WARNING: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE
How often does a shapeshifting comedian appear on your radar? Labelling Hans Teeuwen a comedian significantly limits what he actually is. Comedian, raconteur, crooner, maverick, freedom of speech advocate, actor, autoerotic yogi: it’s almost impossible to pin him down.
Hans Teeuwen has been one of the biggest names in Dutch cabaret since the 1990s and he’s truly one of the most manic, absurd, witty and rude comedians I’ve ever seen. Bear in mind that ‘cabaret’ in the Netherlands has nothing to do with voluptuous women, drags or any other kitsch associations you might have with cabaret. So don’t get too disappointed when a Dutchie invites you for a cabaret show 🙂 In the Netherlands, by cabaret we mean a 1 or 2-hr performance by one or more people on stage who do a combination of (stand-up) comedy, theatre and music (usually they sing and play piano). Often the artists are graduates of the ‘Kleinkunstacademie’ (academy for the fine arts) in Amsterdam.
After several series of performances in the UK between 2007 and 2010, Hans now also has many devout followers across the North Sea. Hans has made quite an impression in the British comedy scene, to say the least. This man is a whirlwind of energy and his onstage moods cover the entire emotional spectrum. I’ve seen him eat chocolate bars with a sock puppet, sing outrageous songs about taking his grandmother from behind, but also discuss extremism and religion on a more serious note on talkshows. He doesn’t shy away from taboos and has this curious ability to draw in his audience yet to also scare the crap out of them at the same time. During his live performances there is this uncomfortable tangible tension between him and his audience that sets him apart from your average ‘funny guy’. At the same time, the fact that he isn’t like other comedians, make his sense of humour (which has been compared to Andy Kaufmann and Dadaism) a bit more difficult to stomach for some of his audience. That’s the thing with Hans Teeuwen: you either love him or hate him, there’s no middle way. What do I think? Well, I absolutely love him! And my friends and readers here in the UK can soon go and judge for themselves what they make of Hans because his UK autumn tour is just about to kick off! Hans Teeuwen has been nominated as one of the best comedy shows to see this autumn by The Guardian in an article with the promising title: ‘The deranged Dutchman is coming! The finest comedy of autumn 2016’ and you can imagine how pleased I am that he agreed to do a little Q&A with me!
Q&A With Hans Teeuwen
1. You’ve performed here in the UK several times now already. Have you noticed any major cultural differences between Dutch and British audiences and how they respond to your shows? Do you need to adapt your shows for a different audience? Do some gags simply not work?
There is a bit more taboos and political correctness in England I think but that’s not necessarily the case for people that come to see me. Two nights in the same town in the same theatre can also be quite different. So there are differences but they are not very significant.
2. You reached celebrity status in the Netherlands already in the 90s and tickets for your Dutch shows sell like hotcakes. Both fans and critics have dubbed you as the ‘enfant terrible’, ‘prodigy’ and even ‘god’ of cabaret. How does it feel to perform abroad where the general public might not know your name or great fame, is it liberating to not feel the burden of expectation or does it mean you have to prove yourself even more to win over a new audience?
3.Music plays a prominent role in your live shows and last year you released the second album of your band Hans Teeuwen & The Painkillers. How important is music for you in your personal life? Would you rather be a rock star?
Maybe when I was 20 I wanted to be a rock star but an aging rock star is a bit more tragic then an aging comedian. And I like to listen to music.
4. As London is the main focus of this blog, could you share with us your favourite spots or things to do in the capital?
I really enjoy not visiting Madame Tussaud’s.
5. If I gave you an elephant where would you hide it?
I wouldn’t hide it i would parade it out in the open. Dress it up in lingerie and pimp the fucker out for sex.
Catch Hans Teeuwen live during his 2016 UK autumn tour:
29, 30 Sept & 1, 5, 6 Oct: LONDON – Soho Theatre 020 7478 0100, www.sohotheatre.com
12 Oct: HARROGATE COMEDY FESTIVAL, 01423 502 116, www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk
14 Oct: BRIGHTON – Dome, 01273 709709, www.brightondome.org
16 Oct: SALFORD – Lowry, 0843 208 6000, www.thelowry.com
19 Oct: NOTTINGHAM – Playhouse, 0115 941 9419, www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk
24 Oct: BIRMINGHAM – Glee Club 0871 472 0400, www.glee.co.uk/birmingham
26 Oct: NORWICH – Playhouse, 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk
27 Oct: CAMBRIDGE – Junction, 01223 511 511, www.junction.co.uk
3–26 November (Thu, Fri & Sat): LONDON – Leicester Square Theatre, 020 7734 2222, www.leicestersquaretheatre.com
For more info, follow the Hans Teeuwen UK Touring Facebook page via this link.
Feature photo by Eva Boeter