Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Europe's worst pop duo' take you on a tour through their careers in the pop industry, exposing fevered egos, creative mishaps and their own bizarre upbringings
Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus bill themselves as the worst pop band in Europe – which is quite some achievement considering the competition – with a brutally Germanic line in ‘post-retro future-modern synth rock’.
They are, fairly obviously, spoofing Kraftwerk and their ilk. But if this were the basis of the entire show, the joke would quickly wear thin.
Instead the duo embrace the relentlessly bleak industrial misery of the genre as an overarching style for a mix of stand-up, double-act banter and audience participation, as well as the anticipated techno music parody.
The idea of subjugating a comedy audience under a humourless, sinister authoritarian regime was perfected by Simon Munnery’s League Against Tedium, but this pair have more playful fun with the idea, if that’s not a contradiction.
Emotionless oppression is a fertile ground for comedy, not only spawning dark material but also benefiting from the fact that nothing induces laughter more than knowing you’re not supposed to, as anyone who’s ever farted at a funeral will know all too well.
Of the pair, Karl Karl is the cruel, demeaning proto-Nazi, exerting control over his more pitifully miserable partner, Karl Gunter, to compensate for his own shortcomings. It’s a classic double-act dynamic, taken to extremes.
The vicious insults that fly between them, in bad German accents, successfully tap into the comedy of cruelty, with the audience frequently on the end of withering comments, too. It’s a bit one-dimensional, but the duo make the most of the limitations.
The song spoofs turn out to be the weakest link, as there’s only so much bad Teutonic techno you can take – a fact the Clatters perhaps acknowledge by keeping them mercifully, occasionally hilariously, short.
More fun comes from an extended bout of audience participation, when unwilling punters are ordered to take part in a bad sci-fi scene and reprimanded when they falter. The humourless façade almost slips during this extended section, but it does ensure spirits are kept up in what could have been an hour as monotonous as any German dance music.
This certainly is the lighter side of bleak, mechanical, dehumanising tyranny.
Date of review: Aug 2005