Do you still feel yourself Russian?

I get this question a lot… simply because I moved to Germany very young…I actually went to the kindergarten and school in Russia… I identify myself as being Russian in Germany, for example, if there is something about Russia in the news, I am going to talk about that. But I must say that I don’t have a lot of Russian friends, I have lots of German friends… no matter how good your German accent is (giggles –ed.), you are still going to be the Russian of the group and responsible for all things Russian. And now in the English comedy scene I am, for sure, the one…people forget my origin sometimes, but if the topic comes up, everybody remembers and points the finger at me!

It is a complete necessity!

Let me introduce to you a killer stand-up comedian, Alex Upatov, Russian-born, Berlin resident, who a couple of years ago decided to do stand up comedy in English. Bellow you will find our interview (between the two Russians), which, by the way, was done in English… more multicoolty than that…. 😉

What brought you to Germany Alex?

I was eight; it was actually not my own decision (laughing –ed.). My family has German roots, my great grandfather was German… life was horrible in Russia, you know, and after 6-7 years of bureaucracy we moved all the way to Northern Saxony, Germany.

Do you still feel yourself Russian?

I get this question a lot… simply because I moved to Germany very young…I actually went to the kindergarten and school in Russia… I identify myself as being Russian in Germany, for example, if there is something about Russia in the news, I am going to talk about that. But I must say that I don’t have a lot of Russian friends, I have lots of German friends… no matter how good your German accent is (giggles –ed.), you are still going to be the Russian of the group and responsible for all things Russian. And now in the English comedy scene I am, for sure, the one…people forget my origin sometimes, but if the topic comes up, everybody remembers and points the finger at me!

Where did u get the passion for stand up comedy?

I’ve always liked comedy, I remember growing up in Russia with a comedy tv-programm called KVN. When I moved to Germany, I had a walkman and two Russian stand up comedy records, I don’t know how it came to be that I had those in the first place (laughing –ed.) I also watched German comedy, I’ve always enjoyed it, but I did not have the urge to do it myself.  When I was 16, I accidently clicked on a clip of George Carlin – a very famous American comedian and was thinking: “How can you can be that direct and honest with an audience?!” My head exploded. That’s when I was hooked.

Did you try to sand up in Saxony?

I tried, but German comedy is not so funny to me. Germans do a lot of impressions, they dress up and like to imitate voices of well-known TV personalities, but they often forget to write jokes in-between….

How come your perform in English?

I think there are lots of reasons…. it’s the same with music, a lot of people in Germany write and sing music in English, it’s because their idols do it in English… I tried to do comedy in German, I even tried it in Berlin…but a) german comedy scene is not so funny: 80% – not funny, only 20% – good, b) German comedy is cold. People don’t talk to each other; after the show everybody goes home. The audiences are much older, 40-50. I am 27 and it is hard for me to connect to a group of 50-year-olds.

Alex3 How is comedy in English different? 

Comedy in English, if you do it for the first time, you don’t even have to be good (laughing –ed.). You do it for the first time and you already have ten friends, people are so warm and supportive. It took me less than 2 months until I got my own weekly show in Berlin. That’s how fast it can go, believe it or not.  It’s a young, vibrating and super exciting scene.  Especially, if you compare it to the German comedy world: old, industrialized, cold…

What is your audience like?

The audience has actually changed a lot, for the first year there were a lot of expats, tourists…all of a sudden, since this summer the audience grew super fast…now more local people keep on coming.

Do you think Germans understand your jokes?

Yes they do. Germans that come to my shows speak good English. There are actually a lot of people that come to the shows because they want to learn English! When you preform, you want your audience to understand your jokes, you try to be as clear as possible and use simple language. You know, there is an old German couple in their 50ies that keeps coming  to the shows…they come, sit in the front raw, they laugh and they admit they come to learn English (giggles –ed.)… I think they are very sweet.

Alex, I’ve seen a couple of your videos…you often make jokes about Russia and you being Russian… Is it perceived well by the audience?

I do it simply because comedy is such a personal thing, if people don’t like stand up comedy, it means they don’t like YOU! I get introduced as being Russia when I am about to get on the stage, and there is a lot of tension when people hear Russia (laughing –ed.). If I address the issue directly and joke about me being Russian, it releases a lot of the tension… Let’s say, it is a complete necessity!!!

Have you ever thought of doing a comedy show in Russian and in Russia?

There are some talks and ideas… a friend of mine performed in Scandinavian countries, he invited me a couple of times because there are many Russians there …I might try to do it, not in Russia but somewhere in Norway…it’s a bit safer (giggles –ed.).

My last question and I let you go and prepare your shows… How do u manage to sustain yourself just being a stand-up comedian? 

(laughing –ed.) I still have a day job, but I am cutting on it slowly and doing more and more comedy…


You can follow Alex Upatov  on Facebook and YouTube


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