The city’s flourishing English-language comedy scene gets a stage all its own with its grand opening on Sunday, October 18.
When Noah Telson moved to Berlin from New York City three years ago, he says you could see English-language comedy one night a week. Maybe two.
These days, every night offers a show – sometimes two or three – serving up stand-up, improv or other comedic mayhem in English. And starting this month, there will be a devoted venue: Comedy Café Berlin in Neukölln, which Telson is launching with help from brother-sister duo Dino and Nina Spiri. Slated to open October 18, the spot – formerly a smokey darts bar – will be a café by day and theatre by night.
“It’ll be mostly in English, but we’re billing it as an international alternative comedy stage,” says Telson, noting that he hopes to book shows in German, French, Spanish and Turkish. “The mission is to create a home for local talent and alternative comedy – a space that respects the craft.” (Which means, among other things, proper lighting, sound and seats.)
Telson, who’s a member of improv troupe Good Luck, Barbara and co-hosts the Piffle! podcast with his brother Josh, estimates Berlin has more than 50 English-language stand-up comics and about 20 improvisers. That doesn’t mean he’ll let all of them take the mic. “It’s in my best interest to put up only the highest-quality shows,” he says. “We’re trying to push the scene forward by curating it well.” To further develop comedians’ skills, Comedy Café will also host improv, sketch and stand-up classes. Telson hopes it becomes a stop for bigger-name touring comics, too.
What impact will this have on Berlin’s other comedy nights? “I would love to see those shows continue,” Telson says. “For us, it’s kind of like a farm league: that’s where people go to test their jokes, build their sets, and then we can put them up. There’s plenty to go around.”