Why you should care
Because if you can’t laugh at Nazis, who can you laugh at?
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If you’ve not strolled around the streets of San Francisco, or any city really, with a man in fully historically accurate SS officer gear, then you might have missed the fact that this is beyond loaded, beyond trigger warnings, beyond, well, beyond. Which is why, I imagine, at the start of the walk, the SS officer I am walking with, Heinrich von Arent, hisses at me.
“Are you ready for this?” His accent is lilting and Arnold-esque. “I just want to make sure that you don’t run off. Like a small child. These are strange times.” As he toys with his eye patch, I finally get what he’s driving at, and it’s this: There’s a strong possibility we’ll be assaulted. You see, in these fraught times, Nazis are not a punchline that gets delivered without being punched, and so it goes that immersive comedian Heinrich von Arent, real name Damien Noorbakhsh, is either very committed or very stupid or, a third possibility, a total genius.
So while cars slow as we perambulate through San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a neighborhood with dwarf hookers, drug dealers and a naked jogger (whom we watched cops decline to arrest since, in all likelihood, he had no ID), Heinrich and I don’t as much stand out as stand in. “Ze subhumans have tried to assault me before,” Heinrich says, waving to the now-beeping cars. “But zey haf failed.”
Droll in a very disturbing way — less Hogan’s Heroes and much more Stalag 17 — Heinrich’s adventures have been pitched to heavy hitters like Dave Chappelle (unsuccessfully) and to any number of camera people who quit when they realized that they were dead center in a comedy minefield from which very possibly NO career would emerge intact.
“Enter the Fourth Reich, mein Freund,” he says. And for the next bit of time, that’s exactly what we did.
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