Greg Shapiro ‘How to Be Dutch’ at NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
3 June, 2021
I remember when the NBTC was simply called the NBOT ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism.’ (That’s when I did my first events for them back in the 2000’s.) These days, it’s the ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism AND CONVENTIONS.’ Which is handy, because – during a pandemic – tourism you can’t do easily online. But conventions, yes!
As the Corona rules loosen, it’s time to ask: What is the future of conventions and events? Back to Live and In-Person? More online? A bit of both? Will conventions and events ever be the same? The NBTC organized an online event in early June. As it happened, it was right before Step 3 of Loosening the Dutch Corona restrictions. So, if they had rescheduled by a few days, then they could have had up to 50 people in a live audience. !
The fact they did NOT reschedule perhaps proves their point: the role of online and hybrid events is here to stay.
As it happened, I was glad they went with the online setup. The stage was inspired by the TV show Even Tot Hier, with the audience projected onto an enormous back wall. So yes, I could see the audience on two big monitors under the livestream camera. And also the audience could see themselves behind me. Okay, maybe it’s not a great recipe for laughs – being able to see yourself and get self-conscious every time you laugh. But I got laughs anyway!
I was asked to give a reading from my book The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. It’s a module I like to call ‘Culture Shock Therapy.’ And we had a ‘bubble’ set – everyone on set had to have a negative Covid test. And between the speakers and the crew, there were just enough live bodies to be able to play to audible laughs.
Thanks to Host Sophie Hoytema for recommending me for the gig. Thanks to Producer Paul Gruijthuijsen for making us look great. Thanks to the location CitySense in Utrecht. And thanks to NBTC’s Eric Bakermans for having me – and for making the photos of my performance!
First came the US elections in November 2020. Then came Trump claiming the entire election was fake – and leaving the White House anyway. Next up came the Dutch national elections in March, 2021. De Tweede Kamer Verkiezingen. And my friends at Dutch NPO Radio1 asked me to do a CNN-style report from the polling stations in the Netherlands. In Dutch! Ik zei JA.
First, I reported that there was no evidence of long lines, no people of color being forced to wait hours before they could come near a voting booth. And there were no claims of voter fraud – except for one very thin-skinned politician named Thierry. But it turns out that all you have to do is look Thierry in the face and call him a racist, and then he runs away out of the studio. Just ask Martijn Koning. (Radio 1 cut that part.)
The only irregularity in the voting for the Dutch Tweede Kamer was a certain fellow named Hugo, who tried to vote – without a valid passport! And he happens to have been the Health Minister. (Well, technically the deposed Health Minister.) He apologized for his mistake, and he drove back home to get his proper ID – only to find out he also had an expired driving license. After Finally, he returned with his passport. His vaccine passport. For his dog.
He would have been able to do all of this online, but it seems his Corona app was again not working properly. And again, the health minister’s name? Hugo. Hugo de ‘Sjonge Jonge Jonge.’
More CNN news from the Netherlands, as it breaks!
CNN Breaking News! Proving that news in the US is broken.
[Anytime Radio1 needs American-style reporting – in het Nederlands – I will be there.] [Sometimes I call in for a live chat. But this time I made a recording from my home studio.]
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram in the year 2020, you’re probably aware of the American Seth Phillips – aka ‘Dude with Sign.’ I’ve been inspired by his work. And – as an artist – that’s my way of saying I’m stealing his idea.
In March 2021, I did a series of ‘Dutch Dude with Sign’ poses to encourage the Dutch English-speaking community to get more involved with the Dutch elections. But now I’m picking up where I left off – nu helemaal in het Nederlands.
Reduce Cardboard Use. He said, in front of a mountain of overflowing cardboard. (foto: Jonathan Groubert)
Nieuw van Ikea: Kabinet ‘Rüttevir’ (geen garantie). Komt er ooit een nieuwe kabinet? Wordt het Rutte IV? Geen garantie. En zo ja, dan zelfs geen garantie dat die 4 jaar duurt. (foto: Imre Shapiro)
Geïnspireerd door graffiti op mijn vuilnis container: “BEN JIJ EEN SLAAF?” “Nou, ben jij een WAPPIE?” (foto: Imre Shapiro)
Formatie Proces: 0%.
Disinformatie Proces: 100%
(foto: Imre Shapiro)
Vaccines used to hurt more when Bill Gates injected a whole floppy disc.
(thank you Shlibber for the inspiration.)
(foto: Inez de Goede)
ACCESS MAGAZINE REVIEWS GREG SHAPIRO’S THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 YEARS OF EXPAT TALES
HOW DUTCH ARE YOU?
by Giulia Quaresima (ACCESS magazine, April 2021)
Greg Shapiro’s The American Netherlander, with its sense of humour and sharp eye for detail, is a good starting point to understanding life as an international in the Netherlands. The author is an American comedian, a member of comedy group Boom Chicago, presenter of Comedy Central News, and author of two books now collected together in The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. This book tells the story of Shapiro’s personal cultural adventure and assimilation in the Netherlands, from when he first arrived 25 years ago and stayed for love. It is not a scientific guide, but a manual to understand and familiarise yourself with the country, using the author’s personal anecdotes for a subjective and hilarious point of view.
Shapiro tackles Dutch common sense, a pragmatic approach to problem solving, openness and tolerance, multiculturalism, politics, education, and even customer service. While his personal experiences really bring out the humour and irony, he also shows understanding. For instance, the renowned ‘Dutch directness’ is really brutal honesty that isn’t intended to hurt feelings.
Shapiro uses paradoxes and oxymorons in Dutch culture: How can Dutch identity be so independent-minded, yet also so obsessed with consensus? How can Dutch identity be so liberal and open, yet also so Calvinistic and conformist? How can Dutch identity be so proud, but then be so quiet about it? “Dutch police won’t stop you for having an un-helmeted ba by strapped to the front of your bike, like a human shield. In fact, Dutch police won’t stop you if there is a kid on the handlebars, one on the crossbar, two on the back rack, and another one standing on top of those for a playdate. But if they’d been riding at night without a light? That’s a fine of €50.”
The second part of the book is a Dutch assimilation test, a collection of all the questions that should be included in the inburgering exams. According to Shapiro, these reveal more than the exam ever intended.
Give it a try and see how Dutch you are!
“Hi! My name is Greg Shapiro, or you can call me Gregory. Or – in Dutch – ‘Krek.’ That’s my name in Dutch: Krek Tja-piero.’ Prime example of Culture Shock: When you move to a different country and realize ‘Wow – I’ve been pronouncing my name wrong my whole life.'”
There are plenty examples of Culture Shock in the Netherlands. Like having a Dutchman introduce himself and say “Hello, my name is Freek. I am Freek, and this is my colleague Tjerk.” But if you can keep a sense of humor about it, you experience Culture Shock THERAPY: when you realize that cultural differences can be hilarious.
“I am a bit of both: a bit LOUD AMERICAN and a bit ‘Doe Normaal‘ Nederlander. And yes I am tweetaliggggg. But I don’t like to speak Dutch, because it makes my mouth feel sad. What is it about Dutch people and their Harde G? It makes you sound like angry, choking zombie people. Like that TV show The Walking Dead. Or – since it’s the Netherlands – it’s more like The BIKING Dead.”
And here’s another example of Culture Shock Therapy. As soon as I started learning Dutch, I realized “Oh, you don’t need to yell the whole time.”
“Other cultures might say things like ‘Wow, you look good! Have you lost weight?’ Dutch people will say ‘Wow, you used to be so fat!'”
Dutch people are known for being DIRECT. Which is an indirect way of saying RUDE. If Americans have a reputation for being politely indirect, and the British have a reputation for being politely indecipherable, Dutch people pride themselves on being brutally honest – sometimes at the expense of politeness, or tact, or respect for human dignity. But at least you know where you stand. And HOW you stand – which is much shorter, once their comments cut you off at the knees.
Greg Shapiro (Zondag Met Lubach, Boom Chicago, Comedy Central) is The American Netherlander. He has performed his masterclass in Dutch Culture Shock Therapy for heads of state, the King of the Netherlands and once for the Business Class section of a KLM 747 to Chicago.
Q&A: Why EU Vaccine Strategy Is Not as Bad as You Think
On my YouTube channel, I have a long-running show called ‘United States of Europe’ – Making fun of the EU the American way. So of course, I had to make fun of the EU’s comically slow Covid vaccination rates, as compared to the US and the UK. BUT along the way, I realized – it’s not that simple. In fact, in many ways EU vaccination policy is not as bad as you’d think.
In the video, I started with:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticized the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Europe as being ‘unacceptably slow.’ I’m in the Netherlands and as of April, even my friend who works in health care can’t ‘get a jab.’
I know the Dutch are famous for the ‘Netherlands Second’ video. But now it’s more like ‘we know it’s going to be the rest of the EU first, but can we just say NL 27th?’
When it comes to vaccinations, you have to think of the German poet Heinrich Heine who said: ‘When the end of the world comes make your way to Holland. There everything happens fifty years late.'”
…SO that was where I would normally end the video. BUT this time I decided go a bit deeper.
One of the people who appreciated my video was Trendwatcher Vincent Everts. Vincent is a longtime friend of Boom Chicago, (and he hosts a weekly online show with America expert Charles Groenhuijsen). Vincent noticed that my EU vaccine video was a lot longer than usual. Because there was a lot more to cover! So we did a deep dive interview. Well, it wasn’t supposed to be such a deep dive, because it was on a Saturday morning. And he totally missed his slot on the tennis court.
For more regular updates on The United States of Europe, check http://youtube.com/gregshapiro .
Greg Shapiro on NPO Op 1: How to Imitate Biden Broadcast date: 4 November, 2020 Hosts: Charles Groenhuijsen, Carrie ten Napel.
Language: Dutch (and ‘Bad Dutch’)
SO I was asked to appear on a Dutch talk show. In Part One I was asked to comment – as Trump – on the results of Election 2020. In Part Two, Carrie asked me if I could do a Joe Biden imitation. I told her “I’m working on it.” (in Dutch)
At that point, Joe Biden was best known as Vice President – and wacky sidekick – to Barack Obama. Biden was known as ‘Uncle Joe.’ Well, by now Biden is ‘Grandpa Joe.’ Can he stay awake for an entire speech? Stay tuned! Or more to the point: are his eyes still good? Can he see the TelePrompter clearly?
Since we were in a TV studio, where the hosts were reading their intro’s from the TelePrompter / AutoCue, I took the opportunity to ask them how big do they like their text on the screen? I’ve hosted a TV show before. I know how the size of your text can determine the entire pace and flow of your delivery. If the text is too small, you have to squint your eyes. If the text is too big, you have to speak. your. sentence. word. for. word. You stumble through your phrasing. Or – in the case of Joe Biden – it’s like you stutter. Poor Joe is pushing 80 years old. It’s a miracle he doesn’t need glasses. But I guarantee his text needs to be gigantic in the TelePrompter. Sometimes, he can even got tripped up over words with too many syllables.
Earlier in the episode, the hosts played a clip from Biden. It was meant to be inspirational. But he clearly tripped over the text.
Biden: “So let me be clear. I / we are campaigning as a Democrats.”
So that’s part one of how to do a Joe Biden imitation: BE the smartest guy in the room, but SOUND like George W. Bush.
Yes, it IS possible: THE ZOOM IMPROV WORKSHOP Team Building by Videoconference
Watch the teaser, below
Recently, I had a client ask: “Could you lead one of your classic improv workshops via Zoom?” I said YES. Or more specifically, “YES AND.”
Already, I’ve been performing my ‘HOW NOT TO ZOOM’ videoconference mini-show for over a year. And I’ve been incorporating some interaction. For example, when I’m demonstrating Worst Virtual Backgrounds, I might say, “Look at Gareth, who has chosen to be located at Hogwarts Castle. Well, let’s take a moment and ask which Hogwarts House are you?”
The Zoom Improv Workshop builds on that kind of interaction. I interact with you, partners interact with each other. It serves as a wake-up call! Even though we’re meeting remotely, we can still activate our eye contact. We can amplify our Give-and-Take. And we can make the most of non-verbal communication.
Online meetings don’t have to be boring!
So many team meetings seem like they started out with a warning from the Legal Department: “Don’t say anything that could incriminate you! If you display any honest emotion, we could be held liable.” An improv workshop is specifically designed to immediately inject Spontaneity and Vulnerability. Two things that are desperately missing from most corporate culture.
The Zoom Improv Workshop starts with:
– Introducing yourself to your team in a whole new way.
– Sharing WORST practice in video conferencing.
– Showcasing Special Skills.
And it builds up to:
– Allowing yourself to be an expert, based on virtual backgrounds, assigned to you at random.
In essence, it’s just a bunch of fun exercises with your team. But in the end, you realize your team has been practicing:
– Active Listening.
– Thinking outside the box.
– Trusting your instincts.
– Empowering your team dynamic.
Afterward, you’ll realize: “This meeting could NOT have been an email.”
BOOK PRESENTATION GREG SHAPIRO + Great First Review
Presenting Greg Shapiro’s third book, THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales. The first copy was given to reviewer Michael Hasted of ARTS TALK MAGAZINE. Watch as Shapiro gives Hasted approximately 30 seconds to read the book before conducting his interview.
Good news: the interview was good. And the book review was excellent. THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER
One silver lining to the corona cloud has been that it has forced us all to be pragmatic, stoic even, encouraging us to be resourceful and find new ways of doing things. Performers, especially those who depend on live audiences, have had a very hard time. You can’t act in a vacuum, there’s no point in singing alone in your room and you can’t tell jokes to yourself. So, it’s good to have another string to your bow.
The American Netherlander is Amsterdam-based comedian Greg Shapiro’s third book. Put together over the past nine months when gigs were cancelled or greatly restricted, Greg has brought together his two previous books, added a lot of new material and presents us with a memoir of his life in his adopted home, along with a comprehensive guide to living in it. The book is full of apposite observations, canny advice, witty asides and some nice cartoony illustrations. It could well have been titled The Netherlands – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly because, like the Dutch, it does not pull its punches and is proud to tell it like it is, warts and all.
We start off with the back story about how the author first came to The Netherlands twenty-five years ago to work in and help establish the Boom Chicago comedy venue in Amsterdam. He nicely describes the culture shock and disavows numerous stereotypes and preconceptions. He discovers that what he had grown up in the States believing to be Dutch Apple Pie was in fact nothing like the genuine article and that the chunky real thing made his American usurper mere apple pulp fiction. After a while, as he marries and settles down, he loses track of his identity and begins to suffer from MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder.
Greg takes us, chapter by chapter, though the different aspects of Dutch life and how to cope with, sorry, appreciate them. We learn, of course, about sex and drugs and the ubiquitous Coffee Shops. We find out more about bike etiquette and how the Dutch fail to reconcile their desire for personal freedom with the necessity of conforming and keeping a low profile.
But there is a more serious side too with the vexed and contentious issue of Zwarte Piet being covered in some detail along with the problems of immigration.
If you are an expat in The Netherlands, Zwarte Piet will already have raised your eyebrows by an inch or two. If you are elsewhere in the world you will find the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) hard to believe in this day and age when black live really do matter.
The Dutch have Santa Claus with the best of ‘em, or Sinterklaas as they call him, but that’s of no matter. The difference is that while most Santas are content to have a horde of helpful elves and reindeer as acolytes, old Sinterklaas rides a white horse and has a swarm of black helpers dressed up in gold and red velvet. Piet is a sort of black Robin to Sinter’s bearded Batman. These kids are unashamedly blacked- up à la Al Jolson and parade around with their sacks dispensing candy to the children – but politically correct they certainly are not. Greg examines the question in some detail and is able to see the Dutch point of view. This year the big parades of 5th December were cancelled and it seems the Dutch might surreptitiously use that as an opportunity to phase out Black Pete. Some have started calling him Sooty Pete instead . . .
Serious though it is, the subject is treated in an easy going, unpreachy, unjudgemental manner by Greg and he gives us an insight as to how the phenomenon was considered normal and acceptable and how it might continue and/or change.
The last section of the book re-utilises Greg’s previous book How To Be Dutch: The Quiz. This is both funny and informative. Questions are posed and you have to select one out of three possible answers. The correct answer is given and an explanation of why it is. Again, this is broken down into sections like bikes, health care, politics and . . . err . . Zwarte Piet.
There is even a Oh, I never knew that section which lists, in rhyming couplets, things we never knew were Dutch, like half the place names in New York City, LED lights, multinationals Philips and Shell, the microscope, the discoverers and namers of New Zealand etc etc.
To round it all off there are pages of photos of shop signs taken by Greg over the years, showing how Dutch can produce names and words that we English speakers find amusing, For example a hairdresser called Down Under Hair or the Bad Hotel or the Dutch senator called Tiny Kox. You’ve gotta love ‘em.
The American Netherlander provides us with lots of information about the Dutch persona and way of life and is the result of, not only, Greg’s personal experiences and insights but a lot of thorough research as well – oh, and the laughs, don’t forget the laughs.
This book works on the level of allowing other expats to smugly sit back with a knowing smile on their faces but also as a guide book exploring the mores of a tiny nation that has contributed more to civilisation and to its fund of knowledge over the past five centuries than most people are aware of or care to acknowledge.
Nicely laid out with lots of cartoons on classy coated paper Greg Shapiro’s The American Netherlander is recommended on all levels. Michael Hasted 8th December 2020
FOR ONLINE REVIEW & INTERVIEW, GO TO ARTSTALK MAGAZINE:
THE VOICE OF THE ‘NETHERLANDS SECOND’ VIDEO OFFERS CHRISTMAS TRUMP VOICE MESSAGE – FOR A GOOD CAUSE: raices.org. RAICES. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, helping the families affected by the Trump Migrant Separation Policy.
I’ve been working on this show called The Madness of King Donald: a Trump Survival Guide. Offering much-needed therapy for folks suffering from Trump Outrage Fatigue. And I’ve discovered the best way to help yourself is to stop focusing on the bully and instead focus more on his victims. What better way to help the migrant kids separated from their families – than to use Trump’s voice against him?
Ever since the ‘Netherlands Second’ video went viral, I’ve been getting requests for Trump Voice Messages. “Can Trump speak my outgoing voicemail?” / “Can Trump insult my boss?” Mostly, I’ve had to say NO, for reasons of exclusivity. But now I’m free to offer you a Trump voice message – for a good cause. 1) Make a donation at raices.org. 2) Send your receipt to gregshapiro.nl + the text you want Trump to say. 3) I send you an mp3 or wav file.
I have all the best ideas. Bigly. So great.
Shapiro is in New York City for 2 more performances of his Trump Survival Guide show:
Sunday Brooklyn Comedy Collective.
Tuesday PIT Loft – The Peoples Improv Theater.