Comedy from the Middle & East

Sat 2nd – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Alex Woolley

at 00:49 on 16th Aug 2014

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Comedy from the Middle and East, a Free Fringe show, just about fulfils the criteria it sets for itself. Two out of the four performers are sufficiently funny that you’d call their performances comedy. One of the performers comes from the East (Lebanon, specifically), and two others come from the Middle (Germany). There is also an American. In addition, the four also all have a connection to Berlin.

Host Stefan Danziger does a good job of warming up the room. A lot of his jokes, many of them improvised from interaction with the audience, are based around differences between nationalities; this works easily and well, given the multinational audiences that gather in Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe. Thankfully his jokes rely not just on stereotypes, but also a sense of the absurd. His theories about the orders in which Russian, American, and French presidents come are quite brilliant.

From these promising beginnings, Comedy from the Middle and East then deteriorates. The first and second acts are significantly weaker than the host that introduces them. Many of the jokes told by Carmen Chraim – the comedian from Lebanon – fall flat, and she seems prone to flogging jokes that were never particularly alive in the first place. Her interest in the advantages of single and double-tap systems, with combined or separate hot and cold taps, is probably greater than most people’s.

Peter Schueler, the second act of the show, raises a few more laughs than Chraim, and he maintains an impressive level of energy during his performance, but he still comes across as a weak link in Comedy from the Middle and East. Some of his jokes make little sense – he rambles about the resurrection of Michael Jackson at one point – and in these instances it can be hard to work out what he is talking about, let alone where the punchline lies.

The show is rescued from the abyss, however, by Daniel Louis Vezza, the third and final act. He combines solid all-round delivery with interesting social commentary and a couple of pleasingly bizarre situations evoked. I shall never look at a neo-Nazi dwarf in the same way again.

It is worth seeing Stefan Danziger and Daniel Louis Vezza. They could well mature into truly excellent comedians. But their performances are not enough to save Comedy from the Middle and East from being, overall, a little tedious.

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Rob Collins

at 09:36 on 16th Aug 2014

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Over the course of an hour the standard of comedy in Comedy from the Middle and East ranges from the strong to the very weak. The show comprises Stefan Danzinger, born in Berlin (middle) and Carmen Chraim from Lebanon (east) as well as two other comics, although whether these two would remain constant for the shows run was rather unclear. What unites them all is their adopted home of Berlin. What separates them all unfortunately is the varying degree with how well their material went down with the audience.

Danzinger is certainly an affable host and he manages to pick the energy in the room up very quickly with his likeable delivery and some good exchanges with not one, but every single person in the audience. Clearly very comfortable on stage, he makes a good connection with the audience and as such his strong material, (ranging from moving to Soviet Russia as a child to issues such as homophobia) is received well.

Unfortunately Chraim’s set goes down less well. Whilst there is an undeniable, raw energy to her performance as she bursts on to the stage, too often this is unfocused. Her material just doesn’t match up to Danzinger’s and her delivery is too rushed which, given that English is not her first language, at times makes it very difficult to understand what she is saying. This is a shame because there is the start of some interesting material here, including sharp political observations, but sadly with this audience, laughs were few and far between.

The quality of the other two comedians is also fairly uneven. Peter Schueler (also German), suffers from much the same problem as Chraim; his good onstage persona and energy are let down by some weak material. Having said that, he isnn’t helped by a fairly unresponsive audience and I feel with a better crowd he may have been able to find his rhythm more easily.

Finally there is Daniel Louis Vezza from America. His material is probably the most well crafted of the afternoon and his laidback, dead-pan delivery is excellent. Whilst he does not touch so much on the more socio-political topics chosen by the other comedians, (choosing instead to discuss drugs and “shitty neighborhoods”), this by no means cheapens what is some very funny, well written material.

By no means a consistent show, there were definitely laughs shared amongst the comedians, just not very evenly.

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