Wall Street Humor

Who says the Germans have no sense of humor? The Lehman collapse puts the lie to that.

Brits have for years made fun of the supposed lameness of German humor — see Monty Pythonite John Cleese's Fawlty Towers, which ragged on the stiffness of German tourists.

Stewart Lee's 2006 Guardian (U.K.) piece "Lost in Translation" tried to debunk that prejudice, explaining that Germans really can be funny. And I freely and warmly accept that, despite the fact that many of my relatives were slaughtered by Hitler's minions several decades ago.

Just last month, a Deutsche Welle story, "German Comedians Play Up to Stereotypes in UK Show", noted that Germans can even laugh at themselves — even in front of British audiences — for supposedly having no sense of humor.

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Now, amid the Wall Street gnashing of teeth comes one of Germany's highest-ranking politicians to inject the kind of mordant humor that his U.S. counterpart Hammerin' Hank Paulson would never say for publication.

In today's Der Spiegel piece "What the Lehman Bankruptcy Means for Germany," reporter Stefan Schulz ends his sober and grim appraisal this way:

In light of this new turbulence, even German Finance Minister Peter Steinbrück has been forced to evoke unusually clear images when he speaks. As he sees it, the very people who had prematurely spoken about there being a light at the end of the tunnel will now be forced to realize "that, in reality, it was the light of an oncoming train."

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