene is exciting because it’s so new. It has only emerged within the past few years. Until very recently, you’d struggle to find information about international comedy in the ‘must see’ guides to city; even in the so-called ‘alternative’ ones. Even two years ago, despite the existence of a few well established regular nights, shows were few and far between.
Fortunately, a few dedicated people have created an underground and perhaps under-appreciated scene in a city where alternative is mainstream, and something authentic can be hard to find when everyone is trying so hard to be unusual.
Nowadays, you can find an international comedy event almost any night of the week. The first permanent, international comedy stage was established at the Comedy Café Berlin, located at Roseggerstraße in Neukölln. Opened October 2015, the crowd-funded project provides a permanent venue for a variety of comedy acts to perform all through the weekend, as well as offering a venue for improv courses.
With regular nights such as ‘We Are Not Gemüsed’ every Tuesday (created by pioneers of Berlin English comedy Caroline Clifford and Paul Salamone), and ‘Adorable Creatures’ open mic every Friday, Neukölln seems to have emerged as Berlin’s comedy capital. It’s unsurprising given Neukölln’s appeal as a centre for alternative culture, but international comedy is by no means exclusive to Neukölln. Maggie Café at Frankfurter Allee, Lichtenberg, provides a venue for regular comedy nights, Cosmic Comedy serves Mitte with a slice of comedy (and pizza) every Monday, Wedding is treated to Baum Haus Comedy Cabaret every month at The Royal Wedding Festival, and Petri Dish delivers Kreuzberg a regular dose of comedy with shows two Wednesdays out of the month.
Sometimes mixed with cabaret performances, and located in some of the more unique clubs around the city, international comedy shows have a distinct Berlin flavor. In essence, the international comedy scene embodies one of the best aspects of contemporary Berlin: a diverse and international group of people coming together in a very informal way to do something that they love, and everyone can join in. The beauty of it is that it still has the essence of ground-up movement, with open mic nights creating a self-fuelling recruitment process for new talent.
Some of the acts are straight off the boat from Australia or America, and haven’t adapted their material to their new audience, but natural selection runs its course and those that don’t adapt don’t survive. Regulars of the scene deliver consistently entertaining performances whilst often delivering new material.
Take the work of American comic David Hailey, now a familiar face on the international comedy circuit. His performance in 2013 was less than impressive: very American humour with little that an international, Berlin audience could relate to, but his contemporary work will fill a large basement room with laughter despite the small audience. The international comedy scene in Berlin has developed to the point where comedians such as the Russian-born Alex Upatov, and the fantastic Stefan Danziger, perform in other cities as representatives of Berlin’s comedy talent.
Check out Comedy in English for more information.