Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Laughter through Tears? Germance, Greek Yogurt, and Euro Crisis Humor

by Reneé Gordon Holley

Germance – “When two people stay together for their kids” (Seth Meyers, on the television sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live)

Greece faces defaulting on its loans and being kicked out of the Eurozone. Her prime minister, George Papandreou, resigned in November as a last ditch effort to encourage the Greek government to agree to the EU and IMF austerity measures, preventing the imminent collapse of one of Europe’s most troubled economies. To make matters worse, Italy received further financial scrutiny as national bond rates rose to over seven percent. To help calm the political and economic uproar over Italy’s books, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed to step down.

Amid the constant deluge of bad news flowing from Europe, some have placed a lighter spin on EU matters. World markets have been fluctuating for weeks, as bail-out talks, led by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, have only added to the fiscal uncertainty while many nations attempt to escape a nearly-three year long recession. Concurrently, however, fans of late night comedy and witty radio talk shows have been rolling in their seats.

Below is just a sample of the hilarity ensuing from Europe’s recent fiscal misfortunes:

As a musicologist, I enjoy any musical connection made between my field and the European Union. Those moments when the two align are often examples of supreme musical ingenuity. Well, maybe not supreme musical ingenuity, but they are often good for a laugh or two. Take NPR’s recent “Planet Money” report as an example; NPR writers have condensed France and Germany’s “centuries-old love story,” plus the creation of the European Union and recent debt crisis, into a catchy, seven-minute long “three-penny opera” song. Listen here for the news story that features this musical interpretation of the Germany-France romance (Germance). You can also listen to just the song here.

Comedy Central has also given decent air time to the European debt crisis over the past several weeks. Take Stephen Colbert’s summarization of the European crisis, including the proposed fiscal strategy of asking China to invest in Europe. At the end of the segment, if you aren’t convinced that investing in Europe is a good idea, perhaps the German Directorate General of Finance, the Honorable Hans Beinholtz, will persuade you to take on Europe’s debt, or at the very least to take Greece off of Europe’s hands.

The Colbert Report

It would seem unfair if Comedy Central and NPR were left to have all the fun at Europe’s expense. On the November 6th airing of Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers presented Europe’s troubles during the “Weekend Update” news report. After pointing out Greece’s economic flaws, which are closely linked to the soluble economies of Greek yogurt and doctors’ office paintings, Meyers romanticizes about the Sarkozy – Merkel partnership in figuring out this European crisis. As Meyers said, “I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I like that they’re trying.”

How have you heard the European crisis spun in popular culture? Leave your comments, as we follow the most epic “Germance” of the 21st century.

Reneé Holley is a PhD Candidate in Musicology and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She is working on a dissertation that addresses the influence of EU cultural policies on contemporary German musical life.


From American humor columnist Dave Barry, in his "2011 Year in Review" (published December 31, 2011):

In Europe, the economic crisis continues to worsen, especially in Greece, which has been operating under a financial model in which the government spends approximately $150 billion a year while taking in revenues totaling $336.50 from the lone Greek taxpayer, an Athens businessman who plans to retire in April. Greece has been making up the shortfall by charging everything to a MasterCard account that the Greek government applied for — in what some critics consider a questionable financial practice — using the name “Germany.”

More comedic gems from Barry about the euro crisis (plus US and global happenings in 2011), can be found here:

Oh my, I was laughing so hard at these videos, I absolutely enjoyed the style and this humor in general, this was such a perfect job! I totally love them, thank you so much for such a hilarious post, you managed to increase my mood which I thought was impossible. I just saved them onto my iPad using youtube downloader so now I am watching it in subway! Great blog here!

Haha Renée I loved your segment!!! I laughed hysterically the first time I saw the Colbert segment when it first aired---it's just as funny every time. Keep up the great blogs!

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