Lucie Pohl bring debut show Hi Hitler to 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
German-American draws from her unconventional childhood for comedy show
This article is from 2014.
An unconventional childhood helped Lucie Pohl follow her showbusiness dreams. But, as she tells Niki Boyle, being funny was never part of the grand plan
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the title of Lucie Pohl’s Fringe debut, Hi Hitler, is not there purely for shock value. ‘It’s a joke, of course, because when I was young I thought it was a greeting,’ she explains over the phone from Istanbul. ‘I didn’t understand that it was “heil”: I thought people were saying “hi”, you know? I would doodle Hitler all the time holding up a peace sign, and I was just kind of fascinated with this creature-man.’
This atypical view of the great dictator forms the perfect jumping-off point for an hour’s exploration of identity, largely focusing on Pohl’s nationality (German-American) and her family. It’s the latter section that pertains to some of the show’s more eyebrow-raising revelations. ‘There is stuff in there about my father drinking a lot and having affairs,’ she acknowledges, ‘and then there’s a whole thing about me having this horrible affair with my aunt’s boyfriend.’
Did the airing of such dirty laundry lead to some awkward moments around the Pohl family dinner table? ‘Well, they’re all performers and artists, so they were all like, “talk more about me! If you would talk more about me, it would be really great!” In my family, I’m like the most reasonable and normal person. I have to work a little harder to top the insanity that is my family.’
That ‘insanity’ springs, at least partially, from the Pohl clan’s genetic flair for the theatrical: Lucie’s mother ‘is Bertolt Brecht’s niece, basically’, while her dad writes ‘very political, very provocative, controversial plays’. While a glance at her acting résumé shows she shares some of her family’s dramatic inclinations, Pohl’s comedic talents are all her own; though it’s not a role she’s always relished.
‘I used to get really angry when people laughed at me being funny. And then when I started out acting, I was cast as the bitchy, sexy best friend a lot. So I had a time where I was trying to be very beautiful and kind of dismissing or almost embarrassed of the fact that I was funny, you know? So it took me a while to embrace it.’ While Pohl was adept at impersonations and got plenty of laughs from doing them, she was never convinced that it actually amounted to much. ‘I always thought that I had to work on being more like the leading lady and more beautiful and more perfect. It’s strange when people expect you to be pretty and sexy and beautiful but you’re not really supposed to be funny as a woman. When you’re that character, or when you’re that type of woman, people don’t want you to be funny or expect you to be funny.’
Despite the show coming from the very unique perspective of a female German-American actor-comedian (oh, and she’s Jewish as well), Pohl reassures us that it has a universal message. ‘Most people, for one reason or another, whether it’s the nationality thing or a sexual thing or just a state of mind, have this experience of not belonging or feeling lost and like a fish out of water. I’ve learned that people can connect to it.’
Lucie Pohl: Hi Hitler, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square, 0131 622 6552, 2–25 Aug (not 11), 4.15pm, £8–£9 (£7–£8). Previews 30 Jul–1 Aug, £5.