Henning Wehn: Westphalia is Not an Option

You know you've made it as a comedian when you can include an interval and encore in your Edinburgh Fringe show. This year Henning Wehn is afforded these luxuries and he shows how he can draw big crowds during an entertaining if uneven routine.

With his offbeat persona and naturally agreeable delivery he is the kind of comic who can draw fans from all walks of life.

The proceedings get under way with a formidably Teutonic theme tune and a bit of community clapping. The Queen's Hall is a big space but Wehn floods it with infectious enthusiasm, quickly getting the crowd on board. It's a strong start, launching the comedian into a largely successful opening section which focuses on the two nations which have contributed most to making the man he is today: Germany and the UK.

Wehn undertakes a fairly loose and meandering cultural comparison of the two countries, making a series of observations on their two distinctive cultures. These generally conclude in affectionate digs at the irrationality and inefficiency of British society from a viewpoint firmly rooted in stereotypical German superiority and effectiveness. Throughout, he remains highly amusing, drawing big laughs with his dry delivery even when switching to German for prolonged segments.

After the interval, the focus narrows in on immigration, and more specifically the question 'Is Henning Wehn an immigrant?' As the comedian looks at ethnicity, race and nationality he draws laughs but without the same dependable regularity of his earlier section. Jokes which challenge the absurdity of extreme political correctness are both thought-provoking and funny, but they go on a little too long. It's an endemic problem for the second half of the show.

Often, you can't help feeling that Wehn has become a victim of his own success. There is a lot of material here, and trimmed down by the time constraints of a regular fringe show it would be tighter and undoubtedly funnier. As it is, in a two part extravaganza with added encore, the show tends towards to become baggy. There is also an over-reliance on clichéd depiction of national characteristics, and although he does acknowledge the error of this approach, it is a tired conflation of ethnicity and nationality.

These problems are largely surmounted by the likeability of Wehn as a performer, and the diversity of his audience attests to his skills. With his offbeat persona and naturally agreeable delivery he is the kind of comic who can draw fans from all walks of life. If the show isn't perfect it is still thoroughly entertaining and well worth taking in.

Reviews by Alec Martin

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The German Comedy Ambassador is back at The Queen's Hall with the two-hour version of last year's hit show. The world may be much changed but Westphalia is still not an option. Recent TV and radio appearances include Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You (BBC One), Live at the Apollo, Bake Off – An Extra Slice (BBC Two), The Immigrant's Guide To Britain (Channel 4), The Unbelievable Truth (BBC Radio 4), Fighting Talk (BBC Five Live). 'His accent is not so much German as indescribable' (Daily Mail).

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