How to Be Dutch: THE QUIZ. All the questions that SHOULD be on the Dutch Citizenship Exam, according the expat expert who has been living in the Netherlands for close to 30 years. Critics loved The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. Now comes the perfect companion: the Shapiro Dutch Quiz Book.
How to Be Dutch makes you redefine the Netherlands you thought you knew.
“If Dutch people are so tolerant, why are they still judgmental as hell?”
“How should American parents react to a Dutch bedtime story called Sammy the Super Sperm?”
“If the Netherlands is the ‘Drug Capital of the World,’ why is it so hard to get antibiotics?”
Reviews for How to Be Dutch: THE QUIZ (original printing, 2016)
‘How to Be Dutch plays deftly with clichés and knows how to transcend them. Even if you’ve never been to the Netherlands, Shapiro’s experiences will entertain.’ Access Magazine
‘Humorous columns, funny illustrations, hilarious photos and observations. Very nice book.’ Netherlands Library Council
‘A perfect toilet book.’ TROUW
‘Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. At each turn of the page, you find yourself both laughing about and appreciating the Dutch. Greg Shapiro treats you to his version of the Dutch Assimilation Test. First, he analyzes the actual exam questions: “Every question tells a story,” Shapiro explains. And then he unveils “The Questions That Should Be on the Quiz.” How to Be Dutch is accompanied by entertaining cartoons by illustrator Floor de Goede and hilarious photographs by the author.’ DutchNews.nl
In Praise of Folly! This year’s Dutch Erasmus award was given to a comedian: Trevor Noah. It was an event full of Dutch comedy royalty – and actual Dutch royalty.
The event started with King Willem Alexander making jokes – and getting laughs! “I have the distinction of having sat on the lap of the previous winner, the last time it was a comedian: Charlie Chaplin in 1965. …Don’t worry, this is not a Dutch tradition.”
Trevor Noah actually made fewer jokes than expected – until the end: “I’m very proud that – after 220 years – a South African is able to take a few resources from the Netherlands back to the Cape.” He zinged the King!
Then he went and sat down in between the King and his mother, (former) Queen Beatrix. It was like watching a mini White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner.
After the Royal Comedy Event – SCHMOOZING WITH THE KING
If you’ve never been inside the Paleis op de Dam, I can recommend visiting when the Dutch royal family is hosting. I’ve attended events with King Willem Alexander before, but he’s usually whisked away quickly. This time the Dutch King seemed to want to stick around and chat with Dutch comedy royalty, like Claudia de Breij and Peter Pannekoek and even Andrew Moskos. “Is it harder to make jokes in a tense political climate? What kind of jokes go too far?” (And I was thinking “Is it all a bit too white?”) But then Soundos el-Ahmadi swooped in and took over. “Can I take a selfie?” Willem Alexander: “I’m not allowed to say yes.” Soundos: “That’s not ‘NO’!” So she broke open the floodgates (a true Dutch taboo), and then everyone got selfies with the King. I did mine modestly, from a distance. To make sure it would be the worst selfie ever:
THE GREEN KING
But I did talk to the King! I told him I might see him at the event I’m hosting next spring for the Dutch green startup Growy and the first harvest of their urban vertical farm in Amsterdam. He said “Sounds interesting,” which I relayed to the founder of Growy – who still doesn’t believe me.
(I also bumped into former Queen Beatrix! She is so little, and she was saying “I can’t see… Where is my son?” So I cleared a path for her. A couple people gave me eye daggers, but then they saw who was behind me, and they moved aside real quick. At the end I asked her for a photo, and she looked at me like I was crazy.)
And yes, I said hi to Trevor Noah. But I didn’t take a photo, because he was getting mobbed. Trevor, next time I see you I’ll say thanks for the inspiring words. Yes, comedy does connect people. Even if we oppose each other politically, when we share a laugh – in real time – we agree.
Thank you to the PraemiumErasmianum for the invite! Thank you to Boom Chicago for saving me a seat. And thank you to Erasmus the philosopher who was indeed Dutch. Without his writings, there would be no Reformation or Protestant religion. His “most famous” work is a socio-political satire called In Praise of Folly. Happy 65th Anniversary to the Erasmus Awards. You did well to pick a comedian.
Review ‘PEP & GREG POLITICALLY INCORRECT’ – a Dutch Election Comedy Show, by ARTS TALK MAGAZINE
24 November, 2023
Thank you to ArtsTalk Magazine for coming to review our Dutch election comedy show 2023! Friday, 24 November. The election results were just 36 hours old, and we rewrote half the show: “Pep & I are 99% shocked the Netherlands voted for Geert Wilders… And we’re 1% delighted. For every time back in 2016 when Dutch people told us ‘You Americans are so stupid to vote for a right-wing, anti-immigrant populist with strange blond hair.’ Well? Now how does it feel!?”
So much new material, and yes the emotions were raw. Did the reviewer notice? Oh yes. Rose Fawbert Mills noted that the show could have been tighter. But let’s focus on her positive quotes:
“a satirical night of comedy reviewing the American and Dutch political systems was very appealing and not to be missed.”
“Greg’s Trump impersonation …very, very good.”
“the use of visuals – photos, memes, video clips – was engaging and entertaining. It gave the show a very ‘current’ feel.”
“the overall the show was good. laughed out loud.”
‘Pep & Greg Politically Incorrect’ is our way of saying we think politics are being done incorrectly. We use the show to celebrate the worst of Dutch & US politics. In the US, President Biden is actually a great politician – but a terrible candidate. And in the Netherlands, there are so many political parties it’s almost like we could start our own party based on the people in the audience that night. SO that’s what we do. And – when Joe Biden gets kicked out as leader of the Democrat Party in the US – why not have him lead our new Dutch party?
Pep & Greg will be back for more dates at Boom Chicago. Potentially in December. And definitely in 2024.
Pep & Greg are back! This time we’re comparing the Worst of the 2023 Dutch election to the Worst of US election 2024.
The Netherlands: “We sent angry farmers with pitchforks to protest in the Hague…”
USA: “Hold my beer! (… storms Capitol on January 6.)”
To us, “Politically Incorrect” means politics being done incorrectly. USA, you have a 2-party system, which is very binary – almost bi-polar. And if the USA is bi-polar, then the Netherlands has multiple personality disorder.
I’ve been writing comedy with Pep Rosenfeld since we were in high school. (In 1985, we predicted Rupert Murdoch would take over TV stations and make America dumber.) We’ve written & performed political standup specials since 2001, including Trump Up the Volume – the show we were only supposed to perform in 2016. Along the way, critics say:
‘Superior. Hilarious satire’ – Theaterkrant.nl
‘Greg is a scarily real fake Trump’ – Het Parool
From the Boom Chicago website:
Boom founder Pep Rosenfeld (Emmy nominated SNL writer) and Greg Shapiro (the famous ‘Netherlands Second’ Trump video) are back at Boom Chicago with their famous mix of comedy and current events.
They will skewer the latest from American and Dutch society. Will America elect a president in prison?
Will the cranky farmers take over the Netherlands?
Like usual, Pep and Greg will tackle it all and hold nothing back!
In a world filled with fake news, AI, conspiracy theories, guns, race issues, climate change, Mark Rutte retiring and Joe Biden not, Pep and Greg will make you laugh!
Pep and Greg Politically Incorrect is a new Boom Chicago show that is not just for those who follow America (though they will love it).
With standup comedy, improvisation and sharp commentary, the duo from Trump Up the Volume have created a new, smart show for anyone who likes to laugh.
PRAISE for Pep & Greg’s previous Boom Chicago shows:
‘Sharp satire and world class improvisation’ – De Volkskrant
‘Five stars! Greg and Pep have an incredible charisma and are very funny….’ — D Robbinson, Trip Advisor
‘Jokes were well-sculpted and wide-ranging. Engaging with the audience, they were quick, provocative and pugnacious.’– ArtsTalkMagazine.nl
Greg Shapiro Teams Up with Ken Parsons for Berlin Mini-Tour Oct. 2023
27 sept., 2023
UNSUNG HEROES: Comedy veterans Greg Shapiro and Ken Parsons team up to tell stories of their early days. Ken Parsons was busking in Berlin in the days of 1989. Greg Shapiro was one of the originals at Boom Chicago theater in Amsterdam. Together they perform a mini-tour of Berlin.
Comedians Ken Parsons & Greg Shapiro:
Both were born in ‘68, the year of tumultuous change and revolt.
Both left their native lands to seek their fortunes abroad.
Both have stuck to their guns and have watched the projects they helped kick-start flourish.
Greg achieved critical acclaim with his voice of Trump in the viral video ‘Netherlands Second’. Ken set up a series of autonomous comedy stages which soon became renowned and have featured international acts, prompting Time to dub him ‘The Maestro of the Underground’.
Be a hero, too and try and catch them! All of the shows will be great but the Finale of the Tour at the brilliant Cosmic Comedy Club will be the one to head to if you want to see the show in its longest form!
Geil, ey! Toppie, hoor!
Greg Shapiro and Ken Parsons: The ‘Unsung Heroes’ Berlin 29 Sept – 3 Oct
29/09 The Wall Comedy, Friedrichshain
30/09 The Wall Comedy, Friedrichshain
01/10 East West Comedy, (open mic try out) Kreuz-Kölln
02/10 Karakas Bar, Mitte
03/10 Cosmic Comedy, Mitte
BIOGRAPHY GREG SHAPIRO Greg Shapiro: Comedian, American, Dutchman. (And the voice of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video with imitators like Neo Magasin Royal). Shapiro was the host of Comedy Central News: “because Dutch news is news too.” His voice has appeared on ZDF’s Heute Show. And he helped establish the Amsterdam comedy theater Boom Chicago, helping launch the careers of alumni like Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele and the creators of Ted Lasso.
With Boom Chicago, Shapiro performed shows in memorable settings. He performed a show on 9/11. He has performed for the King of the Netherlands, French President François Hollande, and NATO. He has also performed on moving buses, student living rooms, and once in the Business Class section of a KLM 747 flying to Chicago. Shapiro’s latest standup special is Greg Shapiro Saves the Climate: 60 Minutes of Climate Good News.
BIOGRAPHY KEN PARSONS The Wall Years
Ken comes from Plymouth but together with his friend Chris Stevens they formed a band called Who’s Rachel?
Ken- as if in an ETA Hoffmann tale- went on to study German and was assistant teacher at the Robert Koch school in Kreuzberg, aptly enough in Berlin’s ‘Grimm Kiez’. Ken wrote a thesis on folklore and the style of his stories can be called ‘punk parables’ or ‘urban fairy tales.’
VULTURE.COM – The Best Comedy Books of 2023 (So Far) by Brian Boone, who writes about comedy
“As far as generationally significant, tone-setting, comedian-developing institutions go, Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade, and their many affiliates, get almost all the attention and credit. But there’s a third, and until now, largely unheralded player, and that’s Boom Chicago. Many of today’s most thoughtful, emotionally and politically driven comedians honed their chops at Boom Chicago, an American theatrical and improvisational comedy troupe that primarily operates in Amsterdam. Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, and Amber Ruffin are all veterans, and it’s where Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis met and first worked together. Ted Lasso wouldn’t have happened without the frenetic, patient, performer-driven lab-like atmosphere of Boom Chicago. The mock-self-aggrandizing of the subtitle — The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History — belies how Boom Chicago just is that important to 21st-century comedy. The baby-faced photos of current legends are fun, but the book’s tone of fascination and how the sausage is made provides a compelling account of how improv is crafted, and how Boom Chicago’s approach informed so much of its participants’ later work.”
“Large swatches of the book look and read like an oral history, in which prominent and not so prominent BookChicago alums prattle on, reminiscing about moments in BoomChicago’s rise from a ragtag group of improv comedians performing in 1993 in the back of dive bar to hothouse for creating future celebrities to a bone fide part of Dutch comedy world. As oral histories go, it’s not bad stuff.”
“when it comes to comedy in Holland, Boom Chicago is a winner.”
“Much of the book takes the form of conversations between Boom stalwarts and this unusual format works brilliantly,”
“a must-have for Boom fans and, indeed, those interested in comedy in general.” It says a lot about Amsterdam that for thirty years it has sustained, nay, gloried in and cherished an English speaking comedy venue. I don’t know about New York and Chicago but there has only been The Comedy Store in London that exceeds the longevity that Boom Chicago has enjoyed in the Dutch city. …when it comes to comedy in Holland, Boom Chicago is a winner.
..this book is, inevitably, a stroll down memory lane. And fascinating stuff it is too. In the lengthy introduction by founders Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld we learn how Boom Chicago was born and how, against the odds, it survived and grew to maturity.
Much of the book takes the form of conversations between Boom stalwarts and this unusual format works brilliantly, being much more personal and illuminating than a straightforward narrative. So, there are contributions from all the usual suspects, most of whom will be familiar to fans of Boom. To jog their memory there is a list of alumni from 1993 to 2023 which, according to a quick count is in excess of one hundred and thirty.
Boom Chicago presents The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History is clearly a must-have for Boom fans and, indeed, those interested in comedy in general.”
12 Sept., 2023
In its first 30 years, Boom Chicago Comedy Theater started the careers of Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, the Ted Lasso creators – and me. Now it’s time to share some classic tales from their Origin Stories. Time for Shapiro Boom Chicago Tales!
I came to Amsterdam to work with the Boom Chicago comedy theater for just one summer – and 30 years later, I’m still here. Along the way, I’ve worked alongside so many now-famous folks, playing improv comedy – where the Golden Rule is Make your partner look good onstage. “Make your partner look good!” And looking at their careers – versus mine – I think I did my job extremely well.
BOOM CHICAGO TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES
In this video series, I share some backstage stories – from 1 person you might have heard of and 1 person you might not have.
This episode: Jordan Peele & Dave Buckman.
You might know Jordan Peele for winning an Oscar for his film Get Out in 2017. But back in 2001, he started playing comedy with us in Amsterdam.
As Jordan writes in the Boom Chicago book: “The biggest laughs I’ve ever been part of, or seen, were at Boom Chicago. Going to Amsterdam actually gave me more experience as a writer and a performer and as a human being than I would’ve gotten anywhere else—and with no better people.”
Unfortunately – according to Jordan – these days he says he can’t remember a lot of specifics from back then, because he smoked a lot of weed. From my book, I wrote: “Jordan smoked so much weed he was like Cinderella: at midnight he’d transform after 12 bongs.”
Jordan smoking weed was the inspiration for a classic character bit. In the days after 9/11, performing comedy was hard. One of the first jokes we dared making on the subject was Jordan Peele and Dave Buckman portraying al Qaeda spokesmen in Afghanistan – as stoners like Cheech & Chong. Their act even made the news as the first comedians to joke about 9/11. And Jordan smoking weed was the inspiration.
Book Release Today! The first Boom Chicago book review is in: “30 years in the history of a comedy club in a way that totally defies expectation.”
4 July, 2023
As a contributor to this book, I can say I’m very happy with the way it came out. And here’s a review that agrees with me. Reviewer Jack Helbig wrote about Boom Chicago years ago in The Chicago Reader in the theater’s early days. And here he is reviewing the book Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History. Helbig writes: “It is at once a book hard to put down, and hard to read straight through from start to finish. (I did a lot of skimming; you will, too.)”
Jack, you have no idea. This book first appeared with a Dutch publisher in 2018 for the 25th anniversary, and it was even more of a mismatched patchwork. This new version is totally revised, by author Matt Diehl. He went to great lengths to create a readable oral history of Boom Chicago’s first 30 years.
Helbig: “Large swatches of the book look and read like an oral history, in which prominent and not so prominent BookChicago alums prattle on, reminiscing about moments in BoomChicago’s rise from a ragtag group of improv comedians performing in 1993 in the back of dive bar to hothouse for creating future celebrities to a bone fide part of Dutch comedy world. As oral histories go, it’s not bad stuff.”
I’m glad he remembered to mention the “not so prominent.” I feel included. Indeed, I was a contributor to this book, along with Rob Andristplourde. Since we both arrived at Boom Chicago in the early days, we were there for many signature Boom Chicago events. Hence, Yes we took part in the interviews. And we contributed the ‘Meet the Cast’ section, full of anecdotes about all the “prominent” as well as “not so prominent” alumni.
As I like to say in my show, yes I have worked at Boom Chicago alongside many talented people – some of whom have found huge success in the US. Seth Meyers started his career in Amsterdam in 1997, Jason Sudeikis played at Boom in 2000, and Jordan Peele started his career at Boom Chicago in 2001. Together we played improv comedy, where it’s all about teamwork, and the Golden Rule is “make your partner look good.” …I think I did my job maybe too well.
Seth Meyers had no idea what to expect when he got a job in 1997 performing at a fledgling comedy club in Amsterdam called Boom Chicago. He was in his early 20s, and had never traveled outside of the United States. He had to apply for a passport.
“I knew not one thing about the Netherlands,” he said in a recent interview. “My first thought was to get some good hiking shoes, I guess because I thought I was going to Switzerland. And then I showed up in literally the flattest place I ever lived.”
On the occasion of the company’s 30th anniversary, its current cast and famous alumni — including Meyers, the “Ted Lasso” co-creator Brendan Hunt and the comedian Amber Ruffin — are celebrating by staging a two week festival in Amsterdam next month. They’re also releasing a book, “Boom Chicago Presents: The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History.”
“We got to be onstage four or five nights a week, and that was never happening for us in Chicago,” Meyers said, “Also, we got to be in Amsterdam in our early 20s, and surrounded by all these other talented people. It felt like a time of ascension, not just for me but for everyone around me. It felt like a really special thing we were doing.”
Seth, I totally agree.
FYI – the NYT article is by Amsterdam’s own Dutch-American author Nina Siegal. Her book The Diary Keepers is amazing: The Diary Keepers
For the Record here was the first time Boom Chicago was in the New York Times (here in the NYT Int’l edition), in 2003:
In 2001, I starred in a short film about a serial killer / hamburger entrepreneur: THE AMERICAN BICKMAN BURGER. Fellow Boom Chicago performer Brendan Hunt co-starred in the film, and his devil makeup and prosthetic horns are legend! I mean they are worthy of Tim Curry in the film Legend. (Whereas my old-age makeup makes me look like Tim Curry’s butt.)
Nowadays you may know Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard from the Emmy Award winning TV series Ted Lasso. Here you can see some of the same dance moves Brendan now uses on AppleTV.
The writer / director of The American Bickman burger was Michael John Fedun, from Dutch Netwerk6 Productions. And who portrayed one of the dead bodies in the meat locker? It was future Dutch film director Tim Oliehoek. [Note: back in 2000, my professional name was Greg Shore. I’m still working to update all those old credits.]
The life story of an American legend, Bickman Pike. Bickman kills his parents, grows into a serial killer, and turns the dead bodies into hamburgers. Not to be outdone, Bickman’s son reveals that he is Satan and unleashes his evil creation on the world: disco music.
Here is a link to the 4-minute acting demo:
And here is a link to the entire short film, thanks to casting director and featured player Chip Bray of International Native Casting:
From the Netherlands Film Commission:
“In eighteen minutes, the fictional documentary The American Bickman Burger by Michael John Fedun makes mincemeat of the ideal of ‘The American Dream’. In ineluctable images, the film tells the success story of Bickman Pike, who sets up a fast-growing chain of hamburger restaurants in the 1950s.”
“In a world where killing is legal and traffic violations are punishable by life in prison. A serial killer named Bickman Pike frantically chases after his life long dream to marry and have children. Along the way he creates the worlds largest fast food chain. Its success made possible by Bickman’s victims being ground up into addictive hamburger patties. The world stands in awe of the Bickman phenomenon while reporter Walter Fufckin and his cameraman Barney Wright struggle to bring the world a proper representation of the facts. Bickman finally marries a Las Vegas dancer named Mimi Marigold, almost immediately their son Peter Pike is unleashed upon the world. Like his father before him, Peter attempts to make his own dream a reality. Not even the hand of God is able to put a stop to Peter Pike’s agonizing master plan.”