Meet Comedian Greg Shapiro That Played Trump in The Viral Dutch Video
Written by Joseph Santiago
Greg Shapiro sat down with Best Comedy Tickets at Boom Chicago Theater in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We discuss his viral video “The Netherlands welcomes Trump in his own words” the dutch comedy scene, we spoke about writing material and much more.
What do you wish someone had told you about show business before you entered it?
Show business is a business. We’re all taught the value of being a versatile, well-rounded artist, but that’s rarely how you get a job. Put yourself on the other side of the audition desk. As soon as you get a chance to produce, direct, organize – take it.
Where do you get your material?
I guess I read a lot of news. It’s when my brain makes connections between random sources that I realize there’s a unique perspective. Then I can’t help but write about it.
You are American comedian that lives in Amsterdam. How long have you lived here?
I first came to Amsterdam in 1994 to work with a theater group that was one year old: Boom Chicago. I came for just one summer, but I never left.
What is the difference between performing in the Netherlands and America?
In America, I guess a lot of my comedy was based on quirky cultural references. As soon as I got over here, I had to switch that up.
What made you move to the Netherlands and not stay in the USA?
All through the 90s, I’d do a season in the US, then a season in Amsterdam. Boom Chicago paid better.
How did you deal with homesickness?
I went back and forth a lot, at first. At some point, I found myself really missing the Netherlands. That helped me really commit.
You recently made an incredible video about the Netherlands and Trump with over 23 million views. How did this come about?
I’ve been friends with various ‘Zondag Met Lubach’ comedians for a while. And I’m a fan of the show. When they wrote the script for ‘The Netherlands Welcomes Trump in His Own Words,’ I was super happy to help out. At first, they just wanted a standard native English voice. But we also tried it with a full-on Trump voice. And the room agreed ‘That’s funnier.’ Now, the fact that so many people are imitating the video makes me proud that satire is uniting Europe.
How did you come up with your Trump impersonation?
For a year now, Pep Rosenfeld and I have been doing our election show at Boom Chicago ‘Angry White Men: Trump Up the Volume.’
Did learning dutch help you feel more at home?
Definitely. It was a long, slow road. But finally I committed to a proper 5-level language course, and it was worth it. I even wrote a couple books on the experience. The latest is ‘How to Be Dutch: the Quiz.’
What happens if they don’t laugh?
Dutch audiences frequently won’t laugh. But have faith that they’ll come up afterward and tell you to your face you’re not funny.
When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
As soon as I was working for Boom Chicago theater, I was making a living in comedy. Pretty soon I was working with some names that did really well in the US: Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, Ike Barinholtz, and lots more, actually. I’m now working on my third book: memoirs about Boom Chicago to get ready for their 25th anniversary next year.
How did you first realize you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?
Seven years old, watching the first SNL. And growing up with Second City Theater.
Where did you grow up?
Chicago. Specifically, the college town of Evanston.
Who would you say were your influences are in the comedy world?
Early David Letterman, Jonathan Winters, Saturday Night Live.
Given your feelings about the state of our culture, how do you avoid despair?
There more awful politics gets, there’s always room for satire.
How long do you spend developing new material?
A lot of new material for my stand-up comes from material I write for my video weblog (vlog). The deadline. It’s all about the deadline. I’ve been vlogging in one form or another for ten years now. It’s a nice source of material.
So at the end of your day, what’s your ultimate goal?
I do put a lot of time into ‘United States of Europe’ trying to make a ‘Daily Show’ for the EU. The most time-consuming thing was getting upset from reading the news. But if you can turn that energy into comedy, it’s therapeutic.
What would you say troubles you the most about the world today?
Ignorance. In the 2014 European elections, I couldn’t believe how little people knew about the basics of the EU system. So I thought I’d make a priority of creating a sort of EU-wide ‘Daily Show,’ but for YouTube. It’s not making me any money, really. But it’s my passion, I like to think it helps, and I’m happy I get to keep doing it.
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