Many foreigners still wonder if Germans have any sense of humour at all. The country of poets and thinkers, Dichter und Denker, as they are known, with its mixture of Bavarian down-to-earthiness, Prussian obedience and heaps of regulations, interdictions and pessimism never earned fame for its comedians or cartoonists.
But despite all, sensitive humour with deeper meanings has a long tradition in Germany. Caricaturists like Wilhelm Busch or Erich Ohser created immortal cartoons for children of all ages. Older generations are often pleased by jokes about the German petty bourgeoisie. The comedian Loriot was a German classic is this genre, whilst modern day commercial comedy entertainment on television is primarily based on cheap jokes, just like in almost all countries.
German humour in particular can be described as reserved and daffing. German sentence construction, and its fewer double-meanings mean that German humour has to rely more on humorous ideas than playing on words. Famous topics have been blondes, East Frisians and the GDR, the FRG’s backward neighbour in former times. In the past fifty years dozens of German comedians have appeared and disappeared on German TV, but some achieved to remain in the collective memory. For example Heinz Erhardt was a post-war comedian who became very popular with his audience because of his shy behavior and cheeky statements. His success lasted several decades. Another famous representative of German humour is Otto Waalkes who was born in East Frisia and used the image of the goofy local ifdiot to make silly daffing popular. The Otto movies from the 1980s are unforgotten. Modern comedy shows are based on a mixture of parodies, new jokes and revived jokes. They are often not so hard to understand for foreigners with good German skills.
But getting access to another country’s humour not only depends on one’s language skills, mainly due to the cultural links and different angle of selfcomprehension. The more one discovers Germany the less difficult it will be to understand its humour. Just start with a smile!
German Link: Loriot...
German Link: Otto Waalkes…
German Link: Heinz Erhardt…