Höchststrafe für Patrick Lemoine

I have repeatedly been amazed by the daring intelligence of Rowan Atkinson’s sketch “Drunk English in an Indian Restaurant.” Youtube comments below the most popular of several video uploads show that while some view his performing as an Indian waiter as racist and stereotyping, many instead argue that he is rather putting the ridicule on the imaginary drunk, vulgar and soccer-loving English guests he is waiting on. I was reminded of this witty and provocative wonder when I went to the Flic Flac Circus’s latest show Höchststrafe in Berlin. Comedian-juggler Patrick Lemoine also took on an Indian accent for comical purposes. But I didn’t laugh.

It all started well. The Flic Flac Circus can indeed boast of many mind-blowing acts. I have only praise in my pocket for the group of tightrope walkers, the motocross riders and the cool German wheel virtuoso Evgeny Nikolaev. And when Patrick Lemoine began juggling, I thought he was skilled. I juggle myself and have often found jugglers who try to beat the numbers a bit boringly mechanical. I have less fun watching someone throwing as many clubs, balls and hoops as he/she can, than someone instilling poetry and comedy in the movements of his/her two or three accessories. In a similar vein, Lemoine had chosen to impersonate an awkward flop who could only juggle with three balls, at the same time making fun of this himself by describing the poor tricks he pulled.

Yet, as soon as he laid his balls at rest, his performance began to crumble. After a silly, fremdschämender magic trick enabling Lemoine to slip a predictable, harmless joke on the Nazi salute, the lights went off for a second to let him put on a scarf on his head. A sound engineer pressed play, and Panjabi MC’s Mundian to Back Ke rang loud in the tent, while Lemoine’s character showed off his dancing skills, waving his hips, encouraged by the whistles and cheers coming from the German crowd. Edward Said must have been turning in his grave.

The orientalist show was just starting. After this problematic choreographic interlude, Lemoine went on with talking. In contrast to the cleverness of Atkinson’s character, whose amiability obliges him to acknowledge, tongue-in-cheek, the trickiness of a “deceptively flat” floor for boozed up Englishmen, Lemoine’s so-called “Indian” spoke unintelligibly in a simple English. He walked hectically to and fro, jabbering around under the punctuated laughs of the audience. I felt some pinches of unease at times in the crowd’s tone, but I might have been deceived. In the meantime, the cliché character had picked up a young first row spectator to accompany him on stage for his act. He greeted the youth with a frenzied shake of the hand, rhythmically modelled on a flood of syllables supposedly imitating an „Indian“ variety of English. The continuous blathering in that stereotyped accent got more and more annoying, especially when it forced the teenager to ask him to repeat himself, pathetically striving to create a comical effect on (intercultural?) misunderstandings. This is when I became aware of his lack of talent: Lemoine was actually wasting time on stage. After a few minutes of unrelated gags involving some prop assistants, the young guest rolled the drums while Lemoine’s foolish character attempted to force a teddy dog to jump through a hoop, reminding us that the Flic Flac Circus did not exploit animals for its profit purposes. He kicked the teddy’s butt to score it through the hoop. I would have gladly done the same with his.


Some might ask: why do I bother? I usually flee from massive popular entertainment. Take that “oriental dinner show,” MADI – Zelt der Sinne. I have seen their advertisements a thousand times in the Berlin U-Bahn and can already foresee how my own academic postcolonial background will ruin my dish if I ever eat there. What is then the point of writing about Lemoine’s performance in Flic Flac?

Well, the show Höchststrafe is an overwhelming success. Until its departure from Berlin on 29th February, it will probably have been seen by over 100,000 visitors, some of them coming from Brandenburg as well. The rest of the performances were breathtaking, I recognize that. At the same time, I consider Lemoine’s act as harmful. First, it could be insulting for some of its audience. Secondly, it fuels false stereotypes about people from India and Pakistan. Many children have seen Höchststrafe. What do they learn from such clowning? A Eurocentric cliché. Thirdly, if Lemoine had impersonated another dim-witted character, say supposedly from the African continent or from East Asia, the Flic Flac board would have perhaps denied him the stage. The presence of this show on a best-selling stage implies one can publicly mock people from the Indian subcontinent with impunity.

Lemoine was once awarded the “ZDF International Artist Prize.” These credentials will surely help him integrate other shows whenever his contract with Flic Flac comes to an end. I hope he will stick to juggling in the future. On a more positive note, we can surely rejoice in the apparent lack of wit that arose from his act. But because of its participation in shaping public consciousness on a large scale, it is important to condemn it. Patrick Lemoine’s starters were not bad. Then, he fell flat, and remained a (ob)noxious chump for the rest of his performance.

Credits // Yann Le Gall
Dieser Beitrag wurde unter English, Uncategorized abgelegt und mit , , , verschlagwortet. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink.

2 Antworten zu Höchststrafe für Patrick Lemoine

  1. Patrick Lemoine schreibt:

    To Post Colonial Potsdam Group

    A letter was delivered to me (Anonymous) …why anonymous …whoever it was ,must have felt reluctant to show his or her face.
    It was from https://postolonial potsdam…I have never heard of this group before.

    Well, unfortunatly you did not like my Act because you feel that it assaults your Race.

    How ridiculous….I am not at all a Racial person ..I have worked for different Nationalities from all over the World and have never had a complaint before.
    Every Country has been entertained by my Show.
    I have friends from Pakistan who come to see me again and again.
    Also here in Berlin familys from your Country, with children want to see my Show .They do not think their children should learn anything from such (clowning) as you put it…they just come to enjoy the Show ,and want to have fun.
    Unfortunatly there is always a minority like your group who get it into their heads that everything is Racial. Nobody can say anything without you being offended.
    You are so touchy and think everybody is against you. You have no sense of humour and always feel the slightest comment is aimed at you in a personal way.
    This is ridiculous… we all must laugh about ourselves…we have to because we all have our unique ways and habits. Life must have a funny side to it…so why cant you forget your hang ups and go to a Show to relax and enjoy it.

    Apart from my Act, you have really discredited me in every way havnt you with your childish indications… I am not going to lower myself and write an offending letter like yours.

    In your letter you insult the English ..bieng English myself I am not upset about what you say, or care because thats life.Thats how it should be … Im not like you.
    You also say you are a Juggler .Well as an Entertainer you must know that no Artiste insults or criticize fellow Artistes in the bitter way that you have criticized me.
    We know that each one does his own Artistic thing and between ourselves we respect eachothers performance.
    I have never heard of you …I dont know where you have worked with your juggling…or if you have ever worked…But I would still respect what you are doing if you did perform somewhere.
    Its the unspoken Entertainers etiquette.

    You have also very much mocked my personal appearance..(Bloated head and two bulging eyes to be compared with sewage water coming out of a pufferish fountain.)
    Shame on you…what kind of garbage discharge is coming from you yourself…as a supposedly irreproachable person you must know that its malpractice and spiteful to make fun of people if they look different.
    I happen to have a very severe eye dissorder ..,and people like you making such malicious comments are genuinly mean spirited and impertinent.

    If you dont like my Show O.K. But you should never judge a person by how they look.

    I remain yours Sincerely

    Your obnoxious chump (as you put it)


    • Yann Le Gall schreibt:

      Dear Mr Lemoine, I thank you for your reaction.

      I want to start with an apology from my side. I did not know of your eye disorder, and therefore assumed that it was part of your performance. I apologize for the sentence and have removed it from the text. I know this is too late, but it is the only way I can atone for my mistake. I did not wish to mock your personal appearance, only your performance. It seems I have insulted you and I am utterly sorry for that.

      I do not hide behind the anonymous name of Postcolonial Potsdam. This blog is only a platform on which I address several problems coming up in Berlin-Brandenburg’s cultural landscape. My name is at the bottom of the article.

      I have to disagree with several of your arguments:
      – first, the “I have Pakistani friends“ attitude is too often used to dodge how racism is ingrained in the minds of many Europeans. This excuse also often appears in the case of homophobia and heteronormativity. If your friends laugh at your performance, it does not mean that all Pakistani and Indian people will find it funny.
      – the argument of having fun is valid. I also think humour is needed in our society. Yet, I also think, and this is my personal opinion, that artists and comedians have the responsibility to reflect on the effect their shows might sometimes have on the audience. Even though children obviously do not come to a circus to learn, some might repeat the clichés they see in performances like yours; others might get a false impression of the Indian subcontinent and the way people from India might talk.
      – finally, you said it yourself: “we all must laugh about ourselves“. I therefore think that you, as a European perfomer in the Western cultural industry, are not in the position to produce an act making fun of people from India, especially if there is nothing wittier in your show than presenting a simple stereotype.

      I thank you again for your reaction. I hope you will accept my apologies mentioned above.
      Yann Le Gall

Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:


Du kommentierst mit Deinem WordPress.com-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Google Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s