Heard the one about the drainage system?

Raoul Heertje is Holland's 'best circumcised' comedian. That may be so, says James Rampton, but what is he doing here and what does he want with our politicians?

name a famous living Dutchman. It's not as difficult as naming a famous living Belgian, but go beyond Johann Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, and most British people would struggle. Well, we may soon have a third name to add to that list, and he's not a footballer, but, believe it or not, a stand-up comedian.

Raoul Heertje is the most celebrated comic in Holland (admittedly, there's not that much competition for the title) and with an appearance on Have I Got News for You tonight and a current tour of Britain, he looks set to become quite well-known here, too. Like nearly all Dutch people, he speaks English better than the English. He fits seamlessly into Anglo- culture - "I've even started drinking tea," he boasts. In his highly topical act, he makes references way over the head of your average John and Jean Bull.

In Manchester the other night, he cracked a joke about Sir Jerry Wiggin which was greeted by stony silence. "They looked at me like 'who's Jerry Wiggin?'," Heertje laughs. "Another comedian told me 'you have to understand that you know what's going on in Britain, but that's probably the first time this audience have heard about the story'."

In America, he stunned Joe and Josephine Six-Pack with his allusions to the US national debt, gays in the military and the invasion of Grenada. Can you imagine an American comedian making gags in fluent Dutch about cycle-paths or drainage systems in the Netherlands? He went on to consider that peculiar form of American torture which involves putting children in Country and Western outfits for the 4th July celebrations. "In Holland we've got a problem with child abuse too, but this is really serious."

The one drawback of Heertje's act is that he can stray into the territory of hectoring Ben Elton-esque: "a little bit of politics, ladies and gentlemen" preachiness. He closed his set in the US by musing: "I think it's a beautiful country... now I understand why you stole it from the American Indians." The comedian reveals that his wishy-washy liberal opinions about gun control did not play well in Texas. Once they got over the apparent contradiction in terms represented by a comedian from the Low Countries - by his own admission "nobody can imagine the Dutch being funny" - British audiences have been more charmed by Heertje. They have been particularly taken by his outsider's view of them.

"They like it when someone from the outside looks in," he says. "I can show them things they've seen all their lives but have never questioned before." He points to the absurdity of having an arrow accompanying the "Look Left" sign at a zebra-crossing. "If you need a drawing to tell you what right and left are, you shouldn't be out on the streets at all."

He also finds humour in comparing the two countries. "All the Dutch are known for is drugs and football. All the British are known for is combining the two." Heertje's chief source of gags, however, is our enduring delusions of grandeur. "The British want to be a superpower, they feel everyone should choose them as a leader. Mrs Thatcher was saying that just the other day. I hate to tell you this but you aren't a superpower anymore." Our Euro-scepticism - or should that be phobia? - is equally comical. "Nobody wants to be part of Europe," Heertje reckons, "it's the same in Holland, but we don't make such a fuss about it. In England, they're more afraid, they feel they have to defend themselves against something that's not going to happen anyway. You won't suddenly have to eat French food. We're not as paranoid as the English."

Heertje is well aware that he is probably being set up as a Tub-of-Lard- type butt of the jokes on Have I Got News for You tonight. Even as we speak, Angus Deayton will no doubt be polishing up his lines on Dutch caps and red-light districts. "I'm sure they'll try and make fun of me. I'd do the same if they came to Holland," Heertje acknowledges. The prospect does nothing to dampen Heertje's enthusiasm for the satirical news quiz, which is broadcast - unsubtitled, of course - in Holland every week. Heertje is being lined up as a team captain for the Dutch version of HIGNFY which is being piloted in August. Stand-up is still in its early days in the Netherlands. Five years ago it was unknown and even now there are only a dozen venues in the country - including Heertje's own Comedy Train in Amsterdam. The infancy of Dutch stand-up is perhaps best shown by the newspaper coverage. The only description the daily Algemmen Dagblad can come up with for the Jewish Heertje is that he's "the best circumcised comedian in the Netherlands".

Unlike Heertje, it must lose a lot in the translation.

Raoul Heertje appears on 'Have I Got News for You' tonight (10pm BBC2)

His tour continues at the Balham Banana, the Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 (0181-673 8904) tonight and tomorrow, and at the Clocktower Arts Centre, Croydon (0181-253 1030) on Sunday

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits