Photo by Marta Domínguez
Our incorrigible Brats editor and Amok Mama blogger Jacinta Nandi works both sides of the divide by writing and performing in both English and her heavily Essex-accented Deutsch.
The 32-year-old transplanted herself here from London 12 years ago to spread her comical – and often controversial – views on expat life, feminism, and Germans (and whatever other targets she sets her sights on).
Now a published author with Deutsch werden (in German) and a staple on the German-dominated Lesebühne scene, she expresses herself with a mixture of breathless, childlike energy and naughty, profanity-laced humour.
This month, Nandi will perform in a special all-English Lesebühne, “Wir sind vier Berliner” with Laurel Taylor, Helena Prince and Niti Dhingra on January 8, 20:00 at Theaterkapelle in Friedrichshain.
What is a Lesebühne, actually?
It is… very hard to describe [laughs]. No, it’s just a reading that happens once a week, or once a month. The original, old-school Lesebühne – Surfpoeten, Reformbühne, Chausee de Enthusiasten, etc. – they’re weekly. They’re really fun! I think it’s a Berlin thing. It’s seriously only the funniest, cleverest Germans in the world there. If you watch Germans doing stand-up comedy, you’ll notice it’s really not the format for them. I don’t know why, but it just isn’t. For Germans to be able to write their stuff down on a bit of paper just helps.
How did you get into the Lesebühne scene, as an expat?
I was 22 when I came back to Berlin after finishing up uni around 2002. I was always writing and at one point I did a reading with Lady Gaby and Helena Prince – who will be in “Wir Sind Vier Berliner” – against the Iraq War. We didn’t stop it, unfortunately. But I kept writing and blogging in English. Early on I was trying to be a stand-up comedian and I started to participate in a few English-language Lesebühnen.
By 2008, I promised myself that I’d start writing in German and start going to German poetry slams once a month. Because I just thought I was good enough in German to write something, and not just have it translated. So I just started going once a month to the Bastard Poetry Slam at Festsaal Kreuzberg – not doing poetry, but “vignettes”, as people say.
Then I won my first slam, going on about my itchy Muschi at the first international Kreuzkölln slam. And I won the Bastard slam once and the author Tilman Birr was there. He came up to me afterwards and asked me to do “The Samstag Show”. And after that I got asked to do “Liebe Statt Drogen” – one of the oldest Lesebühnen in Berlin. And after that they just kept asking me to do more and more.
And now your part of the gang at Rackete 2000 and have a new book coming out. What’s coming next?
Well I’ve got to finish my next book. I’ve been working on a book for about a year and in between I wrote this other one, instead of knuckling down and finishing my own. This one, Fish and Chips and Spreewaldgurken, I wrote with a Mitautor, Jakob Hein. He’s a very strict man, and says “Where is your story, write your story, write me another” and he also kept it as a project with a frame on it. And if I hadn’t sent him a story every two weeks I’d write to him, “Jakob, are you sauer auf mich?” And he’d say, “Yes! I am angry like a Teutonic God! With lightning coming out of my eyes!”
And now you’re going back to your native tongue with “Wir Sind Vier Berliner”. What’s behind the title?
It was my idea, and I thought it was really good because JFK said “Ich bin ein Berliner” and it’s incorrect, yeah? He meant to say, “Ich bin Berliner.” And that’s why I thought it would be really funny to say “Wir sind vier Berliner” but… everyone told me its crap. At my Lesebühne I was like, “So I designed the title, I thought it was really good” and they were all like, “No, It’s rubbish.” But yeah, it’s a play on JFK, like he said, he’s a Berliner, and we’re Berliners as well.
Wir Sind Vier Berliner, Jan 8, 20:00 | Theaterkapelle