Review: Henning Wehn
Venue: Cheltenham Town Hall - 14th April 2019
This was definitely a night of contrasts as Henning Wehn is undoubtedly a very funny and very talented comedian, but I have to say the second half of the show did veer into ‘troubling’ a little too much. A lot of Henning’s humour is based on nationality, which is perfectly fine if you are making a joke about either yourself, so in his case the Germans, or your audience, so British. And in Cheltenham’s case, VERY British. But when you start making jokes about other nationalities which aren’t there you have to be very careful as it easily crosses that boundary where all of a sudden he sounds like a 2019 German version of 1980s Jim Davidson.
Questions like ‘who would you rather move into the house next door to you, a Turk or a Brit? A Brit obviously’ are way over the line. if you change ‘Turk’ to ‘black’ then the tone gets a lot darker. He then tried asking members of the audience the question, which elicited an embarrassed silence each time, with each person saying ‘Turk’, until one lady said ‘you want us to say Brit’, and Henning jumped on it with ‘of course you want a Brit’.
Another time a joke based on race fell so flat there was complete silence, with Henning saying ‘well if you didn’t like that you’re really not going to like the next line’.
Another time the punchline was a joke about Jews being good with money which was so far back into the 1970s I’m surprised Henning wasn’t wearing flares.
Giving some benefit of the doubt, I think the point of the ‘Turk as a neighbour’ thing was to emphasise that people naturally want to be surrounded by people like them. But I’m not sure that’s entirely true, and the delivery was so wide of the mark it just sounded a bit nasty. Images of Nat King Cole at the height of his success being told he couldn’t live in a nice neighbourhood because it was for whites were brought immediately to mind.
When he wasn’t skirting close to the edge on race he is genuinely very funny, but by the following day I can’t shake off the discomfort of some of those jokes where the humour element seemed to be lost a little and the whole point of it was about one race or nationality being inferior to another. I laughed a lot more than with many other comedians but the racial element missed the humour-mark so often that I can’t help feeling a little put-off by it.