What brought you to Vienna?
I came to Vienna in 1999. My older brother had done a year of his language degree here, fallen in love with the place and returned after graduation. I had then just completed my studies as an illustrator in the USA and returned to Sheffield, uncertain of my next steps. When he called and suggested I come out to join him, I assented.
To begin with, Vienna seemed very much like paradise. It was June, everybody was outside, laughing – in Vienna's lighter, summer mode. I was very impressed by all the architecture, culture and by how jovial and relaxed everybody seemed. This turned to shock that October, when the population donned funereal black and switched into their determinedly miserable, winter mode. This is much less extreme now, but back then it was almost ubiquitous.
How well did you adapt to life in your new home?
To begin with I found the Austrian mentality very difficult to deal with, very exhausting. This was partly because I had spent the preceding three years just outside New York, where the people have a dynamism that is the polar opposite to Viennese 'Gemütlichkeit'. Everything is possible and the mentality is one of “Yes, you can do it!” rather than a grumpy “das wird eh nicht gehen…”
I was also, I admit, a very bad fit back then. I wanted everything and I wanted it yesterday. Now I am much happier living here. I have adapted to life here to some extent and have met people who have been kind enough to open doors for me or help me to see some for myself.
How would you describe the Viennese sense of humour?
The Viennese sense of humour shares certain similarities with the English sense of humour, though it seems to me several shades darker and less obviously self-deprecating. I am in the process of getting to know the local comedy and Kabarett scene better, though much of it is very culture-specific and therefore inaccessible to people who haven't grown up here, steeped in Austrian and Central European culture and history.
I grew up watching classics of British comedy like Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, the Python films, A Bit of Fry and Laurie etc., all of which influenced my own sense of humour and outlook on life. I don't really see any direct link between other comedians and what I do, really. For me they are very much on some separate, more rarefied level. I am happy telling my stories and laughing with people about our universal foibles.
What’s your idea of a good night out?
One of the things I love most of all is spending an evening with a group of friends in the pub, laughing and sharing good jokes with one another. Something magical happens. The outside world recedes for a few hours, left outside the door. The world's problems and one's own problems are forgotten for a short time. A group of people bond through shared laughter. It is an illusion, but one absolutely necessary for our survival, I think.
My decision to work as a comedian is an outgrowth of that. I love laughing with people, sharing that wonderful silliness, poking fun at our foibles and thus, I hope, making them more bearable.
There are successful comedians who are much harsher than I aspire to be, excoriating hecklers and crucifying 'the great and the good'. The best of them are necessary, because many of our public figures so deserve the crucifixion of public ridicule and these comedians execute their task with great skill and accuracy. I'm not sure I would be able to do that, even if I wanted to. I doubt I have the malice.
See Patrick's English language stand-up show WTF? on February 26th at Kabarett Vindobona, Wallensteinplatz 6, 1200 Vienna. It covers relationships, gender differences, dating, sex, the EU, languages and national stereotypes, the Vikings and furniture.
To find out more go to: www.patricklamb-comedy.com