How We Met: Henning Wehn & Jake Wood

'The difference between Jake and his character, Max? Fewer people want to do him in'

Henning Wehn, 38

Since starting out as a warm-up act for comedians including Stewart Lee, Wehn (left in picture) has carved out a successful career as the self-styled 'German Comedy Ambassador to Great Britain', appearing on TV and radio shows including 'The News Quiz'. He lives in London.

In 2004, when I'd just started doing stand-up, schlepping round open-mic nights, I bumped into Jake, who at the time was rehearsing a play by his friend. Jake was a stand-up in the play and thought the best way of rehearsing was to perform his material at gigs in character. I enjoyed it: his character had a motto about everything, which got longer and more confusing as he went along.

He stood apart, as he had far more stagecraft than anyone else. Afterwards we got talking and went for a pint. I had no idea that he'd been in all sorts by then – such as Vera Drake – as I'd only recently arrived in the country. He took me under his wing and began inviting me to all sorts – street parties, black-tie dinners – and introducing me to all things British, as well as my first work contacts.

Germany is never much of a topic between us, although once football comes into it, there's always some talk about German-ness. For us it's more about a shared love of London; he's shown me the city's human side, which is far from the idea on the continent that there's little social contact and everyone leads their own lives.

Jake had a massive life change when he joined EastEnders in terms of being recognised on the street. I remember standing outside the Betsey Trotwood pub [in Farringdon] with Jake. It was in 2008, when there was a plotline that his on-screen wife had attempted to bury him alive, for infidelity. This bloke came up and shouted to him, "There you are, in one piece, while people try to do us in. It's you and us against the world, mate!" Jake took it in his stride, responded in character, and everyone felt satisfied; it's what being a good actor is about.

I'm not much of a soap-watcher but what I like about EastEnders is the way they talk, with lines like, "Leave it out, you muppet", which sounds hilarious.

The difference between Jake and his character, Max? Jake and I have far fewer fights and there's far fewer people wanting to do him in.

Jake Wood, 40

Best known for playing Max Branning on 'EastEnders', Wood has appeared in films including 'Vera Drake' and 'The Illusionist'. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children.

I was rehearsing for a one-man show for the Edinburgh Festival in 2004, written by my playwright friend. As a form of preparation, we thought it would be good to do some open-mic stand-up. His material was good and I'd always fancied giving it a go, so he'd book me in to some nights as my character, Tommy Kay. I did a few gigs and by the end I'd even been offered a few paid slots.

One of the spots was at the King's Head, in Crouch End, north London, and Henning was on the bill that night. His opening gambit was about recognising that people here thought Germans didn't have a sense of humour, but he didn't find that very funny. He was very nervous but it added to the comedy. We met in the bar after and the people producing my show approached Henning about doing some paid spots in Edinburgh. I then hooked up with Henning in Edinburgh and we went to see some stuff together. His show there was hysterical and clever.

Back in London, I started showing him different sides to the city, taking him to black-tie events, and people were drawn to him as he was such an interesting character.

We've played a lot of golf together since and although it's always great fun, and I'm quite competitive, he's only slightly less incompetent than I am. At the beginning I'd constantly joke about how [as a German] he couldn't get out of the bunkers. But he tired of that quite quickly.

I got him a few jobs here and there. There was one at a friend's wedding that was a typical drunk Essex wedding: he had to stand up on a table to get attention. I don't take credit for his success since; it's down to working six days a week for nine years and now he's been on radio and TV.

It's incredibly brave to come over to England to make an English audience laugh when it's not your first language. I'm not sure I could go out there, overcome the language and the cultural barrier and crack Germany. But he's smashed through it – and he's also been educating me in German comedic traditions, which is far more slapstick than ours.

I'm contracted to EastEnders, but I enjoyed doing stand-up and in the future I'd like to go back to it. I look up to his comedy craft, so when I do, I expect I'll go to him for some tips.

Henning Wehn's UK tour, Henning Knows Bestest, runs to 8 June (henningwehn.de)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower