Greg Shapiro Audiobook Preview – THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER
17 May 2022
My third book THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales came out in 2020.
And now that the lockdown is over, I’m getting serious about an audiobook. In the meantime, you can hear me doing a reading of my Origin Story in the Netherlands – in the link below.
From Chapter One: ‘Amsterdam Day One.’
The question was: “Would you be willing to give up your acting career in Manhattan to do comedy in Amsterdam for a start-up theater called Boom Chicago?” Since I was living on tips and paying rent via credit card, the answer was an immediate YES. When you’ve tried being broke in New Amsterdam, you might as well try being broke in Old Amsterdam.
In 1994, my idea of Amsterdam was the one shared by most Americans, I suppose: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Anne Frank – and then sex & drugs and downhill from there. In America, if we hear about the Netherlands at all, it’s that Dutch people are all drug-doing, drug-dealing, baby- killing, grandpa-murdering, left-handed pedophiles. Once I got here, I realized it’s not true! According to most Dutch people: “That’s Belgium.”
Before leaving Schiphol Airport, I took care of my To-Do List of Now- Anachronistic technology. I went to a place called the GWK Currency Exchange to trade my US Dollars into a totally made-up currency called Guilders. Even at the time, Guilders seemed whimsically antiquated. One of the coins they gave me said ‘2-and-a-half.’ I supposed it was from back in the days when people counted on their two-and-a-half fingers. I also bought a public transport pass called a ‘strip card,’ since access to Dutch trams somehow involved ‘stripping.’ The alternative was ‘Riding Black’ – which to me sounded like a stripper name. And lastly, I procured a phone card for making phone calls at these things called ‘public phone booths.’ These triangular, glass enclosures were also known as ‘phone boxes,’ or – in Dutch – pissoirs.
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.
English Language Amsterdam Election Debate – Hosted by Greg Shapiro 7 March, 2022
Hey Expats & Internationals! You might be able to vote in the Amsterdam City Council Elections – aka the Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.
Basically, if you’ve been living here long enough you can pronounce the term Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, then maybe you can vote in the Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.
Election Day is next Wednesday, 16 March. And on 9 March I hosted the ONLY English-language election event in Amsterdam. Here are some highlights.
As the host, I started out with a comedy version of the basics: If American politics is quite Bipolar, then Dutch politics has Multiple Personality Disorder. Even in Amsterdam – with only 45 seats in city council – there are 15 different parties. And there are 26 parties running in the upcoming election! That means there are 11 parties that have never existed before – and may never exist again. That’s the nature of Dutch politics: the smaller the country, the more they like to disagree.
Onstage last night we had three parties from the current city council coalition: GroenLinks; D66 & Labor PvdA. We also had VOLT – who have never campaigned for city council before. And we had VVD who are in city council – but not in the ruling coalition.
As the host, I welcomed the 100+ people in the audience, and I subtly switched from my native English to ESL ‘English as a Second Language.’ That also helped the five politicians on the panel, who were each rather nervous about their level of English. As expected, everyone’s English was FINE… with a few exceptions.
“If you live in an old house, you need isolation. The city needs to provide isolation. Isolation for everyone!” I quickly pointed out that in English it’s called INSULATION. That’s very different.
There’s more housing coming! Pre-fab houses, 3-D printed houses, and floating houses. And if you’re smart you’ll get a floating house, because this city is going to be underwater soon.
Thanks to Putin, everyone in Europe is now desperate to get off of fossil fuels. GroenLinks wants more solar, more insulation and even 6-7 wind turbines on Amsterdam land. I had to ask Rutger from GroenLinks “Why has Amsterdam been cutting down so many trees?” And admitted “It’s bad for optics,” but the truth is many trees that were planted 30 – 40 years ago were not well planned, and now their root systems are destroying canal walls, city streets and foundations. They’ve been replanting new, proper trees. But that doesn’t stop Thierry Baudet from putting tree stumps in his campaign photos.
ARTS / DIVERSITY
Well, since GroenLinks & D66 chose to hold this event at Podium Mozaiek, I guess that shows they support diversity as well as the arts. Anything is better than the place they had four years ago – the Marktkantine. Yuck.
Greg Shapiro New Comedy Show LISTPUSHER at Utrecht Int’l Comedy Festival
3 March, 2022
Based on my experiences as a real-live (fake) politician – I’ve created a new 30-minute show called LIST PUSHER.
“List Pusher?” What’s that?
THE ORIGIN STORY
A friend of mine on Amsterdam city council asked me “Could you help us on our campaign to reach out to the expats and internationals?” And I said yes. The upcoming city council elections – the gemeenteraadsverkiezingen – are the one time expats and non-Dutch citizens can vote. Basically, if you’ve lived in the Netherlands long enough to pronounce the term gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, then maybe you can vote in the gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.
But then he asked “this time what if we don’t just have you as a volunteer – but as a symbolic candidate on the candidate list?” And – here’s how my big my ego is – I said “But wait – what if I win? If everybody votes for me, will I have to be on city council?” The answer is technically yes – but I’d be candidate 49 on a list of 50. The so-called Lijstduwer – the ‘List Pusher.’ So now I’m a pusher man. Telling expats “The first vote is free.”
WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR
Before I could become a candidate for this party, I had to make sure it was the right party for me. Politically, I’m not too far right, but also not too far left – kind of in the middle. So I found the online voting guide called Stemwijzer. They have 30 questions, and you agree or disagree, and at the end they tell you which party is for you. As an experiment, I clicked ‘No opinion’ for every question, and the party they gave me was: D66. Because they’re right in the middle. And I thought “YES! That’s the party for me.”
(Also D66 are pro-Europe, pro-gay rights, pro-bilingual education and pro dual citizenship. You should vote for them. But don’t vote for me! I know what happens when they put a comedian in charge – the next thing you know you’re fighting off Russian missiles.)
VOTE ABM: (anyone but me)!
And come see my show:
LIST PUSHER. UTRECHT INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL
Friday 4 March
Saturday 5 March
Greg Shapiro Presents: HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW 7 Feb., 2022
Hi, it’s me Greg Shapiro – the American Netherlander. I grew up in America first, and I moved to the Netherlands second. Along the way, I took the Dutch citizenship exam, and I wrote a couple books on the subject – including HOW TO BE DUTCH: the Quiz. All the questions that SHOULD be on the Dutch citizenship exam, by the American Netherlander who’s been living here 25 years.
And now it’s time to play HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW!
Which nationality traditionally scores the worst on the Dutch citizenship quiz?
How many times does the Dutch national anthem reference other countries?
In the opening line it starts talking about Germany.
Next up is Orange, which is a city in France.
And in the final line – just when the the world is thinking “surely this will be the name of their own country” – NOPE! ‘Spain.’
And guess which 3 countries have ever invaded and occupied the NL?
Germany, France and Spain.
Meaning – It’s not so much an anthem as it is a self-hating checklist.
And this explains why the Netherlands never come in first place in the World Cup.
HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW!
“I take the Netherlands a little bit on the hook, yes?”
Greg Shapiro (Boom Chicago, Comedy Central, ‘Zondag Met Lubach’) has written a book about Dutch culture: HOW TO BE DUTCH: the Quiz. As a comedian, Shapiro starts by looking at the questions on the actual Dutch citizenship exam. Sometimes a simple analysis of the actual questions reveals more about the Dutch mentality than the exam ever intended. Next, Shapiro introduces his own exam, with questions that will test your knowledge on Dutch pride, Dutch stereotypes, Dutch politics – and yes Sinterklaas.
Shapiro has written so many quiz questions, he can tailor-make a quiz for your event. Previous quizzes have featured: Dutch Office Culture; Dutch Housing and Dutch Sustainability.
Quiz Shows are generally 15- 30 minutes. Tailoring is available, Pre-meetings are available.
Greg Shapiro on EditieNL “Come the Netherlands, We’ll Blow You Away”
12 January, 2022
The other day I got a phone call from Dutch RTL News, asking for an interview. “What do you think of this Washington Post article about Uitwaaien?” I checked the link, and there it was: ‘Forget hygge, it’s time for uitwaaien’ – aka ‘walking in the wind.’
I was happy to tell RTL’s show EditieNL that I am a fan of uitwaaien. In fact, where was I on New Years Day? I was with my family walking the dog in the Dutch dunes, in nature, and yes in the wind. What better way to start the new year than to let to old one be blown away – along with your hangover from the night before. (But don’t expect me to take part in the Nieuwjaarsduik where you celebrate 1 January by jumping into the North Sea… those people are crazy.)
EditieNL asked if I’d be willing to meet them at Zandvoort for an interview – and some real-time uitwaaien. I said “Yes AND – I’m bringing my dog.” I have a 6 year-old Black Labrador, who loves walking on the beach! And conveniently – just as the interview began – she pooped, and I had to pick it up. And so, for the entire time I’m on camera, you can see me walking in the wind with a little red sack of poop. Uitwaaien and hondenpoep opruimen. A true Dutch tradition.
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.
Greg Shapiro New Video Series ‘DutchNews of the Week’ 7 December, 2021
“The headlines are from DutchNews.nl; the punchlines are from me.” So begins every episode of my new weekly video series ‘DutchNews of the Week.’
DutchNews.nl already has a daily newsletter and a weekly podcast. So I thought: “Why not a weekly video as well?” And, in the spirit of Branded Content, I decided to just start making the videos first, on my own. Then – instead of saying “What would it be like if I made these videos…” I can now say “Here, look at these videos.”
It’s like “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” First I make the videos. Then I approach the client. “If you like it, pay me to make more.” (And if you hate it, pay me to stop…) (wink emoticon)
As it turns out, the founder of DutchNews.nl is a friend of mine: Robin Pascoe. What do you know: she likes the videos. (Robin is the woman who used to write for the English version of the Financiele Dagblad. There are other Dutch news sites in English, but DutchNews is my favorite.)
I love humor as a tool to make news items more relatable and more memorable. At first, I wanted to make videos that went a bit in depth for every major story of the week. The videos were still about 3 minutes long, like this one. WATCH: https://youtu.be/IKIjvmmO4Rs
But I soon realized a couple things about social media. 1) Current events videos do not age well on YouTube. 2) If you want to post videos on other media – like Twitter and Instagram – you can only post 60 seconds max. And so the new format was born: Set-up / Punchline. Just like ‘Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.
So keep an eye on your socials. If it’s a Friday – and if I have the time that week – then I’ll be posting to Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
And if enough people like it, I might just use the same technique for Politico.eu. But this time I might try to make content for their YouTube channel as well. They have a YouTube channel, but it suuuuuucks.
Greg Shapiro Volunteers for Autistic Kids Project, Gets Killed. Autistic Students Take Dutch Directness to the Next Level.
30 November, 2021
This past October, I volunteered for a school project. The school was set up by the mother of an autistic child. (aka ‘a child on the autistic spectrum.’) And the school is called SBTK: Stichting Brilliant Future Kids. Since the mother is an old friend of my wife, she asked if I could help teach an improv workshop for her students. I said “Yes, AND.”
Yes, I’d taught improv classes before. Yes, I’d taught high school students before. But no, I’d never taught kids with autism. What I had done is hosting an event for adults with autism, and the interviews were great. I remember they were brutally honest, which was hugely entertaining.
At Stichting Brilliant Future Kids, they wanted an improv workshop – but also they wanted me to make a quick appearance in a video they were shooting. In fact, as soon as I arrived, that’s all they could talk about. The students were all mid-teens, male and female (and perhaps non-binary), and ‘the spectrum’ was well-represented. Practically, there were only a couple students who wouldn’t make any eye contact at all.
It turns out they were pretty big fans of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video. And they asked me what was my life was like now that Trump was out of the White House. I gave them my standard answer, which is: “I’ve got other projects, so it’s not the end of the world. Whereas, if he had stayed – it might literally be the end of the world.”
So then they showed me the script. They said it was inspired by me. How flattering!
…It’s about a washed up Trump joke comedian, who dies onstage and then dies in real life. Wowzers, no one does Dutch honesty quite like students on the autistic spectrum. I died laughing.
My scene partner was a demonic doll baby purchased from a Halloween store.
The baby would play the bartender, who serves me a poison drink. Then there’s somehow a motorcycle ride.
And then we crash and die. The end.
It turns out I never got to do the improv workshop with the lesson plan I has prepared. But we did end up improvising enough in their video studio. And the one student, who didn’t want to make eye contact, he finally looked up and said, “When you are dying in front of the crowd, can you really show how painful it is?” Yes, and. I did. Afterward, the teacher said that was one of the few things he said at full volume all day. Glad I could help!
3 REASONS WHY DUTCH HONESTY IS BETTER by Greg Shapiro, The American Netherlander
as seen in Speakers Academy Magazine, 2021-22
Dutch people are known for being ‘direct’ – which is an indirect way of saying ‘rude.’ At least that’s how I have experienced Dutch directness as an American expat. But the longer I live in Nederland, the more I appreciate how Dutch folks tell it like it is. Here are 3 ways Dutch Directness is better than the alternative.
As stereotypes go, Americans have a reputation for being politely indirect. The British have a reputation for being completely indirect. And Dutch people pride themselves on being brutally honest – sometimes at the expense of politeness, or tact, or respect for human dignity. If you go on a diet and lose a couple kilos, most people will say, “Wow, have you lost weight?” Whereas your Dutch colleague will say, “Wow, you used to be so fat!” Yes, Dutch people have a reputation for being tolerant. But they’re also judgmental as hell.
When I introduced my American mother to my Dutch family for the first time, someone told her: “Nice outfit.” But it was my Dutch father-in-law who said, “I don’t think so. You have a nice figure, but in America you can’t get clothes that fit you properly. All the sizes are too big. But that is because most Americans are so fat.” So now my mother never speaks to my in-laws – which honestly makes my life much easier.
While many world leaders visited the Trump White House being pulled against their will into pop-up arm-wrestling contests, it was Nederland’s Mark Rutte who stood up to the bully. In a joint press conference, Donald Trump said “On trade, we’ll work out something positive. And even if we don’t work something out it’ll also be positive.” But Mark Rutte couldn’t help blurting out “NO!” Rutte laughed in Trump’s face as he continued: “Not positive. We’ll have to work something out.” And if not for Dutch diplomacy, Rutte would have added: “Not positive. And you are too fat. And your tie is too long. And your face makes you look like an angry monkey.”
Attitudes toward sex in the Netherlands can result in culture shock for many people. But if you spend a bit more time here, it becomes what I call Culture Shock Therapy. Yes, it’s different than what you might be accustomed to, but then you realize: “This way is better! ANSWER =
Many cultures advocate a getting-to-know-you phase before engaging in sex. An American colleague of mine was explaining to her Dutch friends that “I’ve been dating this guy for a few weeks. And I think it’s the right time to invite him to bed.” The Dutch women found this idea to be ridiculous: “Why would you spend three weeks on a guy, if he might be bad in bed?”
In America, it’s: “Take me to dinner, then maybe you can take me to bed.” In Nederland, it’s: “Take me to bed, then maybe we can go to dinner.” (“But I’m only going to pay half.”)
In closing, I find Dutch Directness better than what I grew up with. The only disadvantage is nowadays when I’m on a Zoom call with my family in the US, and they’re shocked when I say things like “Your country is shit.”
[Author Greg Shapiro offers Masterclasses on Dutch identity based on his books such as THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER. Shapiro has appeared as Event Host and Keynote Speaker for multinational clients such as Philips, Shell and ING. His has hosted events for heads of state, the King of the Netherlands, and once for the Business Class section of a KLM 747 to Chicago.]