It's comedy Jim but not as we know it

Friday evening, I went to watch an evening of English-speaking comedy at the ArenbergSchouwBurg (easy for me to type) Theatre in Antwerp. It was to be as part of the "10 days of comedy" festival in Antwerp (

As is per usual with events organised by David Lemkin's “Standup World”, the standard was very high. There was a good turnout with I would estimate around 300 people at the show. The thing is though, the audience was predominantly Flemish which makes for a rather strange atmosphere at an English speaking comedy night.

Let me explain:

Now I’m not going to have a go at the Flemish and their linguistic abilities – indeed as a man that manages miserably enough to deal with his mother tongue of English, I am going to be the last one to have a pop at the Flemish.

In fact, can I state for the record, that I bow down in reverence at their ability to speak three, four or more languages with the ease that I change hats (if I were to own more than the one tatty Liverpool FC cap that is).
These ‘Flemmings’, or whatever they’re called, must rank as one of the most linguistic competent races on the planet. The fact that an English speaking comedy night could even be thought of being a success only goes to prove this.

Although yet, in spite of everything, I feel strangely compulsed to have a pop. I suppose I have the title of the blog to live up to – I mean what would this blog be, if I didn’t have just a wee pop every now and again?

You see the thing is – British and Irish comedy, is amongst the finest in the world. We all know that. It’s not bragging, arrogance, or even big-headedness, it’s just a pure statement of fact. Perhaps it’s something to do with the island mentality but nobody takes the piss out of us better than ourselves.

Granted, every now and then, the Americans will pull a TV show of great comic brilliance out of their ‘ass’ but for every Simpsons and Friends, there is a dozen “Top of the Class” re-hashes lurking in the shadows.

The whole emphasis of the "10 days of comedy" festival was on Flemish and Dutch comedians, save for the brilliant award-winning Nigel Williams, an English-born comedian who is fluent in Flemish and regularly performs in the language.

However, Friday night was billed as a “very British night” so the audience must have been prepared for a certain amount of piss taking.

Not this audience - it seemed nobody wanted to join in.

Comedians were asking questions but getting no answers back from the majority of the audience.
Thankfully there was a Canadian airline magazine employee sat on the front row who got the brunt of it.
There were a sprinkling of English and Irish in the audience but I think we were too few to have any impact.

Flemish audiences are very well behaved. They like to concentrate and listen to the jokes and it seems that their attitude is “I’ve paid to be entertained, not to be part of the entertainment” a subtle difference to the “Waaaaaaagggghghhhhh let’s get shitfaced and heckle the poor sod up on the stage” attitude that perhaps prevails too often back home.

But something in between would have been nice!

Don’t get me wrong – it was a good night and I’m sure everyone enjoyed themselves - the comedians just had to adjust their acts a bit to accommodate the - at times - cringingly quiet audience.

OK – I’ll get off me soapbox now.