Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Humorless Continent

Comedy in a foreign language is a tricky business. Take this Italian joke. "Perche' gli inglesi portano i gemelli?" it begins. Even if you know that this translates as, "Why do the English wear shirt cuffs?" you still might not understand the punchline: "Perche' hanno paura che i francesi gli entrino nella Manica!" This means: "For fear that the French enter the Channel!"
I’m here all week! Try the veal.

Western European stand-up comics are getting by in these “uncertain times” by dredging up what amounts to a culturally inept Señor Wences routine that was long deemed insultingly unfunny in parts of the world where tastes are better developed a longh time ago:
Others were inspired to take up standup only after coming to the UK. The Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri has never actually performed in Italian. "My niche is that not only can I show British culture in an unfamiliar way, but I can do the same with the language. I can show how absurd English idioms sound to the Italian ear." These include "Bob's your uncle", which apparently derives from the nepotistic practices of 1880s PM Robert Cecil. Palmieri proposes an Italian alternative: "Silvio fucked your daughter." He also reveals that the Italian version of "Have your cake and eat it" is: "Have your wife drunk and the bottle still full."
Quelle freakin’ arteest. Call an ambulance! I think somebody busted a gut! Whoo-doggie! A trained chimpanzee could give them a run for their money.

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