The English-language comedy scene in The Netherlands is developing so much comedy talent these days! For under 20 euros, you can easily see ‘Tomorrow’s Netflix Special’ comedians – before they start charging 75 euros per ticket. I am lucky enough to be programming one of these English comedy nights, in one of my favorite little spaces: Theater PePijn in The Hague. Normally reserved for solo shows and Dutch ‘cabaret,’ it is known among comedians as one of the best spaces to perform.
LARA RICOTE – our First Headliner
Lara started out as an international student in Amsterdam a few years ago. She developed her first solo show based on her unique blend of demographic categories: GRL/LATINX/DEF. “Girl, Latin American, and hard of hearing.” Lara plays up her triple ‘Minority status’ to great effect. Now she’s winning awards like the UK Funny Women Award and the coveted Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022.
Before Lara moves off to the UK – or the US – I managed to get her onstage for the November edition of PEPIJN’S COMEDY CLUB – IN ENGLISH.
WATCH (90 seconds):
Also featured in the November show
– Hermes Ahmadi. Afghan / Dutch comedian, known for his solo show You Might Be Here. – La Hager – Egyptian / Dutch comedian, and female. She is a mainstay of the English comedy scene, particularly in The Hague.
– Lia Sulim – Ukrainian comedian – was in the New Talent spot. She is a recent immigrant, forced to flee from the invasion. She’s still working on her English, but her punchlines are killer. One to watch.
+ special thanks to Lia’s boyfriend ISIK ISIN for photos & videos!
Theater PePijn was established as a tryout space for the bigger names in Dutch theater and ‘cabaret.’ You can still find big name artists for a tiny little price, as they try out new material.
The next dates for PEPIJN’S COMEDY CLUB – IN ENGLISH
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.
November starts with a BANG. For FOUR nights only, we perform ‘PEP & GREG SAVE AMERICA’ at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. (starting 3 Nov.) Just in time for the US Midterm Elections 2022. Pep and I have been doing standup comedy shows together for 20 of America’s 240 years. So this time we’ve added music and improv from Stacey Smith & Sacha Hoedemaker. It’s a hoot. And – based on the results on Election Night – Pep & I might just save America by putting a pillow over its face and ending the pain.
Another show I’m excited about is the new English comedy series at Pepijn Comedy Club in The Hague. (10 Nov.) I’m booking the shows as well as hosting. And guess who’s coming to be our headliner? The Best Newcomer at the 2022 Edinburgh Comedy Awards! Amsterdam’s own Lara Ricote. She is smart & funny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgySVdjX86E
And I’ll be headlining the first show in a new series in Westerpark at the Pacific Amsterdam in Westergasfabriek. It’s called Jesterpark.
I’ll be playing in Amsterdam, Leiden, Den Haag, Utrecht – and Paris!
One of the more bizarre aspects of knowing famous people is when they name-check you on TV. The king of Dutch late-night comedy is Arjen Lubach, and he is also one of the smartest fellows on TV. Hence he can frequently be seen on the Dutch quiz show De Slimste Mens.
To introduce a new quiz category, Arjen made a short video, saying: “Na de inauguratie van Donald Trump maakte wij bij Zondag Met Lubach een filmpje dat aardig viral ging. The ‘Netherlands Second.’ Ik hou het niet exact bij, maar de teller staat op ongeveer de 41,980,818 views. De stem van Donald Trump werd trouwens fenomenaal gedaan bij Greg Shapiro van Boom Chicago. Boom Chicago. Boom. …Wat weet u van de eik?”
“After the inauguration of Donald Trump, we made a video at Zondag Met Lubach that went quite viral. The ‘Netherlands Second’ video. I can’t keep track of it exactly, but the view count is approximately 41,980,818 views. The voice of Donald Trump was done phenomenally by Greg Shapiro from the Boom Chicago theater. ‘Boom Chicago.’ Boom (Tree). …What do you know about the oak?”
Thanks for the shout-out!
One Shout-out and One Insult
Also my name recently came up, when a friend of mine was watching a 2014 episode of Broad City. He sent me a screenshot of Zack Gallifianakis’ character saying, “Only me and Greg Shapiro could go blow ourselves.”
What -? Why ‘Greg Shapiro’ -? Surely this was a coincidence. Or… could it be my former girlfriend? One of the writers on Broad City was indeed a former Boom Chicago colleague – who was also a former girlfriend. I thought we had broken up amicably (in 1995). But who knows, maybe it sometimes takes 19 years for people to exact their revenge. I’ll never know.
A lot of my former colleagues are working in American show business. We all worked together doing improv comedy at Boom Chicago. And one of the fundamental rules of improvisation is “Make Your Partner Look Good.” So when I see former colleagues winning awards – like Seth Meyers and Jordan Peele and Jason Sudeikis – I feel like “I made them look good.” And looking at my career, I realize “I guess I did a better job than they did.”
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.
HBD, CCN! It was 15 years ago that Boom Chicago comedy theater launched Comedy Central News, with your host: Greg Shapiro. “Comedy Central News: Because Dutch News Is News Too.”
In 2007, Viacom’s Comedy Central launched its first channel in the Netherlands. The Dutch producers wanted to create a new TV show for the occasion – a mix of The Daily Show and a comedy sketch show. And they liked me when I was presenting the ‘Boom Chicago News’ for a TV pilot we’d made. So Boom Chicago got the call to create a show, and we came in with a concept that was basically “What if The Muppet Show had a Weekend Update?”
CCN COMEDY CENTRAL NEWS SEASON ONE, EP 23
CCN AND EMMY AWARD WINNER BRENDAN HUNT
It was quirky, it was daily, and it featured my Boom Chicago colleague Lauren Flans doing remote segments about Dutch culture. Lauren would go on to appear on MTV’s Wild ‘N Out and Epic Rap Battles of History. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1508641/
Our executive producer – and 2008 head writer – was Pep Rosenfeld, who had actually written for ‘Weekend Update’ on Saturday Night Live and been nominated for an Emmy. https://boomchicago.nl/pep-rosenfeld/
And the 2007 Head Writer was Brendan Hunt, who is now known as co-creator of the Emmy-winning series TED LASSO. (You might know him as TED LASSO’s ‘Coach Beard.’) https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0402360/
(Here is Brendan Hunt with some of his early beard work.)
A DUTCH NEWS SHOW IN ENGLISH
It remains amazing to me that we were able to make a TV show – for the Netherlands – in English. At that point, Dutch commercial television was experimenting with more and more English (Dutch publicly funded TV shows not so much). A few years before CCN, there was a brief moment when Boom Chicago was being pitched to create a Dutch version of Whose Line Is It Anyway – for a Dutch public broadcaster. But our Dutch language skills were niet zo goed. That pitch went on to become the smash hit De Lama’s, starring Ruben van der Meer – who started his career working in the Boom Chicago kitchen. The host of De Lama’s was Patrick Lodiers.
Side note: Patrick Lodiers went on to host a 2007 late night comedy news show called De Nieuwste Show – premiering the exact same month as our show, CCN. You know that story about the Burger King opening up right next to the McDonalds, and miraculously both businesses saw improved success? Yeah, that did not happen in our case. But interestingly, one of the commentators on De Nieuwste Show was a young Arjen Lubach. And we would go on to collaborate for some quality TV content – about 10 years later.
BOOM CHICAGO CCN CREW
Producer: Andrew Moskos
Segment Producer: Christy Ju
Exec Producer / Head Writer: Pep Rosenfeld
Directors: Matt Chapman, Becky Nelson
Presenter / Writer: Greg Shapiro
Presenter / Writer: Lauren Flans
Writer / Super Catty Celebrity Bitch: Michael Diederich
Head Writer / Ensemble S1: Brendan Hunt
Writers & Ensemble:
Geert-Martin van der Jagt
Greg Shapiro EditieNL: ‘Going Dutch’ with Tikkie (and their new tool ‘Groupie’) 20 Sept., 2022
In August, Dutch American comedian Greg Shapiro was asked to comment on the Dutch app Tikkie (and their new tool ‘Groupie’) by EditieNL on Dutch RTL.
From the TV interview:
“‘Going Dutch’ means to spilt the check. Did the concept originate in the Netherlands? Apparently so. I remember coming here 25 years ago, thinking ‘What’s so Dutch about that?’ And the common logic is ‘It proves Dutch people are cheap!’ It also proves that you’re practical. But indeed, when I split the check with Dutch people, they can be very precise.”
“I looked it up: the average amount for a Dutch Tikkie (payment request, like Venmo) is €37.70. There’s no rounding up, like ‘oh, let’s make it 38.’ NO: exactly 37 euros – AND 70 CENTS. Is that distinct about Dutch culture? I don’t know. Not all Dutch people are such mierenneukers. But there are quite a few. Mierenneukers. In America, we might say ‘nitpickers.’ But Dutch people prefer the term ant-fu**ers. It’s just a wonderfully Dutch term.”
From the online article:
“‘In America there is also a payment app [Venmo], but it is not often used for small amounts. That is something typically Dutch,’ says American/Dutch actor Greg Shapiro to Editie NL. ‘Such careful calculating, and down to small amounts? I only know that from the Netherlands. Like when one person did not order the appetizer, so they’re going to itemize their part of the bill.’
“According to him, reclaiming fuel costs is also something typically Dutch. ‘At the same time, it is true: everything is becoming more expensive. So such a small amount may be a bit ridiculous, but it makes sense now.’”
“Nice that Tikkie (the Dutch Venmo) now has a new function for groups. It’s called ‘Groupie.’ Never mind that the name Groupie is already taken. But maybe that’s the best example! If you and your 3 girlfriends want to go see a boyband, then one of you pays for the concert tickets, one pays for the bribe to get backstage, another pays for the hotel rooms, and the fourth pays for the pregnancy tests after.”
“Now that I think about it, if there’s one person who never orders the appetizer – it’s ME. Many times I’ve been out to eat with Pep and Andrew from Boom Chicago, and they want to order the menu to try a bit of everything. I’m the one who’s like ‘I’m on kind of a budget here.’ So I have to admit: when I go out to eat with a group, I’m the one saying ‘I’ve itemized my part of the bill.’ I’VE TRULY GONE DUTCH.”
– Interviewer: Joachim van Maaren
RTL article feat. shapiro quote (in Dutch) https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/tech/artikel/5326880/tikkie-betaalapp-nieuwe-functie-abn-amro-wie-betaalt-wat
In Jan., 2022, Shapiro also got a call from EditieNL to comment on the Dutch tradition of Uitwaaien – aka ‘walking in the wind.’
In theater school, one of the coolest things to do was ‘site-specific’ theater. The least cool thing to do was corporate entertainment. BUT – as I quickly realized – 90% of corporate shows are ‘site-specific.’ I’ve done shows on location at offices, pop-up performances in historic buildings, and even a standup set in the business class section of a KLM 747 to Chicago.
So when I was asked to talk about my ‘weirdest gigs ever’ for the ELEKTRA Podcast, I said YES. The interview was in Dutch, with plenty of English thrown in. I talked about performing for a Dutch bachelorette party in the mid-90’s, when they chanted something to me during the show. It was months later when I realized “Broek uit! Broek uit! Broek uit, op je rug!” meant “Pants off! Pants off! Pants off, on your back!” Yes, Dutch women are very direct.
Example: Weirdest Gig Ever
Here’s an excerpt of my book THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales.
I was hired with Boom Chicago to do a Christmas show for a major fashion label. Apparently, there were rumors that their Dutch office might be closing, and everyone’s jobs were at risk. Luckily, the rumors were not true! At the show, the boss was going to give the good news, and then introduce us to help celebrate.
One day later, the organizing committee had changed their minds: Since we were Americans, the boss would introduce us as upper management from the New York office. Then we’d address the bad rumors, and the boss would reveal: it’s a joke! And then he would give the good news. Weird, but okay!
Then – on the day of the show – the idea had changed again. The boss did introduce us as upper management from New York. But then he lied to his entire staff and said, “You’re all being laid off.” Next, he laughed and left the stage. We had to cut in and say, “It’s a joke! We’re hired comedians.” And then we had to do a comedy show.
Dear reader, if you can think of a worse way to start a comedy show, please insert that image here. (For example, he could have yelled, “Fire!” Or he could have actually lit the theater on fire.) The result? The audience hated us. But the boss seemed genuinely happy.