Self-proclaimed German Comedy Ambassador to the UK, Henning Wehn is back in Oxford with his tour of It'll All Come Out in The Wash, an unbiased look at the Covid crisis. We got in touch to discuss his comedy career, German vs English humour and his opinions on Liz Truss.
Why did you call the tour It'll All Come Out in The Wash?
On the one hand, it came from everyone telling you to wash your hands 24/7 because that was the idea – that all the germs will come out in the wash – but also the phrase could be like, ‘oh, in a few years it will all be forgotten about’ so I thought it encapsulated the topic quite well.
Do you find it difficult to find light and make people laugh about such a potentially difficult topic?
Not really, it can all be done easily enough. It depends a bit on your personal experience though, and what you made of the past two or three years because we all look at it very differently but absolutely everyone has been through it. Some people saw it as necessary; some people saw it as a gift that keeps giving because of not having to go to work and still getting paid, and then there are people who have been building up their businesses for a long time who saw them collapse through no fault of their own. People in the countryside with a lovely garden who didn’t have to go to work might think back to a great time, but those with a wife and three children in a flat in central London without being allowed to leave the house will have a very different take on it.
We're thrilled to have you in Oxford, do you have a favourite UK city to visit on tour?
You don’t have to say that, but I appreciate it.
No, my favourite is Hastings because that’s where I live, and I know I'm home.
You initially came over to the UK with your career in marketing. Can you pinpoint what it was that changed your career path?
I walked past a pub and there was a sign up saying Tonight: Stand-Up Comedy, and I thought ‘oh I wonder what that is’, so I went in to watch it and really enjoyed the concept and thought I wouldn't mind giving it a go myself. It was just a hobby at first but then it got a bit out of hand.
The best hobbies do.
Yes, they do – well said.
There’s quite a lot of stereotyping surrounding British versus German humour. What’s your take?
The main difference I would say is the social importance of humour. Any job advert in Britain will request a candidate with a good sense of humour and then you think ‘what relevance does that have?’ The social importance of humour is much greater in Britain and more prevalent in everyday life, everyone is constantly trying to crack a joke whereas I would say in Germany it’s different, it’s more like blunt statements, that’s the German way of humour.
It kind of comes into everything we do in the UK.
Absolutely. Like when one of the criticisms about Angela Merkel was about how she doesn't seem very funny and then you think, ‘is that really a quality I’m after in a politician?’ If she is as well, then great, but it doesn't really matter – it’s not in the job role.
You’ve said before that you want your politicians as dull as possible. So, with that in mind what do you think of our new Prime Minister?
Well, she hasn't really had a chance to shine yet. She seems to be doing alright on the dullness factor but as the Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times. This certainly classes as interesting times.
What do you think is the most important thing for you that makes humour work?
You have to have clear reference points, I’m sure if someone in Africa tells us a story about the intricacies of political affairs in Nigeria, it would take a long time to get into it because they would have to outline so much before the joke. It’s the same when UK stand-ups talk about what’s happening on Love Island or they talk about people wearing certain shoes and if you don’t know the person they’re talking about or what the shoes look like you’ll find it very hard to buy into.