Otto Kuhnle and Henning Wehn: 1000 Years Of German Humour

DVD review by Steve Bennett

With the plunging cost of technology, every comedian can release a DVD now; never mind waiting for Universal Pictures, or even a respected indie such as Go Faster Stripe, to recognise your talents.

The results, as demonstrated by Otto Kuhnle and Henning Wehn’s 1000 Years Of German Humour, can be technically dodgy. The sound quality keeps wobbling, the cameras are at strange angles, and when Herr Kuhnle wanders into the crowd, they often lose him – or at least the top of his head – completely. Where is the German precision here?

Such Teutonic stereotypes are bread and butter to this playful duo. Wehn is the archetypal humourless, heartless German, a slave to both cold logic and the Protestant work ethic who secretly yearns for the dominant fatherland to rise again. The Kuhnle, on the other hand, is the jolly gnome-like face of the older German image of lederhosen, yodeling and Alpine horns.

The contrast in their styles works well, but as a whole, this show is rather patchy. If only the German penalty-takers were this hit and miss…

Wehn’s tongue-in-cheek baiting of the English audience in Ealing’s Questors Theatre always strikes a mischievous chord, brutally misogynistic and xenophobic as it is. Multitalented Kuhnle, an absurd variety turn in the finest of traditions, provides the silly levity, whether he’s performing a flute solo as his trousers slide down, or milking the cuteness of a toy polar bear for maximum sympathy.

Their solo set pieces are largely entertaining, for contrasting reasons, but when they come together for the ill-rehearsed extended scenes that provide the liberty-taking romp through German comedy history. things go awry. Such sketches as the retelling of a Grimms’ Fairy Tale test the audience’s patience for shambolic self-indulgence a little too much.

‘German comedy doesn’t need to be funny, it just needs to be very well timed,’ points out the clock-watching Wehn at one point, but they don’t practise what they preach, with several scenes requiring judicious pruning.

There is ‘Teutonic jolliness’ to be had, but you can also understand why the professional producers – or even the Edinburgh Comedy award panel, much to their chagrin – haven’t yet come a-knocking.

Main feature: 67 mins
Extras: None
Released: Independently
Price: £8 + £1.95 from Henning Wehn’s website

Published: 22 Dec 2009

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