as seen in ArtsTalkMagazine.nl “JOKES WERE WELL-SCULPTED AND WIDE-RANGING.” “ENGAGING WITH THE AUDIENCE, THEY WERE QUICK, PROVOCATIVE AND PUGNACIOUS.”
15 November, 2022
REVIEWED BY Jacob John Shale :
Political comedy is largely useless. That is to say that it has no impact upon the figures, events and institutions it criticises. There’s a very funny moment in one of the comedian Doug Stanhope’s specials (or maybe it’s from an interview, I can’t find the clip online) in which he describes his exasperation at having to encounter people debating issues he has already dealt with in his previous stand-up routines. I’m paraphrasing, but Stanhope’s joke goes something like: How is this argument still going on? Don’t they know I’ve already shouted at thousands of drunk people about this?
Pep and Greg Save America
(hosted by Pep Rosenfeld and Greg Shapiro) wants to be regarded as a work of uncompromising satire. The premise of the show, which premiered at Boom Chicago on the night of the midterm election, is that America is a wonderful place currently captured by a band of right-wing lunatics whose ideals bear no resemblance to those on which the country was founded. They argue that the Democrats should once again embrace patriotism; rescue it from Republican hands. Against this premise, we have the hosts’ recognition that entertainment is not activism. Their title is self-mocking in the same manner as the joke by Stanhope mentioned above. Rosenfeld and Shapiro understand that America will not be saved by the end of the night, and how ridiculous it is to assume that comedy should serve this function.
The show’s targets
were about as predictable as the darts that were flung at them. Still, they landed. When faced with the gargoyles of the American political scene, many contemporary comedians seem to feel that there is little need in putting together a punch line. And why would they? All you have to do is quote a particularly stupid remark and you have your applause. This approach was thankfully not too much present in last night’s show.
The two comedians’ jokes were well-sculpted and wide-ranging in their references – everything from Tucker Carlson (of whom Shapiro performed an impression) to She-Hulk (used to make an unexpected comparison) to Twin Peaks (it dismays me to report that this joke, which I will not spoil, was the one that elicited the least laughter). Ultimately, it was in their crowd-work that I thought Shapiro and Rosenfeld were at their funniest. Engaging with the audience, they were quick, provocative and pugnacious. It made me wish that the rest of the show had not been so carefully engineered.
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.”
Greg Shapiro: ‘Dutch Direct vs the Elephant in the Room’
11 October, 2022
As ‘Dutch direct’ as you think may be, it still helps to have an American by your side. Dutch culture prides itself on being ‘Dutch direct,’ which is an indirect way of saying ‘rude.’ Sometimes I get hired by Dutch companies to host their events, to help ‘bridge the cultural gap’ between the older Dutch management and their mostly younger, more international staff. Practically, that means I get to share the stage with them and demonstrate how to not get upset when they say ‘Dutch direct’ things like “I wouldn’t have chosen that outfit” or “Ha ha – that joke didn’t work.”
Lesson Number One: start off by removing the tie.
To show how well integrated I am, I will sometimes respond to Dutch directness by teasing Dutch people right back. It makes the boss more human! There was one Dutch CEO who had a real ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ attitude. He liked to answer questions by saying “Okay, look…” But he was speaking English as a second language. So frequently – instead of saying look – he would use the Dutch word kijk. Luckily, he didn’t pronounce it the ethnic slur way. He said it more like “cake.” So I pointed out that – if he was going to start off every point talking about cake, there had better be some cake by the end of the day. (There was.)
DUTCH DIRECT + Yank Joke
For another event – for another ‘Dutch direct’ CEO – there was an elephant in the room. That’s partly why they’d hired me: to help keep the day loose and informal, so the audience would feel confident enough to ask the difficult questions. And the employees did ask difficult enough questions, about sustainability,about equal pay, about fair hiring… But then came a question about accusations of fake sustainability claims, ie ‘greenwashing.’ The elephant had arrived!
The CEO explained that he took the greenwashing accusations very seriously. He admitted that just a couple years ago those accusations would have been partly true. I said “I was here a couple years ago, and I can confirm! The last time I hosted for you guys, you had one HR manager saying ‘sustainability would be a good idea,’ and now she’s on the board as the first ever Chief Sustainability Officer. …And if anyone still comes with complaints that Dutch companies aren’t green enough, remind them that Shell Oil is now located in the UK.”
More Standup & Improv shows coming up! Yes, most dates are in and around Amsterdam. But I’ll be ending the month touring in Switzerland. (And Paris, you’re next.)
PEP & GREG SAVE AMERICA It’s a pop-up US election show, scheduled for November 3, 5, 6 & 8 (election night). Pep Rosenfeld and I have been making comedy shows together since 1985. My pitch was for the title ‘Pep & Greg Save America’ and a poster of us putting a pillow over Uncle Sam’s face. But maybe Joe ‘Dark Brandon’ Biden is giving us something worth saving…? And it looks like we’ll have Boom Chicago’s new Artistic Director Stacey Smith adding some music to the show. In October, we’ll be doing a number of free tryouts at Boom Chicago – and a preview on 30 Oct.
DUTCH TO THE RESCUE
My new solo show is based on my video series ‘Climate News Comedy’ – anything to make climate news funny. It turns out there’s plenty of good news, much of it coming from the Dutch – almost.
– Lowlands Festival unveils the world’s largest solar car park! …Now all we need to do is plug it in.
– The world’s biggest wind turbine! …Will now be making hydrogen for Shell.
– Solar-powered drinking water from the sea! …Was canceled by activists for using plastic bottles.
Whether it’s Dutch innovators or Dutch World Cup teams, they love winning their way to the finals …and then tripping up. Truly, they’re more comfortable being ‘Netherlands Second.’
Improv comedy is pure joy, and I haven’t had enough lately. I’ll be joining a couple improv shows in October, and more coming up.
GREG SHAPIRO COMEDY DATES SEPTEMBER 2022
5 Sept., 2022
It’s comedy season again! I’m working on two new shows, and I’ll be making a lot of appearances coming up. See dates below
SHOW ONE – Pep & Greg Save America
Pep Rosenfeld and I have been making comedy shows together since 1985. Our new duo standup show is scheduled for the 2022 US Midterm Elections in November. My pitch was for a poster with ‘Pep & Greg Save America’ and an image of us putting a pillow over the face of Uncle Sam. But then again – maybe Joe ‘Dark Brandon’ Biden is giving us something worth saving…
SHOW TWO – Dutch to the Rescue
Based on my video series ‘Climate News Comedy,’ I realize we all need something – anything – to make climate news funny. Luckily, I live in the Netherlands. Dutch people be like: “Rising sea levels? No problem! We’ll just make more land.” If Jesus would come back and walk on water, Dutch people would say “Ja, ja… we do that all the time.” But what about the farming crisis? What to do with all the manure from Dutch livestock mega-stalls? No problem, they’ll just spray it on Parliament.
Improv comedy is pure joy, and I haven’t had enough lately. I’ll be joining a couple improv shows in September, and look for me to add even more coming up.
What if Climate News could be fun?
These days most people hear the term Climate and get ready for dread. And for good reason.
But the truth is there’s a sustainability boom happening, with lots of clean energy innovations that are genuinely exciting.
…Also, there’s a lot of bullshit sustainability that’s a lot more like ‘greenwashing.’ How to tell the difference?
Introducing a new weekly video series. ‘CNC: Climate News Comedy.’ Anything it takes to make climate news funny.
I’m committing myself to a weekly video of 6 jokes in 60 seconds.
And I’ll post the links as well, to share the good news.
Greg Shapiro. Putting the GS in SDG’s.
‘G7 countries to Stop Funding Fossil Fuel Development Overseas’
…From now on they’ll only get fossil fuels from UNDER seas.
‘HUNDREDS OF US CITIES COMPOSTING FOOD WASTE TO CUT TONS OF EMISSIONS.’
…Considering that you could feed that compost to an anaerobic digester and heat your home with it – this headline is kind of like celebrating a touchdown at the 50 yard line.
‘Dutch Zoo Works with Delft start-up Reefy to Restore Coral Reefs.’
…The start-up ‘Reefy’ is not to be confused with the Dutch stereotype ‘reefer,’ although they are hoping to create some ‘reefy madness.’
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.
Lockdown cardboard is overflowing on the streets of Amsterdam! Ever wonder what would happen if an entire city would start working from home, ordering everything online and then dumping their used cardboard boxes all at once? Welcome to Pandemic 2021.
In Amsterdam, the annual Garbage Collection fee went up by a huge amount this year. But the pace of garbage collection hasn’t noticeably increased. One thing that HAS increased is the Handhaving / BOA’s and civil servants who give out cash penalties to anyone caught leaving their garbage / recycling outside the underground garbage containers. Never mind that they’re often choked up and overfull! The sign says ‘IF this container is full, it is your responsibility to continue on to the next available one.’
I had one neighbor tell me she went to recycle her cardboard, and she ended up going to 5 different containers before she gave up and put her stuff right next to a container. The next day, she realized she had left her address on one of the pieces of cardboard. How did she realize? Because she had uniformed police at her door to give her a €95 euro fine.
I have a paper recycling container across from my house. While it frequently seems full, often it’s simply jammed. If only I could get the key to that side panel… And then one of my neighbors told me – you can get that key by adopting a garbage container. SO I did it! In January, 2021. I got the key to open the side panel and clear the paper jam, just like a good old copier machine at the office.
Last weekend, there was even an article in Het Parool about the amount of people who are adopting containers. Like me! But now I’ve realized something extra: my key also works on any number of underground containers in my neighborhood. SO when I’m out walking my dog, and we see a paper recycling container that seems to be overflowing… I can check to see if it’s just jammed. In the case of this video, yes it was only jammed. SO I unblocked the jam, I tossed in the excess cardboard, and I saved any number of people from getting a €95 penalty. Including Chygall White, the physical trainer, who ordered from Bol.com. SO now Chygall and I are connected on Linkedin. And maybe next time she’s ordering a book online, she can order mine.
For Greg’s final column in Hello Zuidas, he wrote an entire new book. The following is an excerpt from Shapiro’s third book THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales, available internationally.
When you’re living under sea level, perhaps the term sustainability takes on extra meaning. There are so many Dutch achievements in the area of duurzaamheid that you’d expect Dutch folks to show more national pride. And yet – when it comes to national pride – the Netherlands has been described as ‘the least chauvinistic country in Europe.’ Maybe that’s partly why the ‘Netherlands Second’ video was such a hit here. Dutch mentality is like: “We don’t need to be first. …But we are definitely better than the rest.”
In essence, the Dutch don’t like to brag – so I’ll do it for them.
Internationally, yes the Dutch are quietly known for their masterful water engineering. But you don’t see the Delta Works on Dutch t-shirts. You don’t see the term Afsluitdijk on bumper stickers. And what about the Maeslantkering? These gates that protect the Port of Rotterdam are an engineering marvel, each gate as large as the Eiffel Tower. But – unlike the Eiffel Tower – you don’t see them on keychains, coffee mugs or refrigerator magnets. As far as tourists are concerned, Dutch culture is summed up by the national symbol of the cannabis leaf. Meaning, by default, the most popular form of Dutch water engineering is ‘the bong.’
A Dutch friend of mine was working at a consultancy in the US. He told me the story of how Dutch engineering firm Royal Haskoning was asked to help the US Army Corps of Engineers to prevent hurricane damage to the US coastline. Which was a Big Deal. But reportedly the Dutch management refused to issue a press release, because that would be bragging, aka opscheppen. And in Nederland, if you are ever caught opscheppen, then Zwarte Piet kidnaps you in a sack and takes you to Spain,
Sustainable investing might not be terribly sexy to most people, but apparently it’s sexy in Zuidas. According to iAmsterdam: In 2020, a number of Dutch investment firms topped the ShareAction global sustainability rankings. And the Global Green Finance Index named Amsterdam Zuidas as one of world’s best green finance centres. Nederland, take more credit!
I once spoke at the launch of a book of infographics on the SDG Sustainable Development Goals. It was an impressive achievement and an impressive stage. But – one after another – the speakers chose to stand just outside the spotlight. I literally had to step in and nudge the director of the project into the light so the photographer could get a proper shot of him. Next time I’ll just tell him, “It costs a lot of energy to shine that light. The sustainable choice would be to stand in it.”
Nederland, you may spend your lives digging channels in the ground, but you don’t have to act like Mole People.
Gregory Shapiro (b.1968) is the author of THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales and the voice of Trump on ‘Zondag Met Lubach.’ In 2020 he celebrates 25 years as corporate speaker and host. And his mini-show ‘How NOT to Zoom’ is now available for a 5-minute guest appearance in your next videoconference. www.gregshapiro.nl
Thank you to Davien Fotografie for the profile pic!