A SECRET OPTIMIST

Photo: Drew Portnoy

Text: Sophie Jüterbock

Comedy is hard work. It is even more so in a different language. DREW PORTNOY is doing both. He was born and raised in America, but the comedian has chosen Germany as his main stage. And when you are an American in Germany you are bound to have adventures… 


DREW PORTNOY wasn’t planning on becoming a comedian. He was working as a journalist first and his job brought him to Germany and in the end to Berlin. But getting stuck in Berlin needn’t be a bad thing. DREW PORTNOY found his wife here, who is German, and together they have two kids. When I ask him where he feels at home, America or Germany, he says “With my family. I used to love traveling and even hotel rooms, but now I just want to be home. That’s why it’s great when my family can join when I go on tour.” Home really is where the heart is. It’s not cheesy, just true.

What actually brought DREW to comedy was his wife’s first pregnancy. Being confronted with all these strange birth related words in German made him think. Germans take words like “Mutterkuchen” (placenta) for granted, but to a foreigner the strange relation between mother and cake is not quite so obvious. So in his shows he likes to talk about language, intercultural bits and bobs and also about what his kids are up to. “Because every comedian loves talking about their kids.”

Germans are weird, DREW PORTNOY is convinced. Maybe they are. At least they are horribly pedantic. Really. Who else would go up to a comedian after the show and kindly explain the grammar mistakes he made? No joke. It might just mean that Germans care about their language a lot. Or they want to help poor foreigners with the intricacies of the language. Or it might also be that English speaking citizens prioritize communication and not correctness…

DREW tells me of another incident where he was waiting in a doctor’s waiting room and another patient joined him. DREW desperately tried to make conversation, being the American he is, but all attempts failed. In the end the man just said: “I don’t want to talk.” Well, that was awkward. But why do Germans not want to talk? Maybe for the same reasons they didn’t laugh in one of Drew’s comedy shows. “We didn’t want to distract you.” How kind!
The best thing about being a comedian for DREW is that you can turn everything into something positive. Even when you have something frustrating happening to you, you can analyze it and turn it into a joke or funny anecdote. “It’s like telling your best friend about an injustice. They will support you and be on your side. That’s what I hope to get from the audience. It’s a great feeling when so many people are with you.” I ask whether this thinking has made him more optimistic. But DREW has to admit that he already is a secret optimist. And that is probably necessary in Germany, where people don’t want to talk, but are always up for correcting your grammar mistakes.

If you want to listen to one or two of DREW PORTNOY’s intercultural stories, you can do so. For example on his website, where he is uploading podcasts about German comedy and comedians. If you prefer face-to-face encounters you’ll be happy to hear that DREW has some shows coming up in Berlin (see below). If you happen to be around, maybe you can do him a favour and laugh and clap. He won’t be distracted. Promise!




Drew Portnoy's next shows:

Sat, 19th April Vetomat, Friedrichshain
Wed, 23rd April Stand Up Ma Thilde, in Ma Thilda, Neukölln
Thu, 24th April Mad Haus, Brunnen 70, Mitte



DREW PORTNOY on SoundCloud

DREW PORTNOY on YouTube





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