Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen comes to Cambridge
Pushing the boundaries
He’s fantastically popular in his home country of the Netherlands and with fellow comedians – Stewart Lee called him “one of the greatest stand-ups ever”.
But Hans Teeuwen is not a household name in the UK. The 49-year-old has not toured here for six years but is about to change that with his new show, Real Rancour.
The tour started with a sold-out five-date run at the Soho Theatre in Leicester Square, London, proving that Teeuwen’s fans are keen to catch his live act and see him in full flow, spreading his humour and his passion for free speech.
It was the murder of his friend, film director Theo van Gogh, by Dutch–Moroccan radical Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004 which arguably intensified his passion.
He didn’t start performing in English until 2007, but has since gone on to play the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as the Kilkenny, Leicester, Glasgow and Brighton comedy festivals. He also scooped a Chortle Award in 2008.
His shows are not for everyone – the topics and the comedy can be controversial, something that has become a calling card for Teeuwen.
“Every now and then we have some walk-outs, but that happens when people don’t know who they’re going to see or what kind of comedy they can expect,” he explains.
“I say so many things that if you don’t get the irony of it, it could strike you as offensive. It could also just be that my type of humour doesn’t appeal to them. Maybe they’re waiting for a punchline that will never come. It could be for several reasons.”
The show covers a lot of topics: “I talk about myself, I talk about having a kid, I talk about my mother, I talk about skin colour, I talk about playing in a band at bar mitzvahs, I talk about fear of dying, I talk about Islam, I talk about putting little birds in your mouth... The list goes on and on.”
I always thought that Dutch humour was quite different to British humour, though both nations appear to share a love for satire and the wildly absurd.
“I’m not sure if there’s that much difference anymore between Dutch humour and English humour,” said Teeuwen, “nor that my humour would be particularly Dutch because I’m influenced just as much by British or American culture as I am by Dutch culture.
“This show, I would say, is 70 per cent a translation of the show I’ve been touring with in the Netherlands for the past six months and then the rest is adapted for the UK – and also uses old Dutch material that I’ve done before.”
It has been said that the Netherlands is less politically correct than the UK, something for which the proudly outspoken Teeuwen can surely take some of the credit.
“Well, I can’t take credit for that – I’d love to... Oh, whatever, I will take credit for it!
“Theo van Gogh was a fierce advocate for free speech and his murder, horrible as it was, did push the discussion about free speech and religious intolerance further ahead – as did the murder of (Dutch anti-immigration politician) Pim Fortuyn.
“I think those two murders – and also the mentality that we’re not really good with authority, the Dutch. We don’t like to look up to people and we don’t accept taboos when they’re being implemented from above. We do have a history of being very direct and we don’t mince words.
“The Dutch would have a big problem with a taboo that we didn’t choose ourselves. We don’t like people telling us not to talk about things.”
Although his comedy may shock some people, Teeuwen insists that there’s nothing malicious about his act.
“The ultimate goal is not hurting people’s feelings or insulting or humiliating people,” he says. “It’s to create an atmosphere where there’s an exchange of ideas that’s completely free, and in my comedy I want to include everyone in the fun. But some people can’t take it – it’s just a bit too much for them.”
Teeuwen’s tour will visit seven cities throughout October before returning to the capital for another, longer stint in November. He visits Cambridge on Thursday, performing at The Junction from 8pm. Tickets £20.50.