Cliché 3 – Being German is No Laughing Matter

Who is your favourite comedian? Or what is your favourite comedy TV show? Maybe it’s Canada’s Louis C. K., Britain’s Ricky Gervais or Australia’s Ahn Do? Could it be ‘The Office’, ‘Brooklyn 99’ or ‘Fawlty Towers’? Regardless of who or what it is, it’s fairly unlikely that the first answer which popped into your mind was a German or German TV show. This could be because most people think that Germans have no sense of humour. Is this really the case? Is Germany a country filled with completely serious people who never joke? Let’s find out…

When you look up German comedians on Wikipedia there are links to over 100 pages, including some of our favourites such as Kaya Yanar, Martina Hill, Otto Waalkes and Anke Engelke. When you look up German comedies on Google there are pages upon pages of websites listing the best German film comedies including everything from ‘Der Schuh des Manitu’, ‘Fack ju Göhte’, ‘Schlussmacher’ and ‘7 Zwerge’ to ‘Toni Erdmann’ (which won Critic’s Choice at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival), ‘Keinohrhasen’ and ‘1 ½ Ritter auf der Suche nach der hinreiβenden Herzelinde’.

If there are so many German comedians and comedies, why do people still think that Germans have no sense of humour?

Well, it’s a simple language problem.

Whilst most German movies have English subtitles, most jokes simply don’t translate, meaning the comedy is about as funny as a movie about the history of calculus (at this point we’re really hoping that there isn’t some hilarious movie out there about the history of calculus…). Even the movies which are funny and contain jokes with can be translated are not very popular outside of Germany – would you really go to the effort to purchase a German comedy on DVD when you can simply watch English comedies on Netflix? Probably not. Additionally, most TV shows and recorded stand-up comedy shows are never translated into English, either, again, because the jokes can’t be translated, or because there is simply no demand for it. In everyday life the German language itself also poses a minor obstacle to humour. For example, in English many words have a double or triple meaning upon which many jokes are built – this is rare or non-existent in German due to the use of compound words which clarify any confusion which could arise.

So what have we learned? Germans can definitely be funny, you just have to speak German to understand their humour!

Our Tip: If you are quite fluent in German check out some of the comedians which we mentioned above on YouTube. If you are not confident enough yet with your German language skills, buy or borrow a German comedy on DVD and watch it with English subtitles!


Overall, we’d say this myth is:


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