The Nazis have invaded the Fringe | Tony Kinsella on comedians' new favourite subject

The Nazis have invaded the Fringe

Tony Kinsella on comedians' new favourite subject

In the light of the hoo-haa and hullabaloo over the ubiquity of rape jokes at last year's Fringe, I was intrigued to see what this year's comedic pandemic might be.

Honourable nods must go to a couple of frequently mentioned comedians of a different vintage, as both Ben Elton and Michael McIntyre receive a bit of a collective kicking, identified and accused of 'selling out' for different reasons. 

But, on my limited evidence of attending around 20 gigs, the Nazis are first against the wall for this year's revolution. Mel Brooks famously claimed to be the only Jew to profit out of the Nazis; on this year's evidence, he certainly isn't the only comic to do so.

A few acts wear their swastika, like their hearts, on their sleeve, notably cabaret crooner Frank Sanazi, and Charmaine Hughes, who declares herself 'a Nazi war criminal's daughter' in the opening line of her flyer. Of course, from Chaplin, through Brooks and Woody Allen, to David Mitchell pointing to his uniform logo and asking Robert Webb 'Are we the bad guys?', the Nazis have been fair game for laughs. But why such proliferation at the 2013 Fringe?

Steve Allen's definition of comedy as 'tragedy plus time' seems far too anodyne for a genocide running to over 6 million. Clearly, it will always be 'too soon.' Perhaps the existence of the the BNP, EDL and the relative popularity of some aspects of UKIP policy ensure that right wing extremism needs to be a staple target of modern stand-up, with Hitler's cronies as the iconic analogy. 

More significantly, perhaps, unlike a rape joke, the Nazis can be funny if the context is right - whereas, to the vast majority, a rape joke is never palatable, and never should be. Henning Wehn, in an upbeat show about a German Christmas, gives his annual welcome to his 'bunker' in The Caves venue and delivers a lovely joke about Poppy Day as 'Selective Remembrance Sunday.'

Richard Herring follows up his Hitler Moustache show with We're All Going To Die, incorporating a show-stopping segment based on a genuine 'bookazine' called Railways And The Holocaust, riffing brilliantly on the mentality of people who would buy this publication and attacking media tossers who see a 'bookazine' as superior to pathetic little magazines - reinforcing the whole problem of Hitler's Aryan philosophy.

Even one-liner merchant Gary Delaney slips under the radar a great visual gag about why German and French people have hairy armpits.

Thankfully, in the hands of some of the Fringe's finest, context is everything. Stephen Carlin reflects on a senior Nazi who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the latter stages of the war for going a bit too far: 'Six million Jews? I thought it was only five.' Carlin's show, Gambling Man, catalogues his own debt-accelerating addiction and uses the Nazi anecdote as a precise metaphor for gamblers convincing themselves that their situation is really not that bad.

Comeback king, Alexei Sayle bemoans the employment of Gulf War-criminals John Prescott and Alistair Campbell on TV panel shows, concluding that 'If Goebells was alive today, he'd be presenting Have I Got fucking News For You.'

The only comic I heard deploying a racially dodgy cod-German accent was the legendary redneck Canadian comic, Baconface. One can only hope that inside this gruff racist, there is a post-modern ironic comedian deconstructing the norm. 

So Nazis are the new rapists. Comedians are mentioning The War. But, on the whole, I think they're getting away with it.

Published: 17 Aug 2013

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.