5-Step Guide to Being German
Review: Matthew Sykes
Twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger is famous for two reasons. The first is Being and Time, his 500-page exploration of the word "being" (the major argument of which runs that in order to understand anything properly, one must first understand who is doing the understanding).
The second thing is his nazism. While history forgave Heidegger his political snafu (if only because it was still trying to get its head around his tome on being), comedian Paco Erhard is afraid that it has yet to be so kind to him.
It is for this reason that Erhard commits so much of his Fringe World show on being German to dealing with the awkward questions of World War II. He's worried that it's unfashionable to be German, that their vaunted "stern efficiency" is merely a polite way of saying "prone to genocide".
It is a brave choice of conundrum on which to hinge a stand-up set, and Erhard handles it with such charisma and introspective honesty that you're laughing from start to finish. Somehow.
When Erhard isn't offering insight into the psyche of his countrymen, he's delving gloriously into the minutiae of a world which, while everywhere still divided by questions of regional, ethnic and cultural identity, is nonetheless purchasing the same brand of yoghurt at the local supermarket.
Erhard's is a welcome, fresh approach to that hackneyed branch of comedy which finds in dog-eared stereotypes a crutch for lazy humour. It is fitting that it's a German who is reinvigorating the form, for it was his kin who came up with a word for that kind of comedy in the first place: Schadenfreude.
There are no five simple steps to becoming German, and for misleading you Paco Erhard is not a bit sorry. Neither is his audience, who alternately gasp and delight at his incisive, often jarring wit.
If we need stereotypes to make sense of the world, avows Erhard, then we need to learn to laugh at them before we can change the world for the better.5-Step Guide to Being German runs until February 8 and is part of Fringe World 2013. Tickets are available from www.fringeworld.com.au
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