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Indian humor is based on schadenfreude, says Sanjay Shihora, who founded the Kookaburra comedy club in a former bank branch in Prenzlauer Berg. Here, spectators can share the stage with bona fide comedians.
There were two serendipitous moments that changed the course of Sanjay Shihora's life. The first was in 1986, when, at 18 years old, he won a theater competition in Mumbai judged by none other than Marcel Marceau.
The famous French mime artist invited Indian-born Shihora to study at his school in Paris. So Sanjay Shihora moved to Paris. It was at a workshop there that he met Berlin native Svenja, and it was love at first sight. They left for Berlin together in 1991, and in 2001 it was time to take the leap of faith and open their own theater. "After years of touring with the comedy show, we wanted to build a home base," says Sanjay Shihora.
The location, a former bank on Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg, made the perfect setting for a comedy stage with an audience of around 100. Today it's a tasteful, unpretentious space with photographs of artists lining the walls and a small counter with refreshments offered at fair prices. Since it first opened, the theater has featured great acts for fans of comedy and cabaret on almost every night of the week.
Famous performers such as Kurt Krömer and Eckart von Hirschhausen have made guest appearances, and at the open stage on Sunday at 7pm, anyone can try their hand at comedy.
Feeling at home
There is even an English night every Tuesday. The eponymous kookaburra is an Australian bird whose call sounds like laughter. It was Sanjay Shihora's dream come true. From the age of three, he spent his Sundays at the children's theater and participating in children's radio programs.
"Indian humor can be pretty dark," he says. "German humor, on the other hand, is a mixed bag." After 18 years, Comedyclub Kookaburra can be roundly declared a success. "Small-time artists are masters in the art of living," says the friendly proprietor.
It's not often you meet someone who is so at one with himself. "I may be small, but I am my own little boss. I am truly thankful for that." And does he see Berlin as his home now? "Home is wherever I happen to be. As long as I feel at home, then that's where I am."
Author: Martin Schwarz
Schönhauser Allee 184
10119 Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg