Tag: berlin

Dire Straits

 Okay, this post is about my less-than-fortunate living situation here, but I am fully aware that I am in a position of  privilege as a white middle-class person with a British passport and a good university degree. Please, as you read it, play the song below, a song which is not by the band, Dire Straits, but by a different band called Pulp, Common People, to keep my words in perspective.

Once again, I am homeless and extremely jobless, which is actually the most authentic way to experience Berlin so that’s good, isn’t it?

Basically, in Germany you need to register with the municipal council (Buergeramt) in order to get an official address, a tax number, and get a proper contracted job. I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been subletting all this time, because I’m too poor to get a proper place, so I’ve also had to get jobs that are cash in hand or based in the UK, which means I stay poor, so I can’t get a flat … etc. It’s frustrating, and not uncommon, and going from place to place has made this year very bizarre.

There was my friend Rafael’s place, a charming flat near Treptower Park with classic hipster pallet-shelves. I electrocuted myself in this flat! Definitely my favourite of the year.
Then there was the flat I sublet from a friend I met on Tinder. His apartment was a 2.5 room place where most of the kitchen was a shower. (Gross, but very good if you want to eat a hot lunch immediately after washing.) The flat also had many digital canvas prints, apparently of early 2000s Windows desktop backgrounds.
Then, there was the place I shared with up to 200 DJs. (Only one on the lease but he kept loaning his room out to other strange young men I wouldn’t even know were there until I bumped into them in the kitchen at 1am.) I was going to stay there till spring but then the boiler broke and the toilet broke and the gas was shut off because the stove broke and then I was told to the best way to get the landlord to fix everything was to move out immediately. That was just before my trip to Edinburgh, so I’ve now found a floor to sublet for this month while I try and scrape some money together and get somewhere permanent.

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I’m now quite used to scraping money together by whatever means I can. Over the last seven months, I have scrubbed floors and toilets, proofread dissertations, and took a background role in a porn film. (Me and a friend had to walk past a couple on the stairs and *react*. We’re both English so basically we just giggled nervously at the floor.) Most of my income has come from a couple of freelance jobs I picked up as a tour manager for youth choirs, amounting to about €1,200. A lot of the time it’s been very difficult, I’ve struggled, and I really didn’t know what the phrase “living hand to mouth” meant until this year. (But in fairness, it is a bit of a weird phrase.)
When I came back from Scotland to find myself back to square one, realised that I wouldn’t even be able to host my own brother and sister-in-law, who’ve been planning to come and stay with me since May, honestly – I felt truly ashamed.

[Feel free to start playing Common People again at this point.]

But I am, let’s not forget, incredibly incredibly lucky! This year has been really really tough at times, but it’s also been brilliant – when I appealed to my friends, looking for somewhere for Ben and Sasha to stay, so many people got in touch to offer beds, both for them and for me if I needed one. People offered to cook for me. People offered me airbeds even if they have some foot-blood stains on them. Although I am homeless, this city is really starting to feel like home, with the ace network of people I have here.

This year, somehow(!!!) I’ve even made money as a stand-up comedian, something I’d never have expected. The original motivation behind founding SAUCE, my own open mic night, was just to make ends meet and truly it’s one of the best things I have ever done. (Please don’t mistake this as an endorsement of the dangerous + hackneyed old idea that “you gotta be poor to make art! You gotta be hungry!”. It is rare to be able to make literally any money from stand-up this early in the game – I just live in Berlin where the scene is still small and pretty cheap. Being poor does not help me make art, it makes me sad and it makes me tired.) Making money from what I do, from what I love, is such a joy, such a boost to my confidence, a real f***-you to my imposter syndrome: I need the money to live, but it also reminds me that my voice, my creative output, has value. It’s crucial. If there’s something you love that you get for free, think about if there’s some way of sponsoring or supporting it – if it’s an artist, see if they have a Patreon or a PayPal or some way of contributing, it is so essential.

I guess what I’m saying is, pay artists always, and life is very very strange. I didn’t expect to be living like this at 26, or even this late into this year, because I sort of figured it would have worked itself out by now. But I also didn’t expect myself to move to Germany, start doing stand-up, and start my own show, so really, I shouldn’t underestimate myself, and anything is possible, and uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh reach for the stars I guess

WITCH HUNT! (Not that one)

Ah, oh, what a fab night!

After the Four Eyes storytelling night I performed at on Wednesday, I also went up at yet another lovely and great show hosted by Marne Litfin last night, WITCH HUNT. The line-up was entirely women, trans and non-binary performers, with some of my absolute favourite Berlin comedians on the Comedy Café Berlin stage. (CCB is so great and I really should watch and/or perform stuff there more often – the vibe there is so warm, so friendly, and you get shows there that are so much more quirky and original than in a lot of the traditional stand-up shows in town.)

Performing as part of an entirely w/t/nb line-up felt especially significant this week, given recent news of people who think it’s okay to make their colleagues watch them do a wank returning to the stage like that’s also just fine, naming no names. And it was so brilliant to see so many incredibly talented people get up onstage and just completely kill.

witch_hunt
found some witches

I changed around a bit of my material and put together a set I was worried would be a bit too rough but it actually went down really well! Put in tonnes of energy, played up my nervous/dorky/dweeby side, and felt the same kind of rush I did when guest-hosting Free Footlights or performing at Four Eyes the other day. When I’ve got people laughing at my most vulnerable side, it just feels incredible!

So I’d give myself maybe a 7/10 for that show (with 10 being the perfect set ever) but a 3/10 for sulking for a bit once it was over, since I ran out of time to do an extra bit I wanted to try. (It was taking the piss out of “female comedy” and it included a ***grammar joke*** that only I will probably ever like but still). This week is going to be mega intense as I am both jobless and quite homeless at the minute, so I have a lot of applications to do – but I really want to be writing new jokes every day, like I was when I was last in a full-time job. INTENSE INTENSE INTENSE ALL THE TIME INTENSE. But will also write a couple more blog posts because according to Statistics, some of you are reading them? Nice!!!!

i had one coffee okay

 

love you bye !!!

 

Lizard Man

Lizard Man

I hardly slept last night because everything was too funny. Yes, everything.

Okay so to begin with, I need to tell you about my first ever stand-up gig in Berlin. I’d been here a week and got sick in record time. I woke up the morning of the gig and tried to yawn and some kind of hoarse ancestral howl came out instead. “Oh!” I thought. “Well, as long as I don’t have to say any audible words during my stand-up set, we’ll be fine.”

My solution was to cobble together a really high-energy routine and undercut it by wearing a bathrobe and coughing a lot, and then just hope that the steady and unwavering stream of snot making its way down my face wouldn’t affect my stage presence too much. You know: comedy.

Once I staggered to the venue it was clear that it was not at all the right crowd. They were chatty and sarky and it occurred to me to be very terrified. I backtracked from the original idea, got up on stage, and realised that this now meant that I had nothing prepared. But was still wearing the bathrobe with a box of tissues stuffed into the pocket because obviously that part was rock solid.

Of course, I bombed. In a bathrobe. I somehow sounded both way too sick and not sick enough, I was all over the place, I popped weird German painkillers onstage.

 

DSC_0487.jpg
this is actually how i went onstage

After the show, I was chatting to some of the other acts, who were being quite sweet about how terribly I’d done. A young bloke came up to me and said “I really enjoyed your set – it was – you know, there was something very poetic about it…”

He was quite charming, very talkative. As he spoke, I was running the numbers: he was in his twenties, I guess quite attractive, I was obviously gross and sick, but then it was a very dark room…

Then I came back to the conversation and heard him say: “So, I’m still somewhat sceptical, I’m still reading about the lizard people theory; in my view, perhaps Donald Trump isn’t a lizard man in a skin suit per se, but certainly a snake or an insect person…”

Ah.

So that gig was pretty much a total failure, (or not quite – I did get friended by Lizard Man on Facebook) but it was as good a way as any to get my start on stage here. I didn’t take it too much to heart – that was a month ago now and I’ve done many more successful gigs since then, in a newly-created character of a healthy person.

Last night, I was up at Monday Night Mics, my tenth gig in Berlin. Someone from university I hadn’t seen in years came along, which was a little surreal, but really lovely. (Shout out to Chris!)

I go up and do my act, effectively, lot of stories about dating, my rubbish taste in men, and my Berlin romances so far, of which there have been, surprisingly, any!

Partway through my set, a guy walks in. It’s dark but it looks like a guy I’ve been seeing here. “Ah, that’s sweet of him,” I think. He goes and sits down at the back as I finish my set with a joke about that weird lizard man guy I met after my first gig here. Pleased with how I’ve done, I bound towards the back of the room and it’s only when I’m a step from my seat that I realise that this wasn’t my guy, but Lizard Man himself.

“Oh, God!” I announce to no one.

Lizard Man is already coming up to me, greeting me, and I can’t tell if his tone is angry or amused or reptilian.

But he smiles and says, “You can use me in your comedy anytime.”

Phew!

“…It’s actually really good that you’re giving this theory more exposure…”

Ah.

Soon I’m trapped in his own private discussion of the merits of comedy for spreading conspiracy theories, which he is going into with a Quentin Tarantino-style intensity while Chris has uselessly gone off to bum cigarettes from strangers.

I eventually extract myself and run to the toilets, where I text Chris “Omg please save me from lizard man”. This is a request that he either doesn’t see or interprets somewhat creatively, as when I come back from the bathroom, the two of them – Chris from my year at university, and Lizard Man – are playing table football together.

You know: comedy.

Girl, Unsupervised

(Obviously I was going to title this post A Broad Abroad for those of you who love puns but then I realised that there were inevitably going to be like 4,000 blogs called that and because I am writing this in an extremely trendy coffee place I didn’t want passing Berliners to see that title and be like “pfft, so derivative” and then like flip their hair at me)

Two days ago, journalist Deniz Yücel was allowed to return to Germany after having been detained in Turkey for a year, enduring solitary confinement and conditions which he described as “almost like torture”.

This story struck me as particularly timely, bringing to light as it does the value of a free press and international diplomacy, but it also resonated with me on a more personal level: to this date, I have spent three and a half days living alone, without WiFi.

I know. I know

I’m currently staying in a flat in Treptow that belongs to my dear friend, and principal go-on-then-move-to-Berlin cheerleader, Rafael, while he is away. It’s a very sweet little place, it has a door, I can put things in it – I feel like a real person, with a real Berlin apartment!

Now, you’re probably thinking, “but Josie, if it doesn’t have WiFi, how are you writing this, or are even still alive and not dying of eating some weird poisonous herbs like that guy in Into The Wild?” And the answer is: yes.

I did consider dying of eating some weird poisonous herbs, because I thought it would just make a really cool and great story, until I remembered that it had already been done by that guy in Into The Wild, so I just left the house instead. (I am writing this from Wolf Kino, a cool cinema that Rafael recommended, and wrote down the name of, on a piece of paper. Just like in the past!)

In fact, it hasn’t been too bad, thank you for asking. I’m quite comfortable with my own company, and you know, being a little bit isolated has a lot of perks. I can take baths with the door open, can get up in the middle of the night to make tea, and I have all the time in the world to think about things like Amy Schumer’s surprise wedding, and who knew about Amy Schumer’s surprise wedding, and whether I would have been invited to Amy Schumer’s surprise wedding, if I were friends with Amy Schumer.

I’d forgotten how as soon as I am on my own I become a massive hypochondriac, but it is much, much less satisfying to be a hypochondriac if you can’t Google your symptoms. You just have to assume you will probably die in the night, and although that sounds bleak, it really gives you a boost in the morning. (Yes! I beat imaginary diphtheria! Twice!!)

Something about living alone also always leads me to try and cut my own hair, because dammit, if both Franka Potente AND Julia Stiles could do it in the Bourne films, why can’t I? (It is this uncanny ability to distinguish between reality and fiction that has allowed me to make a series of well-thought-out life choices.)

waaargh
I don’t have a photo of Franka Potente but this is me the first time I cut my hair, with blunt scissors, in the dark. And also it was halloween, come on you guys obviously i didn’t walk around like this the whole time i am clearly dressed up as an essay crisis

Anyway, I’m taking a secret sort of pleasure in it for now. It makes me feel like everything I do is a little more romantic. Especially Tinder. It really adds suspense and drama when you can only steal fleeting moments on the IM when you’re in a coffee shop, or, as I frequently am, at the underground budget supermarket across the road. Truly, there is nothing sweeter than skulking around the canned soup aisle, trying to flirt with someone in GCSE-level German. (It did work though. We play tennis on the weekend, after I go to the park with my girlfriends.)

Also if anyone has any insight on this Amy Schumer wedding business please let me know in the comments. Thanks!