Posts tagged as comedy tourism

Can I Finnish?

Geographically, Finland is sandwiched between two countries that could not be more different. Its neighbor to the left Sweden took first dibs on the country during the great Northern Crusades of the 12th century. Once its right side neighbor Russia caught the conquering bug in the 18th century, it was only a matter of time before Finland became a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. Despite winning its independence in the famed 1920 Treaty of Tartu, Finland would remain nothing more than a poor second to Belgium. That is of course if you take your history lessons from Monty Python — and why wouldn’t you? I whole-heartedly believe [...]

Stand-Up, Croatia

If the cerulean waters of the Adriatic Sea aren’t enough to compel you to visit Croatia, then perhaps a burgeoning comedy scene will tip your scales in its favor. If you head inland from the beaches of the aforementioned sea, you will reach Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia and home to the country’s first ever comedy club. Though modern Croatia is barely two decades old — its nationhood was officially recognized by the European Union and United Nations in 1992 — Croatian culture dates back nearly fourteen centuries. It’s unclear in which century humor entered the picture, but for the past six years live comedy has enjoyed a [...]

Belgium: The Kingdom of Comics

Flemish humor. Sounds like a joke about my imminent Sinus infection from all this rain, right? Now that you’ve indulged me my one terrible pun, let’s talk about Flemish humor. Or more broadly, Belgian humor. Beloved by us Americans for exports like high-end chocolate or the Dardenne Brothers or the muscles from Brussels, Belgium also has rich cultural traditions that include humor. The whole Flemish reference comes from the division of Belgium into three regions, each with their own language community: the Flemish region, or Flanders (no relation to Ned), speaks a variation of Dutch; the Walloon Region speaks a kind of French; and then there is the [...]

Singlish, Subversion and the Singaporean Sitcom

For a country as small as Singapore, they sure like their humor broad, at least when it comes to their sitcoms. Although much of Singapore’s comedy programming has achieved great success (not a Borat reference, for the record), some critics of the Singaporean sitcom complain about the lowbrow humor, over-the-top acting and reinforcement of cultural stereotypes. We here in America can’t really cast any stones on this matter, as we still live in a glass house with Two and a Half Men in it.

But just as many of us here do not feel Big Bang Theory is an accurate cultural litmus test, so too should the same skepticism [...]

The Comedy Central of Cameroon

Did you know the Comedy Central of Cameroon is a Facebook app? It all started when Facebook developer Mohamed Ahmed Felata recognized the growing potential of social networking in his country of Cameroon. He realized the advertiser’s wet dream of a demographic —18-34 year old males — remained largely untapped in this central West African nation. The idea arose: How better to connect an audience than with jokes? A couple of months ago he sought to answer this question with the launch the Facebook App “Kmerblagues,” which means “Cameroon Jokes” in French.

The app is essentially a joke-sharing platform on which users can post jokes and vote on [...]

Egypt's Ancient Comedy History

Have you heard the one about the bored Pharoah? It’s literally one of the oldest jokes in the book, or the papyrus scroll in this case. It goes:

"How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?”

“You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish."

Well, that doesn’t exactly translate. Smithsonian Magazine consulted a London Egyptologist for a possible explanation. She said ancient “Egyptians were amused by nudity, drunkenness, slapstick and political satire. The magician's sly suggestion appears within a political treatise; the fishing trip precipitates a convoluted narrative meant to underscore the cosmic [...]

Looking at Hong Kong Humor

The Chinese have no sense of humor. At least that’s what the title of a recent study published in the October 2011 issue of HUMOR would have you believe. “The Chinese Ambivalence to Humor: Views from undergraduates in Hong Kong and China” postulates that Chinese (1) “tend to value humor but consider themselves to lack humor,” (2) do not associate being humorous “with being orthodox Chinese” and (3) “humor is important but not for everyone.” In actuality, it is not so much that the Chinese are a humorless people, but rather they do not necessarily aspire to be funny.

According to Xiao Dong Yue’s study, their Taoist roots influence [...]

Commedia All'Italiana: Comedy, Italian-Style

A confluence of economic prosperity, skilled directors, screenwriters at the top of their game and equally gifted actors created a perfect storm of talent to birth Commedia all’italiana. This film genre translates as “comedy, the Italian way” or Italian-style comedy, but it is specifically associated with a group of films produced from the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s. Thanks to the success of the Marshall Plan after WWII, Italy was experiencing a kind of economic freedom that translated to their everyday life and their art. In the film world, directors and writers started turning to making seemingly commercial comedies, but in actuality the films of the Commedia all’italiana [...]

How To Be a Comedy Tourist at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival (Without Even Going!)

Plenty of comedy festivals tack on the word “international” to the end of their titles, but usually the worldliest name on their roster hails from New Zealand. What I’m saying is most comedians at international comedy festivals are from countries once ruled by, and possibly still ruled by, the Queen of England. Okay, okay, fine, sure this rule would apply to India. Right, of course there’s also Hong Kong. And Singapore. British Guyana.  Look, British imperialism was sprawling, I realize there are holes in my logic. The point I’m trying to make, as your comedy tour guide, is that when picking your comedy festivals to attend — what is [...]

Coluche: The Tragic Arc of France's Boundary-Pushing Comic Conscience

C'est moche, c'est sale, c'est dans le vent: it’s ugly, it’s dirty, it’s going to happen. It’s difficult for me to stand by this translation because I don’t speak a lick of French. So I just have to trust that it properly conveys the spirit of the now-legendary Parisian comedy club Café de la Gare. Given that each and every audience member paid an admission fee based on a random lot they drew, the translation feels apropos.

Founded in 1968 by a group of friends whose main goal was mockery, Café de la Gare was a dinner theater by name only. In actuality, it was a cramped space with [...]

Better Living Through Hilarity: Looking at the Healing Power of Laughter Yoga

When approaching the idea that “laughter is the best medicine,” I proceed with a healthy dose of skepticism. But when the idea is expanded to “anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on humor, jokes or comedy,” I’m confident we’re headed straight for quack territory. Yet this is exactly the doctrine that Laughter Clubs preach. And with 6000 strong in over 60 countries, I can hardly write off these so-called Laughter Clubs as the latest in New Age garbage.

In fact, since 1995 people have congregated in increasing numbers to engage in a series of exercises that essentially manufacture laughter. I can’t help but think of the scene [...]

Eleven Non-English Humor Publications (In No Particular Order)

Different approaches to satire do not translate well across national borders, nor often does the subject matter. But if ever there were a case to be made for the universality of satire itself, allow this compilation of satirical magazines to lay a humble foundation. Discover we’re not so different after all! You know, aside from linguistically, historically, culturally, economically, etc.

Whatever your intentions, please enjoy perusing these humor periodicals from around the world.

Putting the Laffs in Laffghanistan

To say Afghanistan has had a rough go of it since the late 1970’s, is to guarantee an F on your Intro to International Relations term paper. Trust me. For as much as the name Afghanistan dominates the news here, I knew shockingly little about the country and its culture. Heroin and Taliban — those were my only parameters. Until recently, I just assumed Afghanistan did not even merit Comedy Tourism recognition. Surely, comedy could not possibly exist there. And then a couple weeks ago, the New York Times profiled a new show called The Ministry. Afghanistan was getting its version of The Office, and I was getting [...]

American Exports: The Top 10 Highest-Grossing Comedies Overseas

The rest of the world just doesn’t understand our humor. In a recent article in the LA Times, it was reported that studio fat cats are reluctant as ever to greenlight new comedies because of their poor box office potential overseas, “where culturally specific humor can be difficult to translate.” As your resident comedy tourism expert at Splitsider, I can attest to the fact that, no doy, humor is typically a culture-specific phenomenon. Even a fart joke might not translate depending on the context in which it is presented and the socially accepted norms of the audience. But that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t have a sense of [...]