Background: Two Dutch entrepreneurs (and train nerds) created a startup company to offer more overnight train service throughout Europe. And – after years of crowd-funding and organizing – the day of the maiden voyage had arrived! While the two founders were focused on preparing the photo moment of the train departing… the event organizer told them they really should consider a professional host for the launch event.
I was told that the two founders were nervous and rather serious. So – as soon as I met them, I said “I hear you two are entrepreneurs… but I assume you’re primarily train nerds?” And I asked if I could take a selfie with them. Here’s what we got:
I could tell this was going to be fun.
The launch event was held in the Pullman Hotel. Hence, my intro wrote itself: “The Pullman Hotel refers, I assume, to George Mortimer Pullman – the inventor of the first railroad sleeping car. And where did George Pullman set up his business? Chicago, Illinois – which is where I’m from. …Hence, my entire life has been leading up to this moment!”
THE GOODNIGHT TRAIN
I had to ask a question of the two founders. “Everyone knows there’s a term for having sex on a plane: ‘The Mile-High Club.’ So why is there no term for having sex on a train?” And I was quickly corrected by founder Chris Engelsman, with a perfect deadpan delivery: “There is a term, actually. It’s called ‘The Mile-Long Club.’”
The event ended with the Belgian transport minister taking the stage and announcing the news: the Belgian parliament had voted to grant a subsidy to The European Sleeper and their Goodnight Train. Hey, I was already thrilled to hear that Belgium had a functioning government.
The train arrived on time and departed on time, with many happy first-time passengers.
And look at serious entrepreneur Chris Engelsman as the European Sleeper train arrives in the station.
The Goodnight Train is now running regularly from Brussels to Amsterdam to Berlin. https://www.europeansleeper.eu/en
Next up, they plan to extend service to Prague. Soon, there will be a new service from Brussels to Barcelona. It’s like playing real-life game of Ticket to Ride!
Thanks to the excellent Alvin Williams at JMT Management for organizing a memorable event. Extra thanks for all the photos.
I’ve taken my international standup set to Brussels, to Paris, to Zurich… and so many comedian friends have told me: “You have to check out the English comedy scene in Berlin. There are so many shows! You can do 2 or 3 a night!”
What they meant was: “You can do 2 or 3 shows a night… and make about €30!”
Of course I took the train. Because I’d heard bad things about DB Deutsche Bahn, so it’s good for material. And quickly enough a German passenger claimed my seat (good luck trying to reserve a seat via Dutch rail…)
Indeed, the train to Berlin was way overcrowded. And when we arrived at Berlin Central Station, there was big welcome sign for all the English-speakers: “Travel if you dare.” Wilkommen!
I played my first show at a bar called Oblomov (in Neuköln), for the enigmatic stage animal Rohit Bhatia.
What a loving little audience! And as soon as we were done, the bar crowd spilled over into our room and put on music, but not for dancing. They were just standing in the stage lights and posing. It was like they were doing a parody of Mike Meyers from Saturday Night Live: “And now is the time on ‘Sprockets’ when we dance.” The bartender explained it to me this way. “Amsterdam is wild, but Berlin is weird.” Keep Berlin weird.
Friday night my international set killed – KILLED! In fact, I had two gigs – meaning I had to get from a bar in West Berlin to Comedy Cafè in East Berlin. And this was a highlight of my trip: I rented an e-bike and jetted through town at twilight.
It felt like all of Berlin was one big green space – with apartments and shops in between. (And indeed, someone said Berlin is the greenest capital city in Europe.) I even tried out some jokes about biking in Berlin – on the Sonnenallee – and the audience gave an audible “Oooh!” Because “No one dares biking on Sonnenallee!” Well, this Amsterdammer does.
On Saturday I checked out Cosmic comedy, where I hope to play in October. On Sunday I played The Wall Comedy Club, and one of my favorite things to do is to take portraits of the other comedians onstage and send them after the show. My final show was for EastWest COMEDY in front of a familiar red curtain.
It was very warm while I was in town, so I found myself wearing my trademark suit and tie, but with shorts instead of suit pants.
Someone described me as a human mullet. “Business up top, but party down below.”
Doing my part to KEEP BERLIN WEIRD.
See you in October, Berlin! I’ll be touring a double bill with Ken Parsons.
Was that me performing standup in a global livestream called Summit for Democracy? Yes, it was. introducing a new category of performing: Greg Shapiro Summit Standup.
I got a call from a friend who works at the Dutch foreign ministry. Was I aware of this ‘Summit for Democracy’ thing? It’s an initiative of the Biden White House, to push back against authoritarianism worldwide. There are various themes hosted by different countries, and the Netherlands gets to host the Freedom of Speech.
Would I be willing to perform three minutes of standup for this Summit for Democracy livestream? I said yes. “But,” he said, “the livestream might not be live in America, because they might want to censor some of the content. In fact, you want want to make a joke about that…” Oh, believe me I did.
I said: “I was told that this Freedom of Speech livestream was originally NOT going to be live in the United States, because they might want to censor some of the content. …Censoring the content? About the Freedom of Speech? Ah, America! We’re almost 250 years old, and still trying to grasp the basic concept of irony.”
“Censoring content is very hot in America right now. On the Far-Right, you’ve got people banning books because they talk about homosexuality, or they suggest that slavery might have been racist. And then on the Far-Left they’re censoring books because they use the N-word, or they’re written by Roald Dahl. Oddly, banning books is one thing that could unite the Far-Left and Far-Right in America. And then we will have truly learned the meaning of the word IRONY.”
You can watch the 3-minute monologue here, BUT please note the students sitting behind me were apparently instructed: YOU WILL BE ON CAMERA! DO NOT LAUGH!
THE SUMMIT FOR DEMOCRACY LIVESTREAM
The entire Livestream is worth a watch. Did you know how many initiatives are already in place to push back against anti-democracy disinformation? Samantha Power (USAID) explains. The Dutch Foreign Minister talks about ‘PersVeilig’ to protect journalists from harm. And Amanda Bennett talks about how Voice of America & Radio Free Europe are a vital source of news, even in Iran.
Here’s a teaser for the livestream (I’m in it briefly):
+ You can watch the whole live stream here:
CLICK HERE for more about Summit for Democracy events.
GREG SHAPIRO HOSTS PePijn Comedy Club JANUARY – IN ENGLISH
12 Jan., 2023
So much talent developing in the English-language comedy scene in The Netherlands! And I get to curate it for PePijn’s Comedy Club. Here’s the Best-of the January edition:
(Yes, I’m wearing a mustache. I hate it! I had to grow it out for a film role. Coming soon…)
I am lucky enough to be programming one of these English comedy nights, in one of my favorite little spaces: Theater PePijn in The Hague. Normally reserved for solo shows and Dutch ‘cabaret,’ it is known among comedians as one of the best spaces to perform.
The January show:
He’s a black man from the Caribbean – but his name is Sjoerd. The jokes write themselves. Yet the magic came in his crowd work: “Are you two together? I hope so, because she’s got her head on your shoulder. Sir, if she’s NOT with you, please blink three times.” Plus: “How did you two meet? At work? So: ‘unprofessional?’ Should someone be calling HR?”
Ken is a folk-singing comedian, who is not afraid to talk about mental health issues during the holidays. Hence, he introduced a new song called “Bipolar Christmas.” Ken is also a Dutch teacher, and his roast of the Dutch language is legendary. And – as a former squatter – Ken knows all the best places to organize his many comedy shows.
JACK HEYJACK. Stepped in as our 5-minute spot. He talked about being legally blind. (After the legally deaf Lara Ricote last month, I can see a pattern developing.) If I can make him stick to material about the realities of blindness (and playing the kazoo), he’ll be all right.
Our headliner for the night! “Anybody doing any New Year’s Resolutions? Because statistically, 80% of people fail by Day 8. And the rest of us fail by Day 12. …That’s today!” Kendra also talked about trying to get in shape after the Covid lockdown: “The only 19 I got was kilos. I gained so much weight, I went from NOT being in an at-risk group – for getting the early vaccine – to being IN the at-risk group.”
Theater PePijn was established as a tryout space for the bigger names in Dutch theater and ‘cabaret.’ You can still find big name artists for a tiny little price, as they try out new material.
THE NEXT DATES FOR PEPIJN’S COMEDY CLUB – IN ENGLISH
DUTCH TO THE RESCUE – a new Greg Shapiro solo comedy show
6 January, 2023
Welcome to the Netherlands, where 30% of the land mass is below sea level, and the sea level is rising. But don’t worry! If the water gets too high, Dutch people will do what they’ve doing for centuries: make more land. It’s what they do.
In fact, when it comes to Climate Change, the Netherlands has a lot of answers to world’s challenges.
“Who do you call when you need a sea wall? The Dutch.”
“Which country’s thriving with sea levels rising? The Dutch.”
“Who brings you luck when your container ship’s stuck? The Dutch.”
The Netherlands doesn’t get nearly enough credit – and somehow that’s exactly how they like it. The entire country is allergic to anything resembling bragging.
Scheppen, goed. Opscheppen, niet goed.
Yes, Dutch people are producing the world’s first solar-powered car, creating lab-grown meat, cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… but they don’t like to talk about it. The Netherlands is like a superhero obsessed with their secret identity. Netherlands, you need a sidekick. You need a wing man. You need a cheerleader!
Enter The American Netherlander: Greg Shapiro is Dutch enough to be proud of the Netherlands – and American enough to not care how loud he is about it. So many examples of Dutch traditions and innovations to fight climate change, but they don’t like to brag. That’s where I come in.
DUTCH TO THE RESCUE is Greg Shapiro’s seventh solo show. Previous shows include Leaving Trumpland and How to Be Orange.
Greg Shapiro: Comedian. American. Dutchman. As a comedian, he is known as the voice of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video – and as one of the originals at Boom Chicago theater in Amsterdam. He has hosted ‘Comedy Central News’ on ComedyCentralNL, and he has appeared on BNN-VARA, VPRO & ZDF. As author, Greg has written books such as How to Be Dutch: the Quiz and his latest The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales.
Also coming soon in 2023: a return of Pep & Greg Save America at Boom Chicago in March.
Greg Shapiro ‘NETHERLANDS CHEERLEADER’ – Speakers Academy Magazine, 2022-23 by Jacques Geluk
Greg Shapiro is world-famous, ever since he perfectly imitated Donald Trump’s voice in Arjen Lubach’s ‘Netherlands Second’ video. (It’s since been viewed almost 30 million times). Shapiro is already known in the Netherlands for his work with Boom Chicago comedy theater, and previously as host and writer of Comedy Central News. Now, he is also an author and vlogger, and he frequently focuses on the Netherlands and Dutch innovations – a self-proclaimed ‘cheerleader for the Netherlands.’
Shapiro moved to the Netherlands in 1994 and is married to a Dutch woman. “Came for work, stayed for love.” By now he has lived here more than half his life, hence he knows both American and Dutch culture quite well. He often gives a ‘Masterclass’ in Dutch culture called ‘Culture Shock Therapy,’ or additionally ‘How to Be Dutch: the Quiz.’
Given Shapiro’s unique Dutch-American status, he is a popular bilingual speaker at major events. He is known for hosting or performing for NATO, for the president of France, and for King Willem Alexander. “I’ve lived here long enough to be proud of the Netherlands, but I’m still American enough to not care how loud I am about it,” says Greg in his native language. “I am frequently asked by Dutch or multinational companies for business events, often to talk about culture shock. I confront the stereotypes like sex, drugs – and Dutch cheapness. Then I go into more detail, realizing that it’s actually better here than I was used to in America. As ‘The American Netherlander’ [which is also the title of his last book from 2020], I am already a fan of Dutch inventions, innovations, water management. I’ve become a kind of cheerleader.”
Shapiro finds it interesting that the ‘Netherlands Second’ video has been used by Prince Constantijn and the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency during trade missions – as a kind of business card. “And as far as water management is concerned, yes there’s the Afsluitdijk – a marvel of water engineering. And there’s the Deltaworks in Zeeland – but also the New Orleans Deltaworks, built with the help of Dutch engineers at Royal Haskoning. It’s like the old commercials from Centrale Beheer: ‘Have a problem? Better call the Netherlands.’ Hurricane Katrina? Better call the Netherlands. Containership stuck in the Suez Canal? Better call the Netherlands (Boslkalis).”
“So many examples to mention! And not only foreigners are surprised to learn these companies are Dutch – it’s Dutch people too. Dutch folks are not giving themselves enough credit. That’s where I come in. And I’m collecting new examples all the time – for the shows and projects I do for clients like TU Delft, for Mosa Meat (lab-grown ‘cultivated’ meat) and for Wageningen University & Research.”
Event Host of the day
As an ‘improv comedian’, Greg Shapiro is also the almost ideal event host of the day. He puts guests, audience and organizations at ease with a lot of humor and always without being rude. If something goes wrong with the sound, a speaker who is not comfortable, the timing or the connection during a webinar… he improvises immediately, thanks to his many years of theater experience. “The unexpected actually makes it all a bit more lively and interesting for everyone.”
Greg Shapiro NETHERLANDS CHEERLEADER – in het nederlands
‘Een Cheerleader voor Nederland’
Hij is wereldberoemd sinds hij de stem van Donald Trump perfect heeft geïmiteerd in Arjen Lubachs ‘Netherlands Second’ video (inmiddels bijna 30 miljoen keer bekeken). Greg Shapiro is al bekend via Boom Chicago theater en als gastheer en schrijver van Comedy Central News. Nu is hij ook auteur en vlogger, met als onderwerp Nederland en Nederlandse innovaties. Hij is een zelfbenoemd ‘cheerleader van Nederland.’
Greg Shapiro woont sinds 1994 in Nederland en is getrouwd met een Nederlandse. Doordat hij nu al meer dan de helft van zijn leven hier woont kent hij zowel de Amerikaanse als de Nederlandse cultuur heel goed en kan hij ze naast elkaar leggen. Vaak geeft hij een ‘Masterclass’ in Nederlandse cultuur die heet ‘Culture Shock Therapy,’ of zelfs ‘How to Be Dutch: the Quiz.’
Mede daardoor is hij een gewilde tweetalige spreker op grote evenementen, voor zelfs de president van Frankrijk, de NAVO, en voor Koning Willem Alexander. “I’ve lived here long enough to be proud of the Netherlands, but I’m still American enough to not care how loud I am about it”, zegt Greg in zijn eerste moedertaal.
“Ik word meestal gevraagd door multinationale bedrijven voor grote B2B evenementen. Vaak praat ik over cultuurschok, de stereotypes met thema’s als seks, drugs – en de Nederlandse bescheidenheid. Daarna ga ik er dieper op in, beseffend dat het hier eigenlijk beter is dan ik gewend was in Amerika. Eigenlijk ben ik als ‘The American Netherlander’ (wat ook de titel is van mijn laatste boek uit 2020) al fan van Nederlandse uitvindingen, innovaties, watermanagement en andere technieken. Ik ben een soort cheerleader geworden.”
Hij vindt het interessant dat de ‘Netherlands Second’- video is gebruikt door prins Constantijn en het Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency tijdens handelsmissies als een soort visitekaartje. “Wat het watermanagement betreft benoem ik net als in de video de Afsluitdijk, een wonder van waterengineering, en maak ik de connectie met de deltawerken, en met de New Orleans deltawerken gebouwd met hulp van Nederlanders. Even Nederland bellen. Ik heb zo veel leuke voorbeelden te noemen! Vaak zijn buitenlanders verbaasd te horen dat de uitvoerende bedrijven Nederlands zijn. Maar vaak zijn ook Nederlanders zelf verbaasd! Dat verwerk ik allemaal in mijn lezingen, voor TU Delft, voor Mosa Meat (kweekvlees) en ook voor een project met Wageningen Universiteit & Research.”
Greg introduceert ook zijn vernieuwde YouTube-kanaal, Climate News Comedy, met nog meer voorbeelden uit Nederland.
Als ‘improv comedian’ is Greg Shapiro bovendien de welhaast ideale dagvoorzitter. Hij stelt gasten, publiek en organisaties op hun gemak met veel humor en altijd zonder grof te zijn. Als iets misgaat met het geluid, een spreker die zich niet comfortabel voelt, de timing of de verbinding tijdens een webinar… improviseert hij onmiddellijk, Geen probleem dankzij zijn langjarige theaterervaring. “Het onverwachte maakt het eigenlijk allemaal nog wat levendiger en interessanter voor iedereen.”
The EU Needs a Late Night Comedy Show | a TED Talk by Greg Shapiro
6 April, 2022
Now that Europe’s best-known comedian is busy doing his Winston Churchill impression in Ukraine, Europe needs a new Head Comedian. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has given a big boost to European unity. Time to capitalize on our common sense of community?
Now more than ever, the EU needs a late night comedy show.
Granted, this argument is one I’ve been making for years. In fact it was in 2021 that I made this TED talk for TEDx VU Amsterdam: ‘The EU Needs a Late Night Comedy Show.’
It has been proven: Comedy helps cognition, especially in younger demographics – exactly the ones we need to engage. In America, a majority of 18-35 year-olds say they get most of their news from late night comedy programs, like The Daily Show. And for good reason! Jokes engage emotion. Emotion aids cognition.
More specifically, a study from the University of Pennsylvania concludes that humor helps people remember news better. And it makes them more likely to share the news with others. (watch the video)
Maybe there’s a reason for the popularity of comedy shows like The Daily Show, The Late Show, and Late Night with Seth Meyers (my former colleague).
WHY IS THERE NO LATE NIGHT COMEDY SHOW FOR THE EU? In a way, there is. In 2017, Dutch late night comedian Arjen Lubach achieved international success with his viral video ‘Netherlands Second,’ (for which I provided the voice). There are German late night comedians like Jan Boehmermann and Oliver Welke.
Personally, I’ve hosted my a late night comedy show in the Netherlands: COMEDY CENTRAL NEWS: Because Dutch News is News Too. I’ve even hosted a YouTube version of a show called THE UNITED STATES OF EUROPE: Giving EU leaders the respect they deserve by ridiculing them on a regular basis.
My mission was to create a network of EU comedy correspondents. I would still love to make this dream a reality. All I would need is a generous subsidy from an intra-governmental agency that’s happy to throw away money on hopeless projects in arts & culture. …THAT’S THE VERY DEFINITION OF THE EU.
If you fund it, I will come.
The United States of Europe: MAKING FUN OF THE EU, THE AMERICAN WAY.
Remote Meetings Are Dead; Long Live Hybrid Meetings!
7 March, 2022
In February I was called upon to do two separate events for Janssen Pharmaceuticals in Belgium – both remote meetings. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting in the Netherlands and Belgium, you might expect a return to 100% live events ! And you’d be wrong. Looks like hybrid meetings are the New Normal.
The first remote meeting was an expat event, and I was asked to make a 20-minute tailored video.
Would there be enough material about cultural quirks in Belgium? Oh, yes. But how far should I go in making fun of Belgium? I started out with “Who knew one country could drink so much beer? Even the children drink to excess – at least that’s what I assume since the national mascot is a boy urinating.”
I sent in my video – via WeTransfer. Would they approve? Would they even watch it before plopping it into their meeting? I didn’t hear anything back… until after the day of the meeting. The subject heading said “LOVED IT!” Phew. “We used your video at our event yesterday and it was great. It really hit the right note and was enjoyed by all. We hope to see you again – hopefully F2F next time.”
Indeed, we were hoping for F2F Face to Face next time. But the next time was a hybrid meeting. Which was fine! The second Janssen remote meeting was produced by Co-MANA, who created a pop-up studio in Belgium. There was a giant LED wall, with projections that could change themes for the two-day event.
There was a dedicated screen with a dedicated link to the internal Janssen team leaders. There was a live monitor. And there was a prompter screen, which doubled as a link to the Q&A moderator. And we ended with a live band, who played during the interactive quiz.
It would have been nice to have the team leaders on location, as well as the band. Heck, it would have been nice to have a fully live event. But if Hybrid Meetings are the new normal for now, i gotta say this meeting was great.
After utterly failing to appear on Dutch TV reality shows like Wie Is de Mol and Expeditie Robinson, I have decided to take part in the biggest reality show of them all: Dutch politics.
In March of 2022, the Netherlands will hold nationwide local elections, and I will be appearing on the list for D66 in Amsterdam. Every candidate list has a leader at the top: the lijsttrekker (list-puller). My position on the list is more symbolic. I will appear at the bottom of the list – what is known as a lijstduwer (list pusher). Yes, I’m your pusher man.
Unlike other Dutch elections, the local elections (Gemeenreraadsverkiezingen) allow non-Dutch citizens to vote. And that is why Amsterdam D66 contacted me – to shamelessly exploit my connections in the expat and international community. To remind people – like you – you can vote! And you don’t have to vote for my party. There are a number of websites where you can answer a questionnaire to find out which party is right for you. (see below) As long as you vote!
After all, the D in D66 stands for Democrats. If you vote, I’m happy.
Why D66? Well, it started in 2014 when my friend Jan Paternotte (D66) asked me to join the team. Paternotte was actively supportive of dual citizens like me. He was also strongly pro-Europe (like me). So I said yes. Also, Jan helped promote my book, so I know he has excellent judgment and taste.
GREG SHAPIRO ADDED TO NEW TEAM: MODERATING.EU
28 December, 2021
Since the Covid lockdown hit in 2020, I’ve been using the opportunity to branch out. One area that has been calling out to me is right around the corner in Belgium. It’s the EU HQ and the community known as ’The Brussels Bubble.’
A friend of mine in Brussels has been organizing a monthly EU-themed talk show called ‘Brussels Bubbles.’ And what do you know – they even have a website called ModeratingEU. ModeratingEU is a booking agency dedicated to creating EU-themed events that are NOT BORING. And I offered my help. https://moderating.eu/
I can now be hired via Moderating.eu to make your event less boring and tedious. Unless you WANT your EU meeting to be boring and tedious, in which case – just keep doing what you’ve been doing. https://moderating.eu/greg-shapiro/
Here are some examples of what you can find on my profile:
GREG SHAPIRO – Using humor to make your message hit home.
For 20 years, I’ve been using my background in comedy and improvisation to take dry subject matter and make it more fun – and more memorable.
– Laser-focus on your Main Message – and how to use humor & interaction to make it stick.
– Native English speaker, but also fluent in ESL ‘English as Second Language.’
– Experienced improviser. Even when your event doesn’t go according to plan, I make it look like part of the plan.
A Gentleman Onstage.
Greg uses humor, but always with a diplomatic touch. Literally. He has performed for the Netherlands Embassy, as well as hosting events for French President François Hollande, and once for King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.
An Onstage Veteran.
Greg has experience hosting events where everything goes right – and when it goes wrong. According to Judith de Lange from Dutch Data Center Hub: “Greg provided lots of laughter in an otherwise very serious crowd. And although confronted with some technical difficulties, Greg was well-equipped to improvise and let the show go on. I would definitely recommend Greg as a host!
A Published Author.
Greg Shapiro is the author of 3 books, such as THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales, available internationally. Greg uses his experience with dual nationality to bridge the gap between cultures, between organizations, and between the presenters and the audience.
“Greg’s hosting was sharp, tactful and very, very funny. We did not make things easy for him! He dealt brilliantly with the tailored EPO material.”
– Bert Lockhart, European Patent Office
“Greg made the difference between a pretty-good event and an excellent event. His total understanding of the content, his humour, and his optimistic persona gave the event depth and made it sparkle.”
– Sylvester Lindemulder, Logica Innovation Day
“Greg brought humor to our theme, mixed with a serious note. It gave energy and fun to a serious discussion, which led to more enthusiasm and interaction with our audience.”
– Marike Scholten, Windesheim Univ. Sustainability Event
“We had a lot of fun with Greg as our host for our young professionals event. A great mix between humor and serious interviews onstage. That led to good energy in the audience.”
– Marit van Heugten, Drecht Cities
ABOUT GREG SHAPIRO
Greg Shapiro graduated from Northwestern University in the US and then moved to Amsterdam to work with comedy theater Boom Chicago. He now has 20 years’ experience hosting events for multinational clients such as Philips, Shell and ING. Shapiro has hosted the tv show Comedy Central News in the Netherlands, and he is the voice of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video from 2017. Shapiro has published three books on Dutch culture. He has hosted events for the King of the Netherlands, the French President, and NATO. And he has performed in the Business Class section of a 747 flying to Chicago.