Founded last year by American expat Gerald Weber and Swiss native Manuela Mühlemann, the Improv Comedy Kitchen (TICK) is a new form of entertainment tailored to Switzerland’s large English-speaking population.
“We noticed that there was no professional improvisation group in Switzerland for English speakers,” Weber, who hosts the shows, tells The Local.
“In Amsterdam, there’s one called Boom Chicago that does shows every night in English. We wanted to do something similar based on the [US comedy show] ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway?’”
In line with the format of the hit US programme, each show typically features three performers, in this case two Anglo comedians from the US, Canada or the UK.
To ensure the right amount of Swissness, the company throws a third performer who is always Swiss into the mix “to stand their ground”.
“We like to play with the fact that the Swiss person is the guest in Switzerland,” says Weber.
The three comedians perform in various games, improvised sketches, scenes and stories, as well as performing improvised music.
Nothing is prepared beforehand and everything is created on the spot from suggestions of the audience.
Although there is always a Swiss presence in the audience, the show is mainly targeted towards expats.
“In the audience, we always have people from at least 20 different countries – usually from all continents,” says Weber. “Normally, we talk to the audience before the start to find out where they are from. That way, we can cater to their different senses of humour and give them a reminder of their culture.”
Does he notice particular differences between Swiss and English/American humour?
“From my experience of living in Chicago, I’d say the English sense of humour is more language-based and witty than Swiss humour,” he says.
“While the Swiss like to use stories to tell jokes, Americans tend to use more puns and one-liners.”
The Swiss also tend to be more polite, he notes, and are less direct or vulgar in their approach.
Differences can also be observed between Swiss and American members of the audience, he says.
“American members of the audience are much more willing to get excited, whereas you may not notice if the Swiss members are amused.”
But there is one subject that’s sure to get them going, he says. “Jokes about Germans always work!”
The Improv Comedy Kitchen will perform in Zurich at the Boulevard Theatre (April 25th, May 30th), in Bern at the ONO Theatre (May 29th). On Thursday, they performed in Zug at the Chollerhalle.