Stand-up comedy is a funny thing; funny peculiar – and, of course (hopefully), funny ha-ha. This was demonstrated last night at the Theater Pepijn comedy club in The Hague which was staging its now regular English comedy night. English in language only, I should add, as I was one of the few actual English people there. With The Hague being home to so many expats I was perhaps a little surprised to see that about seventy-five per cent of the audience was Dutch. But I was even more surprised to discover that those who were there to make us laugh were a very motley crew, consisting of comedy ambassadors from America, China, Romania and India. That in itself could be the basis of a good joke – “An American, an Indian and a Romanian walked into a pub . . . “, but I digress.
I was intrigued to see how all this gelled. Each culture/nationality has its own sense of humour, different things that make its people laugh, so how was such a diverse group of comedians to find common ground? One thing that will make any human being laugh is slapstick, but you never find that in comedy clubs. The other thing that strikes a common chord is, not surprisingly, sex. So last night there was much talk of vibrators, genitals and orgasms – and this from the lady comedians who constituted the majority of the programme.
The evening was MC’d by the doyen of English language comedy in The Netherlands, American Greg Shapiro. His relaxed, easy-going style got everyone in the mood and this was continued by the first act, Mohna Joshi, an Indian lady of a certain age who one would have thought was a very unlikely candidate for stand-up. But although much of her act was about her sex life and problems distinguishing between her vibrator and the TV remote control, it was all very laid back and in the best possible taste. More aggressive, but equally focused on her sex life, was Romanian Luana Elena Matei. The second half of the show consisted of Sid Singh and Weina Ma, the only, and I say this with no fear of contradiction, young Chinese lady performing stand-up comedy in English in The Netherlands.
I had rather gone off small club stand-up in the UK because it got rather too boisterous, too much drunkenness and too much vulgarity but last night at the Pepijn was a very civilized affair. While the audience clearly enjoyed themselves they were very well behaved with no hecklers and no drunks – perhaps, not least, because they were not butt of the comedian’s risqué jokes. One thing that puts some people off in stand-up is the fear they will be picked on, with the comedian insulting or humiliating them. Nothing like that last night; it was a really good atmosphere and everybody had a good night out. More English nights are planned at the Theater Pepijn so if stand-up is your entertainment of choice, there you go. Michael Hasted 14th April 2023