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FAH Bilingualism: Beethoven & Barry

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

A Guest Blog Post by Martina McCormack with an Afterward by Academicfahn

I went to see "Swines" in Vicar Street quite a few times; in October and December 2021 and again in April 2022. One of my favourite pieces from that show will always be "Beethoven and Barry". So what better excuse to join Academicfahn's FlAsH Fiction Contest and write a poem about it? Of course, the reason why the sketch is so appealing to me is the fact that it contains both the English and German languages. It was interesting to see how Arms dialled up his use of German words and expressions, depending on how many German speaking people were in the audience and cheered him on. At times, it got quite out of hand and didn't make much sense, though, but it was fun. So the reason to write my poem in both English and German lies within the nature of this sketch - it is in both languages, too. And of course, the sketch is set in Vienna and Ludwig van Beethoven was German.

It was amazing to see how different the sketch turned out to be on different evenings. On some, Arms acted almost in a La Bullshat-ty way; combined with an attitude that reminded me of grand old theatre actors, and on other nights he had a rather childish approach; whereas Hog was the constant in this sketch, a rock to build on the ever evolving role of Beethoven. This got me thinking: how would La Bullshat write a review of that sketch? And thus, the idea was born.

Naturally, it had to be something which could be declared rather pompously and in an orotund way, and I immediately thought of the opening scene in "Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare, which I shamelessly stole as an introduction to my poem. The words and expressions are all those used in FAH's actual sketch. I took the most memorable ones and cobbled them together; and if you're looking for a deeper meaning, I'll have to disappoint you - the words absolutely and utterly make no sense at all, so subsequently, I didn't have to manipulate either English or German words to make it work.

The poem is written in free verse and thus follows the rhythm of natural speech, which I intended; I didn't really decide on that, it just happened during the writing process. The only thing important to me was that it had suitable dramatic diction for a grand performance quality. All in all, I didn`t really put much thought into it; once I started writing the poem, it just flowed off my fingers. I strove to achieve taking the reader back to Vicar Street to experience the hilarious nonsense I, and many others, had so much fun watching Arms create on the stage.

Original Poem:

Beethoven hat mein Deutsch kaputt gemacht

Two men, both alike in talent (or so it seems)

In fair Vienna (actually, it's Dublin)

Where we lay our scene...

Beethoven und der Barry:

Ich dabbele der Piano.

I do be doing the lyrics.

Alas, Orangschensaft und Milch und Brot!

Gegobbelen by Barry! The knave!

Oh. Mein. Gott.

Ich bin scarlet for deine Mutter for haben dich! Und for deine Grossmutter.

Geh raus, geh raus von unsern Garten!

Die Polizei kommt.

But Barry's heart's desire was set upon

A cup of tea

A cup of tea

A cup of tea

And a biccie, no less.

But: Er hat gefreiloaden.

Every morning he has das Äpfel und das banana.

Er hat zwei Schwesters und ein Bruder.

Ich: Spiele Füssball. Und das Piano.

Für Elise. By Ludwig van Beethoven. Und Herr Yamaha.

The greatest piece i have ever gewritten.

It is a banger.

Kein Lachen!

English Translation:

Beethoven did destroy my German

Two men, both alike in talent (or so it seems)

In fair Vienna (actually, it's Dublin)

Where we lay our scene...

Beethoven and the Barry

(this is actually just a southern german thing: putting an article before the name)

I dabble the piano

(dabbele is a germanized version of the english verb to dabble)

I do be doing the lyrics.

Alas, orange juice and milk and bread,

gobbled up by Barry! The knave!

(again, another germanized version of the verb to gobble)

Oh. My. God.

I am scarlet for your mother for having you!

and for your grandmother.

(you did something extremely embarrassing and should be disowned)

Out, out of my garden!

The police are coming!

But Barry's heart's desire was set upon

a cup of tea

a cup of tes

a cup of tea!

And a biccie, no less.


He's a freeloader.

Every morning he has an apple and a banana.

He has two sisters and a brother.

I play football and the piano.

For Elise. ("Für Elise, the musical piece by Beethoven)

By Ludwig van Beethoven. And Mr Yamaha. (reference to the electric piano's manufacturer)

The greatest piece I ever wrote.

It is a banger.

No laughing!

Afterward by Academicfahn

Martina's bilingual poem is beautifully written, playful, funny and very interesting. I loved the fact that it was in German and English and I think these two languages capture a lot of the intercultural and international flavor of FAH at this point in their careers. This particular sketch (Beethoven und Barry), despite not being seen by all fahns across the world, is still pretty infamous in the community and definitely recognizable. Also, enough people in the fahndom know and understand Arms’s love of German culture, courtesy of his discussions on Patreon live streams and FAH's recent German Exchange student and their Getting Past German Immigration sketches. Moreover, the German comments and exchanges that Arms has with fahns on the Thursday morning vid premieres, and his own Patreon outtake's material show just how much German is and has been integrated into FAH's repertoire of sketch comedy material.

I find Martina's poem to be unique, very different, and to speak to the kind of excellent writing that is found in our community. To me, her poem is inspiring and made me think about how I might bring in other languages to a future FlAsH Fiction contest. Therefore, I have decided that for next year's 2023 contest I will create a special category for bilingual writing in both poetry and short stories [English and a writer's native language or a second chosen language.] It seems apt that for a sketch comedy group like FAH who reach such an international audience, I expand the writing contest to include and accommodate all the different languages that fahns bring to the community. I believe in honoring one's mother tongue and what better way to do that than through writing!

Thank you Martina for sharing your beautiful and brilliant poem with us!


Photo provided by Martina McCormack.

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