Fly­ing Dutch­man

Wel­come to the strange world of Hans Teeuwen. The Dutch co­me­dian – and friend of mur­dered film-maker Theo van Gogh – tells Brian Boyd how he makes sure noth­ing is lost in trans­la­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Comedy -

AHANS TEEUWEN gig is quite an ex­pe­ri­ence. The Dutch co­me­dian, who per­forms in English, di­vides the room like no other. Fifty per cent of an au­di­ence trav­els with him on his sur­real sto­ry­telling jour­ney. The other 50 per cent just look at him blankly, think­ing the whole af­fair is some sort of per­for­mance art hoax.

Quite a star in his na­tive Nether­lands, Teeuwen is also known as an ac­tor, singer and film di­rec­tor. He was al­ways quite con­tent per­form­ing in Dutch un­til 2004, when his close friend, the film-maker Theo van Gogh, was shot dead by aMus­lim ex­trem­ist. He gave up per­form­ing for a while and dur­ing this pe­riod he de­cided he needed a new chal­lenge: per­form­ing in English.

Suc­ces­sive trips to the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val were very well re­ceived (Teeuwen also did a short the­atre run in Lon­don) and he was brought to the at­ten­tion of Ir­ish audiences this year with his de­but per­for­mances at Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs fes­ti­val.

“I faced the same prob­lem at Kilkenny as I did in Ed­in­burgh,” he says. “You tend to get a good few heck­les be­cause peo­ple have no idea what this strange Dutch­man on stage is try­ing to do. I re­ally have to work hard to try to con­vince the au­di­ence that I can ac­tu­ally do this.

“The big prob­lem I have is my sort of hu­mour; I re­ally have to suck them into that ab­sur­dist world. So much of hu­mour is about recog­ni­tion – it’s how com­edy works – that if you don’t recog­nise any­thing in my set you can feel very left out. I do usu­ally man­age to suck some peo­ple in, but then you can get the sit­u­a­tion where half the au­di­ence are laugh­ing and the other half are looking at them won­der­ing what they are laugh­ing for. It can be quite di­vi­sive!”

Teeuwen de­scribes his ma­te­rial as “about 80 per cent ab­surd and sur­real and about 20 cent more about re­al­ity. I find that the more ab­stract stuff is more in­ter­est­ing from an artis­tic point of view. I used to do a lot of au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal stuff back in Am­s­ter­dam, but not so much any­more. Re­li­gion, though, still fea­tures – but I tackle that from quite a dark stand­point.”

Prior to go­ing in­ter­na­tional, Teeuwen had sold half a mil­lion DVDs in the Nether­lands, and he says it found it quite a come­down when he had to start all over again out­side his coun­try.

“My ego re­ally suf­fered. I was used to

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