Example: What does a Manta driver say to a tree after a crash? – "Why didn't you get out of my way, I used the horn!"
Hmmm. There was an article in the Telegraph recently claiming that an official poll has found that Germany is the least funny nation in the world. I can bloody believe it. We have recently been force-fed adverts in the cinema while waiting to see The Revenant and The Assassin but all the ads are for German products, Volkswagens and Bosch fridges. There is no wit or nuance in the adverts; in one someone sends a Golf to crash into some barrels of explosive but the car is equipped with anti-shunt technology and stops just short of the explosive which fails to go off. Tee-hee.
I have had to hunt the web to find an example of a funny German joke and come up with this: The United Nations initiated a poll with the request, ‘Please tell us your honest opinion about the lack of food in the rest of the world.’ The poll was a total failure. The Russians did not understand ‘Please’. The Italians did not know the word ’honest’. The Chinese did not know what an ’opinion’ was. The Europeans did not know ‘lack’, while the Africans did not know ‘food’. Finally, the Americans didn't know anything about the ‘rest of the world’. It’s not bad, actually.
In a lengthy piece elsewhere, the comedian Stewart Lee claims it is all in the linguistics. He says, ’The German phenomenon of compound words also serves to confound the English sense of humour. In English there are many words that have double or even triple meanings, and whole sitcom plot structures have been built on the confusion that arises from deploying these words at choice moments. Once again, German denies us this easy option. There is less room for doubt in German because of the language's infinitely extendable compound words. In English we surround a noun with adjectives to try to clarify it. In German, they merely bolt more words on to an existing word. Thus a federal constitutional court, which in English exists as three weak fragments, becomes Bundesverfassungsgericht, a vast impregnable structure that is difficult to penetrate linguistically. The German language provides fully functional clarity. English humour thrives on confusion’.
He goes on to claim that there is a tradition of clowning and nuanced cabaret which Germans find amusing and even if other nationalities don’t get it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that they lack humour. In another web piece [I have been doing my research!] the comedy series Fawlty Towers is claimed to have been successfully re-cast and translated into German and that even the ‘Hitler’ episode was popular. Nuanced cabaret? Could be.
I wondered if German humour was different before the 2nd World War; so much humour is Jewish in origin but now that they have got rid of the Jews, all they have left are their Teutonic VW Golf adverts. However I found this on a German website:
Three priests hold a meeting to discuss where life begins. The evangelical priest says, ‘No question about it, life begins when the child is born.’ ‘No, no,’ says the Catholic priest, ‘it all starts when the sperm meets the egg.’ ‘You're both wrong,’ says the Rabbi. ‘Life begins when the children have left home and the dog is dead.’