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Culture

Berlin Stand-up Comic Defies Critics to Set New World Record

Madonna's concert in the Berlin Olympic Stadium in August is far from sold-out, but comedian Mario Barth had no such trouble filling the venue. Never before have so many people turned out for a stand-up comedy show.

Mario Barth performing at the Olympic Satdium in Berlin

Mario Barth has the audience eating out his hand

Performing to an audience of 70,000, Barth's show on Saturday, July 12, was more than four times larger than the previous world record-holder, a 15,900-person gig by US comedian Chris Rock in London, a Guinness World Records spokesman said.

To many, all it proves is that millions of people can be wrong. He might be one of the most successful comedians in the country, but Barth's act is panned by the critics, who broadly agree that his jokes are about as subtle as whoopee cushion.

As his fan base has grown, so too has bemusement as too why such a basic brand of humor should be proving so popular.

Primitive but happy

Mario Barth

Just like you and me?

Like many a successful comedian, Barth has found a routine and he's sticking with it.

He first took his record-breaking show "Men are primitive but happy" on the road in 2006, peddling uninspired but time-honored gags about men who like beer and fast cars, and girlfriends who shop and chat constantly. It's since been seen by 1.6 million people.

His audiences tend to be composed mainly of 20-40-something couples, who, as the media has often reported, attend his performances instead of going to couples' therapy.

"He really captures what relationships are like," one fan told local radio station Radio Eins after Saturday's gig.

Realizing he's on to a good thing, Barth has kept the jokes about women who can't park and always go to the bathroom in pairs coming thick and fast, delivering his stand-up with a studied Berlin accent and punctuated by tireless references to flatulence.

To call it schoolboy humor would be to imbue it with more charm than many believe it has. But while his detractors are passionate in their dislike of his unimaginative and clichéd quips, it seems that his fans are even more passionate in their devotion to a man they feel is just like they are.

The boy next door

The audience at the Olympic Stadium

Barth can do what Madonna can't -- fill the Olympic Stadium

His man-of-the-people shtick is clearly key to his success. Born in Berlin in 1972, he grew up with five brothers in the working class neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln and trained at Siemens as an electrician before heading to the Canary Islands as a package holiday host.

Asked before Saturday's show if he was performing for anyone in particular, Barth proved his solidarity with the common man.

"The people sitting at the back," he said. "They paid for their tickets, too."

Moreover, he's a true local patriot. But while most Berliners like to carefully cultivate an image of sophisticated cool, Barth goes for a salt-o'-the-earth sales pitch, joking about how his girlfriend is always trying to take him to fancy restaurants.

Perhaps achingly hip Berlin is tired of having to be edgy all the time.

"He's about as anarchic as a building loan contract," complained one critic recently.

"What's wrong with a building loan contract?" Barth retaliated. His audience would probably ask the same question.

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