This post doesn't directly address improv performance, improv in Santa Barbara, nor improv techniques. This is more along the lines of my post on Soviet Era humor. I see these as examples of how humor is a common component of the human condition, no matter how horrific or oppressed that condition may be. This post will discuss humor under the Nazis, and if this sounds like too uncomfortable a topic, I understand and would recommend you exit this post now. A new book is being published in Germany that looks at humor under the Nazis. The book is in German, but there is an English review at the Speigel website.The title translates as Heil Hitler, The Pig is Dead. The Speigel review quotes a lot of jokes:
Hitler visits a lunatic asylum. The patients give the Hitler salute. As he passes down the line he comes across a man who isn't saluting. "Why aren't you saluting like the others?" Hitler barks. "Mein Fï¿½hrer, I'm the nurse," comes the answer. "I'm not crazy!"
The book reports that this joke was told openly in the early years of the Third Reich. As with the Soviet era humor, the images are very dark, and in some cases a joke could lead to a death sentence:
Hitler and Gï¿½ring are standing on top of Berlin's radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to cheer up the people of Berlin. "Why don't you just jump?" suggests Gï¿½ring.
The German worker telling this joke was convicted of undermining the war effort and executed in the final years of the Third Reich.
The article gives examples of how jokes changed over the war years, and even discusses the gallows humor of the Jews. Jokes provided a pressure release, and from the safety of our current perspective, they give an insight into the common concerns, frustrations, and fear of the general population. This one was told as the allies were closing in, and the bombing was wiping out German cities:
"What will you do after the war?" "I'll finally go on a holiday and will take a trip round Greater Germany!" "And what will you do in the afternoon?"
Personally, I find it hard to read some of the jokes, even though I generally find this type humor interesting and powerful. The pain behind each situation is really close to the surface and is hard for me to keep distant. And, I've only read the few jokes that were translated for the review. But, I think there is a lot to learn from this book, and when it is translated to English, I'll read it.