My name is George Schorschi. I come from Arizona, USA and have lived around Germany for about 6 years. I have the piercing blue eyes of a snow dragon and the blond hair of a 1940’s German propaganda poster. When I’m not performing or producing comedy, I enjoy running, Project Management, ABC accounting, and complaining about how “Game of Thrones” isn’t as good as the books.
What brings you to Germany?
I moved to Germany as a student. Part of it was because of a girl (bad idea), but I really wanted to try something new. I had studied German Language and Culture (as well as Theatre and later International Business Management), plus my mother had lived in Germany for some time as well. There was just something about being here that I liked- a mixture of old and new, the past and the present, it was just everywhere. I enrolled in a school and started living in Berlin.
Who or what would you say influences your comedy style?
Patton Oswalt has a bit where he describes the comedians of the past 10 years or so as the “Comedy Connoisseurs”. Basically, he talks about how people who respect it as an art form make the best comedy. I think that’s very true- there was a time when pointing out universal annoyances was funny enough (“what’s the deal with airline food?!”), but now it’s old hat. These days the only original comedy comes from personal struggles or experiences- writing jokes is one thing, but when you go onstage and put your own brand on it? That’s how you stay original and fresh.
I very much enjoy Oswalt’s work, as well as Tina Fey, David Cross, John Mulaney, and Greg Proops. Oh- and my favorite podcast, hands down, has to be “How Did This Get Made?”
Have you always wanted to become a comedian?
Ha! Yes and no.
At first I had a hard time thinking of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just couldn’t decide! So I figured, “what’s the one job where you can do every job?” and chose acting. While I was studying Theatre the thing I noticed was just how cut throat and unfriendly it could be- lots of drama in the drama department. So I started performing improv comedy with National Comedy Theatre Phoenix as a founding member. The difference was incredible- there was so much support there! It really felt like a second family. I still perform with them any chance I can get.
After I moved to Germany I really started to feel lost. I hadn’t performed in some time and truly missed it. While living in Berlin I joined ComedySportz Berlin and even taught improv with them, but there was still something missing. That’s when I found out about the English comedy scene in Berlin. I’d never done standup before and was nervous, but I found a lot of support from the other comedians. Some of them were also just starting out, so there was a real brotherhood there. After that I just kept performing while studying and working- it took a lot of sacrifice, but I did it because I felt I had to.
Have you ever just blanked on stage? What happened?
Having done improv for 12 years, I’ve never had any horror story of just forgetting my set. From time to time something will happen to distract me and I get a little off track, but for the most part I’m able to play off it and keep focus.
However, I DO have a horror story of an audition in the beginning of my career. I started my monologue and then just… forgot it. It was gone. I sincerely don’t know how that happened, it just disappeared from my brain! Thankfully this was for a school show and the director was also an instructor. He saw my panic and started getting me back into character. Once that happened, the monologue just came back and I finished the audition. I didn’t get the part, of course!
Did your family friends try to talk you out of becoming a comedian?
No. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. I don’t think anyone’s ever told me that they didn’t think I could be funny for money.
However, one of my projects now is to produce an English comedy circuit in and around Germany. Here I have met some resistance. When I first suggested it as an idea years ago, I was told that it couldn’t be done. Some people had contacts in various cities but no one thought it would be worthwhile to go out for just one show. They weren’t wrong; that’s where the idea for a circuit came to fruition. It was a lot of hard work and stress organizing travel and coordinating schedules. Even as recent as last year I’ve been told that I should quit what I’m doing and start performing in German, it would never work. Now I produce regular sold out shows for over 500 people in Frankfurt, Essen, Dusseldorf, Heidelberg, Cologne, and Karlsruhe. We just finished the second season and I’m looking for more cities now!
How important is the knowledge of the German language? Do you perform in German?
Anyone living in Germany should learn German. That’s just courtesy.
You miss out on a lot if you don’t speak the local language and I find it a bit rude that some people make the excuse “they all speak English anyway”. You’re in a country which has (in theory) welcomed you – you can make the effort to learn German. It’s the polite thing to do.
Of course that doesn’t stop me from making fun of Germans!
I am a bit of a snob when it comes to performing in German, though. A lot of people will say that the best cuisine is from France or the best ballet is from Russia or the best opera is from Italy. To me stand-up and other forms of comedy are an art form, just like cuisine or ballet or opera. You can do it in other languages but English is just made for it- frankly, the flexibility of the language opens up so, so much more than German can ever hope to achieve in my eyes.
How do you manage to sustain yourself just by being a stand up comedian? 😉
I think for the most part comedians have “day jobs” while they are starting out. My day jobs have varied but I’ve been a financial assistant and a project manager. To me, performing and producing comedy isn’t just a passion, it’s also a project. My experience as a comedian has also been very helpful in this area as well.
I also have taken it upon myself to try and bring English comedy to a lot of places in Germany and the surrounding areas. This isn’t just me, by the way- it’s a mix of comedians from around the world, each with their own personal style and flavor. There’s a lot of expats and immigrants who share English as a common language and need a laugh. Right now on my blog there’s a link to join a mailing list for my tour- it’s my hope that if enough people from a city join, I can start a regular night there/teach improv. So tell your friends haha!
How important is the concept of nationality/national identity for a stand up comedian?
It depends. In my opinion, a person’s nationality has a huge impact on the way they see the world. After all, spending your formative years in a certain environment will definitely have an impact on who you present yourself to be. But that’s not to say that “all American comedians are like this” or “all German comedians are like that”. There’s different varieties within each national identity that while there may be a common thread connecting two persons from the same nationality, there could also be quite a few differences as well.
The biggest factor here is how that nationality/national identity is presented on stage. My character is an exaggeration of a US persona, among other personas.
Ask yourself a question and then answer it?
How can we find out more about your shows/classes?
My blog has the option for a mailing list, but you can of course follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and my blog. Subscribing to my events on Facebook is one of the fastest and easiest ways to be kept in the loop.
What types of crowds are the best/worst to perform for?
I really view comedy as an art form and think that people attending a show should respect it. There are some shows where it is perfectly welcome to heckle a comedian, and there are others where a comedian wants a fully attentive audience. But to me, the only requirement I have of my audience is that they respect the art form. Bad audiences are ones where someone drunkenly yells at the stage or texts on their phone, things like that. Good audiences are the ones where they realize they have paid good money for a show and are ready to laugh.
Are there topics that you try to avoid in your shows? …topics that are too raw or too recent for comedy?
This is something which comes up a lot amongst comedians. Is there such a thing as too soon or off-limits? Things you just can’t joke about?
Personally I think it really depends on the room. I wrote an article on my blog where I explained the conflict I felt as both a producer and a performer. I don’t like censoring people but will admit that sometimes a joke isn’t appropriate. The best thing you can do is feel the room and decide if a joke would work. If you try something and it bombs, you can’t get made at the audience. Just review what you did and decide if you think it needs work or it just isn’t funny.
Photo credits: Carla Crawley