Amsterdam Underground Comedy Collective

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Comedians always like to rail against the establishment status quo. So in the ultra-liberal, ultra-tolerant Netherlands, that means gloriously offensive bad taste is the order of the day.

That’s certainly true of compere Micha Wertheim, who served up a deliciously dark cocktail of abortion, the Holocaust, Down’s syndrome, gang rape and more – hideously politically incorrect material from the man charged with setting a warm, welcoming atmosphere for the ensuing acts.

The gags, however, are as sharp as they are controversial, and Wertheim knows how to pitch them. Anyone arrogant enough to think the British have a monopoly on irony should start their re-education here.

With any showcase of foreign acts like this you’re taking a gamble. They may boast of native-land fame, but who will really know? I’ve certainly seen UK acts promote themselves beyond their status when they’re abroad.

But in headliner Hans Teeuwen, billed as one of the hottest acts in Holland, you can believe the hype. He shuffles on, almost paralysed by nerves, and from behind his thousand-yard stare hesitantly tries to muster some energy, stuttering uncommandingly that we should strap in for the ride.

It’s skilfully phoney, and all it takes is a quick rub of his nipple to release, Popeye-like, his inner comic strength. And what hidden powers he has.

Teeuwen exerts an awesome presence, bringing superlative physicality and supercharged energy to his barnstorming performance. A pointless monologue relies entirely on delivery to take us from one odd punchline to the next, and he achieves it with ease.

But then another gear change, and we’re into overdrive with a gloriously overblown portrayal of a man racked with indecision over what sort of movie he prefers, or an hilarious warped sock-puppet act – all punctuate with bursts of terrifyingly funny anger. Then there’s the wonderful finale, a catchy singalong ditty about Nostradamus that playfully veers all over the place, with the faux embarrassment of half-remembered lines covered by an over-enthusiastic chorus.

Teeuwen is clearly a comedy master, more than worthy of an hour on his own. But with this club-style set-up, he’s surrounded by much less impressive acts, the skilful compere aside, and the show as a whole suffers for it.

Hans Sibbel is the very definition of ordinary, with bog-standard material about hating bagpipes or what do to when a pitpull attacks; Steef Cuijpers is even worse, with a muddled set mostly involving how European languages differ; while Kees van Amstel has a few nice lines about living in London – and makes a decent fist of some regional UK accents – but again doesn’t quite shine.

But these are mere appetisers for the blisteringly entertaining Teeuwen, a real find of the festival. Let’s hope we see more of him on the British scene.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Aug 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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