Daniel Arbour Stern

Comedian, Berlin

Vorher Weiter

My identity now? I am an artist. I am Jewish, a father. I have a need to create. I would say that’s different than being an artist, because I find ways to create things that I don’t call art. So scratch artist. Creative, but not in the Instagram sense of creative.

Daniel Arbour Stern
Daniel Arbour Stern
Daniel Arbour Stern
My son’s great grandmother loved the music of “Fiddler on the Roof” and that love has been passed down to him. He had a few chances to meet Bubbie; their connection was unmistakable. Is it not poetic that my jewish son is growing up in Berlin, singing along to a German manufactured original cast recording of “Tradition”?

Living in Berlin has given me a much more evolved notion of my Judaism. In the United States, you have a sense of a New York Jewish culture and a suburban Jewish culture; Judaism is also a cultural export. That identity is part of international Jewish culture, and the degree to which I fit that specific mold once informed my sense of belonging. But now I have more Jewish friends and a bigger Jewish community in Berlin than anywhere I’ve ever lived and the diversity of that group encouraged me to feel more comfortable with the authenticity of my version of being a Jew. 

I've been here ten years. There's this phase where you have to spend a certain number of years just thinking about the Holocaust every day and suspecting everyone of being a Nazi. And then at some point you process that in some way. At least I was able to. Now I just accept that 10% to 15% of every population is Nazi wherever you go. Approximately. I hope for better, but I don’t think I’m being cynical. I think it's just a sort of realistic percentage.

I remember one of my neighbors leaning towards me on the street and quietly saying, “Oh, this is kind of a weird question. I hope you don’t mind …” And I cut him off and said, “Yes, I’m Jewish.” We ended up doing our Seder with him, even during the pandemic; two tables split by the fence between our yards. My kid got to grow up feeling like it’s totally normal that all your neighbors are Jewish when you grow up in Germany, which is pretty amazing.

I don't love the stereotype of the Jewish comedian. I’m funny because, well, I am funny. I’m not giving that credit to some inheritance. But that is something I find Germans in particular are really fascinated with, that they fetishize. As much as I avoid the stereotype of a Jewish sense of humor and Jewish comedians, I do appreciate the recognition of the tradition there. I do like that I can look out at my peers, or into the past, or at the evolution of that art form, and see people with whom I share Judaism. Is it paradoxical that I reject the idea that comedy is my birthright, yet also celebrate that heritage and am proud to continue it?

Some comedians choose to take on dark topics. Confront them and find release. I come from a perspective of “Hey, the world is already pretty dark.” And my choice as a comedian is to point out the fun and the humor in life as my way of confronting the general, pervasive darkness of existence. 

I like finding a balance between forming new traditions and maintaining the old ones. Because for me, tradition is central to how I practice Judaism. Faith is elusive. But because I know Jews exist - I can ascertain that for myself - I get to continue our traditions. Anything that requires faith, that's an extra leap and it’s something I can't pass along, but I can certainly pass along something like lighting candles.

I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. The town where they invented the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And now as I pass along that knowledge to my son, that's what's important about where I'm from. That's what that city gave to the world and I love that. That's part of who I am, part of who he is. I'm not comparing Judaism to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but the version of Judaism that I grew up with in my house and that I evolved through my own life and that he's going to grow up with… it contains my parents and their parents. It is a living thing that I'm passing along.

From the United States, now based in Berlin; Daniel Arbour Stern is a comedian, a screenwriter, and a producer of podcasts, film, and events. Born in Detroit, the grandson of a cop and a donut maker; he grew up in the nearly idyllic town of Northampton, Massachusetts. After honing his oddities in Portland, Oregon he moved to Berlin and his life changed. The city gave him permission to explore art and live a creative life. Dan began writing in earnest for the first time in his life, focussing on screenwriting and hosting a talk show, while adding stand up comedy to his artistic passions. Podcasting with Radio Spaetkauf became an important part of his life and eventually lead Stern to creating the festival “PodFest Berlin”.  A father of two, he is currently working on several screenplays, acting, leading PodSynch.com and producing PodFest Berlin, while continuing to perform stand up comedy.