Fun Stuff > Humour
The elephant is not only a sacred animal in some cultures, it is also the mascot of German comedian OTTO, whose picture we took with our boy in the Vienna City Hall (mistranslated to Vienna City Hell in the opening credits of the show), when the star of laughing generations signed autographs after the event. As they had advised in the very beginning: Children are responsible for their parents!
Long-Term Memory. They are quite clever animals! Elephants are said to never forget. This is also the reason why elephants drink so much... they simply try to forget! As I don't have a that good memory, I like to note down ideas and other things crossing my mind. Documenting things on paper as well as electronically seems to be a good method to capture facts at a time, for once in a while our memories deceive us. With distance, on the other hand, we may see things through different eyes, less emotional and in a bigger context. But not quite as big as an elephant. Although, if you search long enough, you may also discover some parallels with pachyderms (derived from the Greek meaning of "thick" and "skin"). And it is not just the nose that may be similar. It may be also the strength that it takes to move rocks out of the way, like a small elephant so to speak.
Eat. In order to move things, usually a lot of preparation is needed. Good organizational structure paired with comprehensive planning is the backbone of every big achievement. To break up a monster project into digestible work packages is better than to jump on the whole thing at once and potentially fail. Just like that old question: "How do you eat an elephant?" With the obvious answer: "One bite at a time."
Worship. Over centuries elephants have symbolized characteristics like power & potency to men and fertility to women. Which is why some Feng Shui traditions even suggest to place an elephant figurine in the bedroom. At a Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur we saw a statue of the elephant headed god Ganesha, worshipped as the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Success.
Hide. And similar to that elephant, sometimes we all need a thick skin in order not to get annoyed by little things, as in the following tale: "An elephant steps on an anthill and all ants climb up on him. He shakes himself and all of them fall down. They climb him again, he shakes one more time and all but one ant on his neck fall down. Suddenly, all the others scream: "Choke him, Charlie!" In German: "Wuerg ihn, Charlie!" Another absurd Elephant jokes would question: "How can you tell when an elephant is under your bed?" Answer: "Your nose is squashed against the ceiling."
Fly. One of my favourite puns is from the Disney movie Dumbo, about the ugly duckling among elephants with ears as long as wings: "I have seen a horsefly. I have seen a dragonfly. But I have never seen an elephant fly!" Some might see pink elephants after drinking too much, but usually they don't fly, do they? Anyway, so much about that. Let's now talk about comedy, fun and laughter... the OTTO in all of us!
Ottiphants: East Frisian Species
Maths. The North German comedian Otto Waalkes would choose the laughing elephant as his mascot and call it "Ottifant". He explained it as the failed attempt of drawing a self portrait. For a while, my boy's idea for his future profession was to become assistant of Otto. But we talked him out of it by explaining our concerns regarding the age difference and the doubt that the German comedian would be still active by the time our kid was grown up. At the end of the school year, he would perform Otto's Maths-sketch "28 divided by 7" with classmates. At the Vienna City Hall he even got his picture taken with his unusual idol.
Party. Otto's live act would parody the AC/DC hymn "Highway to Hell" as "Auf dem Heimweg wird's hell (On the Way home it gets light)". "We have Reason to Party (Wir haben Grund zum Feiern)" is his cover version of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the Fire". The revised lyrics list various types of liquor under the motto: "Nobody can still walk straight, but for the next bottle it's never too late..." Traditional up-to-date variations of the Hansel & Gretel fairy tale song would still include Falco's "Commissar", being slightly altered to "Don't turn around, the witch is in town". In blond wig and with a swing in his hip, Otto would turn Lady Gaga's "Po-Po-Pokerface" into "Pfe-Pfe-Pfefferkeks (Gi-Gi-Ginger Bread)".
English. A confusing lesson in modern English introduced the toothpaste "Youtube" and the toothbrush "Blue Tooth" as latest must-have utensils for mouth hygiene. Standard repertoire included a song in fake-Danish and the revised tale of "Robin Hood, the Avenger of the Disinherited", in which the coachman still knows the way. The "Dwarf March", sung wearing a dwarf's bag hat, was followed by a guest appearance of a hand doll of Sid, the lisping sloth from the "Ice Age"-movie.
The OTTO show is an unusual live experience, especially for those sitting in the front rows and getting things thrown at... cooking ingredients like flour, cabbage, water and free Ottiphants.
Otto's Eleven. A few months later, in a radio interview Otto would attempt to explain the difference between the film "Ocean's Eleven" and his new comedy "Otto's Eleven": "George Clooney makes commercials for coffee, and we up in the north of Germany are well-known tea drinkers." Move locations include the remote "Spiegeleiland", an island with the shape of a sunny side up egg, as well as the hectic Casino of the evil art collector Du Merzac, whose French family name is mispronounced as "Dummer Sack (dumb bag)" and occasionally sung to the melody of "Pata Pata". The song "Wot" by Captain Sensible, forever repeating "He said Captain, I said what", is turned into the German rap: "Wir sagen Otto, Du sagst Watt (We say Otto, you say tideland)". Forming sentences with foreign words, Otto would come up with an example for the usage of the French word "Boulevard": "Beim Melken wurde dem Melker klar, dass die Kuh ein Bulle war - During milking for the milker it became obvious that the cow a bull was." After the radio interview they played one of Otto's classic jokes: An East Frisian comes into a music store: "I would like to have the red saxophone and the white accordion..." The owner's reply: "OK, you can have the fire extinguisher, but the heating radiator stays here!" So much for East Frisian humour...
Swine Flu. Speaking of bulls, do you know the story of the animals competing, which of them is the fiercest beast? The lion says, "Whenever I roar, everyone gets totally scared." The elephant replies, "Whenever I stump my feet and trumpet, everyone runs away as fast as he can." Finally, the little pig grunts, "See, and I only have to cough..." (I know, this may be a slow burner.) As my daughter reflected on the Swine Flu, Bird Flu and Mad Cow Disease, she asked: "Is there also an Elephant Flu?" Not yet, I guess, but whenever it comes, it could be related to... getting bigger? There are quite a few things coming along with age. Besides some grey hair there may be another significant change in appearance: Suddenly, there is more of us! With change coming slowly, the awakening was quite a surprise in my case. Suddenly you find out that you have to do something, you had never thought of before...
Watch Your Weight!
Zero. It all started years ago because of a colleague. She was in a discussion about weight watchers ("Vegetables have zero points!"), but when her conversation partner left, she turned over to me and asked me about my weight. My answer was the same weight as in the past 15 years. Curious though, the next day I stepped on the scale again after quite some time. Big was my surprise! Luckily we didn't have one of those talking scales that would say: "The two of you, get off here!" That's how I found out, I was not the average slim guy any more. The kids would forbid me to step on their scooter for the box mentioned a weight limit.
Heavy. Bringing the kids to elementary school, I found out the hard way how easily rumours can spread. A kid I had never seen before approached me, asking whether a human being could be that heavy. It turned out that my daughter had mixed up something and told everyone that I weighted 700 kilos (like a small elephant).
Two. During an overseas assignment, as a result of the big food portions in the US I gained some more weight. Just one colleague was losing weight those days by mostly sticking to Asian food. There was this scale outside the company fitness center, which he stepped on every day. Coming back from lunch one day, he asked us to use the scale as well. Very big was my surprise that I only had 10 pounds more than the Korean plus the Indian colleague together.
Even if made fun of occasionally as Ottiphants, elephants used to be worshipped and admired. Here's a picture of riding one in Bangkok. I am the big guy on top.
Weight Loss. Sometime later, in the company there was a promotion of a weight reduction program. When a product marketer called me up and asked, whether I had heard about the program, my first thought was: They are searching for volunteers again! Luckily she just wanted to know about the system set up options for promotions. The other day I reached my aim to short term lose some weight, half a kilo within 15 minutes. It all started when my boy was walking down a road with me and said, he was hungry. Seeing a bus from the Red Cross, I replied, if I donate blood we get to eat for free. So I lost about one pound (half a kilo) doing that. The next day we were on the same street, when he said, he was hungry again!
Homecoming Surprise. Returning from a five week business trip, my boy welcomed me in the doorframe with the words: "Well, you haven't lost weight!" While I still gave him that look, the wife joined in: "And I won't lose weight now either!" That's how I found out we were expecting another child...
Shirt. One day I tried on a bright orange polo shirt, which I got as a present. My boy immediately commented that I'd look like a chubby man in a commercial by the local mobile phone company "Telering." Their campaign slogan "Weg mit dem Speck - Get the fat off" suggested to get rid of unnecessary, costly extras, offered by the competition. To support their campaign, they would advertise three round people in bright colours representing other mobile phone companies.
Short. Getting more and more used to the big portions in the States as well as the cold drinks with lots of ice cubes inside, we came up with the following comparison: America without ice is like China without a wall, or Austria without music. Here is now a humorous story from Far East about "the short and the tall of it", a nice parable showing how unimportant it is whether you are big or small, fat or skinny: "Although I had never seen him, I knew that my grandfather had been five foot, six inches tall, while my stately grandmother stood five foot, eleven. As a teenager leafing through old photographs with grandma, I finally realized how unusual they must have looked together. 'Grandma,' I asked, 'How could you have fallen in love with a man five inches shorter than you?' She turned to me. 'Honey, we fell in love while sitting down, and when I stood up, it was too late,' she said."
Pink. Writing about trivial things may seem like making a mountain out of a molehill, which in German would be called making an elephant out of a mosquito. On the other hand, there is always hope that some thought turns out to be helpful to someone, sort of a "chicken soup for the soul." As you could also put it: Even a blind hen sometimes finds a grain of corn. Or is this wishful thinking only and am I already seeing pink elephants (almost like that Bavarian colleague, who once had a circus walking by his house)? Let me take another sip, maybe it helps...
Green. Do you know how to make an elephant red? The answer is to tell an embarrassing joke, then the elephant will turn red. But how do you turn a red elephant into a blue elephant? Answer: Put the red elephant into a fridge, then it will turn blue. Then how do you turn a blue elephant into a green elephant? Answer: There are no green elephants! Except maybe those little jade elephant figurines that symbolize good fortune in India, China, Thailand and other Asian countries.
The OTTO in all of us: Generations of Otto Waalkes fans assemble before the show begins.
They have reason to party... FURTHER ABOVE: Telering-Chubbies on promotion tour,
not to be confused with Teletubbies.