Boom Chicago presents The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History

It says a lot about Amsterdam that for thirty years it has sustained, nay, gloried in and cherished an English speaking comedy venue. I don’t know about New York and Chicago but there has only been The Comedy Store in London that exceeds the longevity that Boom Chicago has enjoyed in the Dutch city. To mark and celebrate those three decades a new book has just been published, promising to tell the story of The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History. As we all know, history is written by the victors and nobody can deny that when it comes to comedy in Holland, Boom Chicago is a winner.

English speaking ex-pats and even tourists, one can understand, but maybe surprisingly, it’s the Dutch who make up most of the audiences. On second thoughts perhaps it’s not so odd that they flock to the Rozengracht theatre as they have been weaned on much the same comedy diet as us Anglophones. From Monty Python or Seinfeld through to The Office or Ted Lasso, many of the UK and US comedy shows can be enjoyed, despite the subtitles, thanks to the myriad multi-national TV channels that are available in Holland.

But Boom Chicago is not just a place for improv or stand-up – it is a whole little comedy industry offering classes, providing tailored events for business, merchandising, eating and drinking and they could probably even supply a funny plumber if you needed one – and, if he was anything like my plumber, improvisation would be his specialty.

There can’t be many current audience members who were there for the first shows all those years ago – the performers, well that’s another matter, and this book is, inevitably, a stroll down memory lane for many of them. And fascinating stuff it is too. In the lengthy introduction by founders Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld we learn how Boom Chicago was born and how, against the odds, it survived and grew to maturity.

In comedy it’s often best to keep moving and that is what Boom Chicago has done over the past thirty years. Beginning in blagged or borrowed spaces on the Korte Leidsedwarsstraat and Lijnbaansgracht, in1998, they took over and restored the Leidseplein Theater in . . . err . . . Leidseplein, the heart of Amsterdam’s theatre district. In 2013, the comedy show moved to its more spacious current home on the Rozengracht while retaining the Leidseplein premisies as a social club [Ed. Is that a euphemism?]. The beautiful Rozengracht theatre was originally a cinema built in 1913, predating the world famous, and even more beautiful, Tuschinski across town.

Much of the book takes the form of conversations between Boom stalwarts and this unusual format works brilliantly, being much more personal and illuminating than a straightforward narrative. So, there are contributions from all the usual suspects, most of whom will be familiar to fans of Boom. To jog their memory there is a list of alumni from 1993 to 2023 which, according to a quick count is in excess of one hundred and thirty.

There are affectionate digs at the Dutch with Chapter One explaining that the Dutch are so tall because most of the country is below sea level – most of the short ones drowned. The original polder model was “grow tall or die”. And, of course, there are politics – of all hues and nationalities. Many a field-day has been had thanks to President Donald Trump who provided, and still provides a constant source of high quality grist to Boom’s remorseless mill.

In the middle of the book there are sixteen glossy pages of splendid photographs, in black and white and in colour, some historical, some hysterical, through which we learn that Boom’s fans include King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutter.

Boom Chicago presents The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History is clearly a must-have for Boom fans and, indeed, those interested in comedy in general. And, in a strange way, it subconsciously reflects life and the social changes in The Netherlands during the past three decades as well.

This impressive 440 page weighty paperback (also available in hardback) brims over with facts, figures, anecdotes, reminiscences, statistics, personalities and much more. My only issue with this otherwise excellent book is that there is no index with which to easily find them.   Michael Hasted   18th July 2023

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Akashic Books, U.S. (4th July 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 440 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1636141048
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1636141046
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 2.84 x 22.86 cm