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 ‘Shapiro ListPusher Standup Special’ now on YouTube
17 October, 2023
“If you’ve been living in the Netherlands long enough you can pronounce the word Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen (city council election), then maybe you can vote in the Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen!”
– from LISTPUSHER – the American Netherlander Joins Dutch Politics
In 2022, I was asked by a friend of mine in the Amsterdam City Council if I’d like to help out with his election campaign. In fact, this time his team wanted me not just as a volunteer – but as a symbolic candidate on the list. No, I would’t be at the top of the list – that was the job of the Lijsttrekker, or “List Puller.” I would be at the bottom of the list, hence the term “List Pusher.” And indeed, my job was to help convince potential voters that they should vote. Much like a Pusher Man: “Give it a try, the first vote is free…”
But first I had to make sure this party was for me. I had to make sure it was the most ideologically suited. So I found the online voting guide called stemwijzer.
They have 30 questions, you agree or disagree, and by the end they tell you which party is for you. As an experiment, you can click ‘No opinion’ for every question, and the party they give you? D66. That’s my party!
(NB – does not apply for 2023 election.)
Created for the 2022 UICF Utrecht International Comedy Festival.
Audio & video via UICF. Producers Edo Berger, Jeroen Pater (ComedyHuis Utrecht).
Intro by Trista Mrema. And extra thanks to Comedyhuis in Utrecht!
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.
Greg Shapiro Guest Column: THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE DUTCH WORLD
8 Aug. 2023
As seen in the 2023 edition of Corporate Housing Factory Special:
The Seven Wonders of the Dutch World
India has the Taj Mahal, Rome has the Colosseum, and the Netherlands has: The Entire Country. Well, at least the 26% that was created by the Dutch people. First, there was the sea – and the Dutch said “Let there be land.”
…Why isn’t the Netherlands included in the Seven Wonders of the World? Maybe it’s because – as much as Dutch people like digging – they dislike bragging. Or, in Dutch: ’Scheppen goed; opscheppen niet goed.’
Here are seven Dutch marvels of engineering that I think deserve more credit.
1. Schiphol Airport. Every time your plane lands at Schiphol, just imagine the conversation going on in the cockpit: “Schiphol Tower, we are descending to ZERO meters above sea level. That must be the runway, right?” Wrong. The average runway at Schiphol Airport is three meters below sea level.
2. The Amsterdam Canals. Historically, Dutch people have treated their natural habitat as something like a Lego base plate. This is why so much of the Dutch landscape looks like it was made out of Legos: Straight piece here, straight piece there. The time when Dutch people could finally afford curving pieces? They’re still talking about it.
3. Zevenbergen. Nearby the lowest point in the Netherlands. Zevenbergen translates to ‘Seven Mountains.’ Its highest point? Two meters below sea level.
4. The Maeslantkering. The Port of Rotterdam is protected by this massive storm surge barrier, and each one of these two sea gates is about as long as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Yet in Paris, if you want an Eiffel Tower t-shirt from the tourist shops, you can find one easily. But in the Netherlands, can you find a Maeslantkering t-shirt anywhere? NO. Instead, what do most Dutch tourist shops feature on their t-shirts? The marijuana leaf. Why doesn’t the Maeslantkering get more credit? Somebody must be smoking something.
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:
Greg Shapiro Contributes to the Boom Chicago 30th Anniversary Book
14 June 2023
Finally, a proper oral history of the Boom Chicago Comedy Theater – and I got to contribute! About 30 years ago I came to Amsterdam to perform for one summer, and I never left. Along the way, I got to work alongside now-famous names, such as Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele and Kay Cannon. And the comedy form we all played was improvisation, where the Golden Rule is: “Make Your Partner Look Good Onstage.” And looking at their careers, versus mine, I like to think I did my job VERY well.
The book features a foreword by Seth Meyers, a voorwoord by Ruben van der Meer, a BackWord by Jordan Peele – and a Who’sWho Section by me (and fellow Boom Chicago lifer Rob Andristplourde). Author Matt Diehl teams up with Boom Chicago founders Saskia Maas, Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld to write the book. Rob and focused on the some of the juicy anecdotes that did not get covered in the oral history interviews. Such as:
-The time Seth Meyers improvised with an audience member who pretended to be retarded.
-The time Jordan Peele got into a rap battle with that guy from Seinfeld.
+ The reason Amber Ruffin’s tooth was hanging on the wall.
And I added this bit about myself:
“Greg almost moved back to the US like Pep – until he met a Dutch woman named Inez (who was working in the Boom Chicago office). On the eve of his wedding to Inez, Greg’s bachelor party was crashed by Inez and a number of Boom Chicago cast members. These included Kay Cannon as a naughty nurse, Liz Cackowski as a Catholic school girl, Jen Bills as a cop, and Holly Walker as a straight-up dominatrix. Together, they performed a girl band version of the Boy Band song from the show called “That’s What He Likes.” And no, it wasn’t inappropriate! Because the only actual semi-stripping was done by Inez. And she is Dutch.”
(Here is a pose from 1994 with the founders of Boom Chicago Pep Rosenfeld and Andrew Moskos.)
Pre-order “Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History” here:
Boom Chicago 30th Anniversary Book: “Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History”
An exciting history of the improv group you’ve never heard of that changed comedy in America—this is the story of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam as told by its founders and most famous alumni
“It’s kind of crazy, the impact on culture so many Boom Chicago alums have had. Boom was where I became my best comedic self: the excitement of Amsterdam, the freedom of that environment, the letting loose—it’s magic. There’s no better training ground.” —Jordan Peele
“Boom Chicago should have ended up on the scrap heap of ‘Terrible Ideas Americans Have While Stoned in Amsterdam.’ But when you stubbornly love one thing (comedy) as much as another thing (Amsterdam), you just believe they should be together. And here we are—thirty years later, Boom Chicago is alive and kicking.” —Seth Meyers
“Working at Boom Chicago was an unbelievable experience. Thank goodness someone was smart enough to write it all down! You’re lucky ’cause you get to read about THE most exciting, fun, and illegal time I’ve ever had!” —Amber Ruffin
Featuring interviews with
Meyers, Peele, Ruffin, Jason Sudeikis, Ike Barinholtz, Greg Shapiro, Kay Cannon, and many more; and a sixteen-page, full-color insert with both behind-the-scenes snapshots and images from live performances.
What do Ted Lasso, Get Out, Late Night with Seth Meyers, 30 Rock, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Breaking Bad, Saturday Night Live, Girls5Eva, The Colbert Report, Inside Amy Schumer, Pitch Perfect, Key & Peele, The Daily Show, MADtv, Rick and Morty, The Amber Ruffin Show, Horrible Bosses, Portlandia, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Suicide Squad, Superstore, How I Met Your Mother, Wicked, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Broad City all have in common? They all feature writers, creators, directors, or stars who got their start at Boom Chicago.
Having risen roughly to the middle of Chicago’s cutthroat comedy scene, Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld decamped the Midwest for Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1993 to start their own improv comedy troupe, Boom Chicago. In a foreign land with zero tradition of English-language humor, Moskos and Rosenfeld unwittingly created the finishing school for some of today’s most groundbreaking comedic talents. They (along with coauthors Matt Diehl and Saskia Maas) document this journey in the definitive oral history Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History.
From its stages, Boom Chicago went on to launch cultural game changers like Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, Amber Ruffin, Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Ike Barinholtz, Kay Cannon, and Tami Sagher (and that’s just a partial list). At Boom, these young upstarts honed their craft in front of unsuspecting foreign audiences and visiting dignitaries like Burt Reynolds, Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay, Dutch royalty, and the Netherlands’s prime minister—all while navigating a world with legal weed and prostitution, annual holiday celebrations involving blackface, cookies with weird racist names, and football that has nothing to do with the NFL. From this culture shock, this collective created a more topical, inclusive, tech-savvy humor that would become the dominant comedy style of our time.
Praise for Boom Chicago:
“The Groundlings. The Harvard Lampoon. Second City. These comedy institutions have been supplying Hollywood with a steady stream of talent for decades. Well, there’s another name—almost as influential—that you’ve never heard of: Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago. Huh?”—GQ
“A small theater in Amsterdam became the most influential American comedy factory you’ve never heard of . . . Boom alums have had a significant hand in many of the shows that defined the past two decades of comedy.” —New York