Sunday, October 08, 2006

SHORE MAGAZINE ARTICLE: How to make a German laugh

By Rick Kaempfer

(From the October/November issue of SHORE

Because I was raised in Germany by German parents, during Oktoberfest season I’m often asked to help explain my German comrades. The most common question I hear is this: How do you make a German laugh?

I’ve never had a good answer for that. I’ve always known what doesn’t work. Sarcasm and irony, for instance, are both completely out of the question. After all, psychologists have even stopped using ink blots with Germans because they always identified the pictures as…”inkblots.”

I have noticed a smile on a German once or twice during a slapstick comedy program, but even that doesn’t always work. My son, who inherited the Germanic gene, once pointed out that mercury was toxic while watching Moe shoving a thermometer in Curly’s eye. Germans tend to be a tad literal. They are efficient, punctual and practical, but let’s face it; they aren’t funny.

After 40 plus years of trying, I finally had an epiphany the other day while visiting one of my many German relatives. What if I used one of the words that best describes Germans (practical), and applied that to my attempts at humor?

Germans must love practical jokes, right?

That’s why I have developed a series of German practical jokes that can be fun for you and your whole German family. Feel free to use any of these, but I urge you—please have a paramedic standing by, just in case.

1) Tell your mother that you’re leaving your good job to pursue a career in the theater. When she asks about your health insurance coverage, simply reply that you, your wife and 3 kids feel great so “what could possibly happen”?

2) Start writing mushy cards to your uncles. Better yet, tell them in person and touch them as much as possible.

3) Volunteer to mow your father’s lawn, and then mow it counter-clockwise.

4) Sneak in your Aunt’s house and rearrange her Hummel collection. Put the little boy fishing where the little milk jug girl should be.

5) Take your grandmother shopping and purposely go through the 10 items or less aisle with 11 items. Tell the clerk that it was your grandmother’s idea.

6) Take your grandfather to a soccer game, and then don’t sit in your assigned seats. Say “follow my lead if the people who really have these seats ever show up.”

7) When the food gets passed around, serve yourself only vegetables. When someone asks why say, “I’ve decided to become a vegetarian.”

Try these out at your German house and report back to me. You may not get any laughs out of your victims, but if you don’t find their reactions hilarious, you might be a little too German yourself.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.