Laughter in Latvia

On Friday, a hilarious Irish person came to Riga. No, another one. Dylan Moran, to be exact. I’d noticed a poster for the gig a couple of weeks ago and raced home to buy my ticket. I was slightly disappointed when I printed it out and realised that I couldn’t take an umbrella, a knife, a gun or any alcohol to the venue. However, amazingly, it looked like smiling would be tolerated.



I’d been telling my students about it all week and finally, on Thursday evening, I found a fan in one of my new groups. Except that he pronounced his name ‘Die-lan’. With the proud expression that comes from thinking you know a word none of the other students do, he asked, ‘But his surname is a bad word, right?’ I didn’t want to crush his little spirit by telling him no, in fact, that’s ‘morON’, not ‘MorAN’… but I did anyway.

On Friday night, I showed up at Rigas Kongresu Nams (Congress House) sober, wet and unarmed – as instructed. I clambered over some po-faced Latvians and took my seat beside some other po-faced Latvians. This was going to be a riot…

How wrong I was! As soon as Dylan took to the stage, charmingly dishevelled as always (glass of red in one hand and bottle of water in the other), the mood changed instantly. He opened with ‘Sveiki, pilates, pilates. No, that isn’t right. What is it?’ I, in my infinite wisdom, of course knew that it was ‘paldies’ (thank you) and it was comforting to see somebody else suck at Latvian even more than I do. Oh, how the Latvians laughed.

For the next hour and a half, I had a sort of out of body experience. Listening to Dylan Moran was a bit like listening to myself, albeit in a man’s voice with a slight Meath accent. And of course, a lot funnier than I could ever hope to be.

He admitted to not having seen much of Riga that day as the Latvians had ‘turned on the rain’ for his arrival. However, he’d obviously seen and heard enough as he was able to poke fun at Latvian legends, folk music and women walking around in high heels on cobblestones. He even did a spot-on impression of a Latvian woman teetering around in stilettos. Oh, how the Latvians laughed.

The relationship between Latvians and Lithuanians was up next as he’d just come from Vilnius that morning. ‘They call you their brothers, right?’ ‘YES!’, roared the unusually verbose Latvian audience. ‘But can you understand them when they speak Lithuanian?’ ‘NO!’ ‘Right, so you’re basically the last two countries on this particular branch of the language tree and you can’t even understand each other. Great.’ More laughter.

After the intermission, he walked back onstage and was about to begin speaking just as two Latvian guys walked up to him and presented him with boxes of cake. For the next five minutes, I had massive cake envy as he munched his way through the amazing-looking treats. He mumbled a few words every now and then, mainly to blame his ‘moobs’ on exactly this sort of situation, but primarily he focused on the cake. I couldn’t blame him.

During a bit about the horrors of dinner parties, he asked the audience for a typical Latvian surname to insert into his spiel. ‘Bērziņš!’, cried the audience but this was clearly too much for him. He said ‘Birdshit???’ questioningly and then asked for another. ‘Jānis!’ 4 or 5 people shouted. Then half the audience. And so there was a whole section where he joked about the ‘Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanises’ coming to dinner.

All in all, it was a fantastic night. He ripped the piss out of everything from relationships to religion to technology to language. I laughed pretty much non-stop for an hour and a half. And I wasn’t the only one. Sure, there were a few other expats in the audience but the vast majority were Latvian. Trust me – if this man comes to a town near you, buy a ticket. Because if he can make Latvians laugh like that, he can make you laugh too.

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
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73 Responses to Laughter in Latvia

  1. It’s very interesting where comes this myth from that Latvians do not understand Lithuanians? I’ve never had any problems with that. It’s basically 50% the same (just few letters different), 30% of almost the the same (just figure out the system what and how changes) and… well… skip the rest- it doesn’t lose the main idea anyway.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I was asking my Janis the other day about it – he said that while he could understand certain words, he certainly couldn’t understand everything. Maybe some people find it easier than others!

  2. Hey! Thanks for Your opinion and chosing Latvia as Your home (maybe someday ? ) :).

    I am 100 % Latvian, but then again, real Latvians have blue eyes and blonde hair, from which i have none 🙂 . Soon (i think few more weeks) and You will realise that we (Latvians) aren`t grumpy or mean, we (my opinion) are just very protective of what is left of us, obviously, we are kinda dying off, so we do not trust strangers. And yes, we do not smile that often, and yes, we sometimes do say hello only once a day 🙂 . But inside we are very friendly people, we just need a little push. What I like to think, is that we are very true, we don`t laugh about the joke, if it isn`t funny to us, and we don`t ask “how are you?” if we aren`t interested in it . Forests are our national treasure, and I can tell the difference in the air, now that I have lived in Amsterdam for two years. Only in Latvia lungs (my lungs or loungs ,not sure about the spelling), can get full of the fresh air 🙂 … I really hope that You enjoy my country .

    oh, and by the way… The apartment you are living now ,sound expensive, my family owns few apartments, so if you are interested in moving, let me know, we probably could find nice apartment, renovated with Private heating system for total of 170 ls per month, in Riga center, obviously :). but that is another conversation.

    I really like your blog, and i am excited every time I see an “outsider ” 🙂 writing about us. Thank you for your input :).

    The typical Latvian,


  3. Kristaps says:

    Muahahāā, I was one of the guys who gave him cake, the home-made one.
    I really love your blog, Finally someone saying what they really think about this place, with a healthy dose of sarcasm, of course.
    I would love to take you out for a drink. 😀

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Kristap! Oh my god, that’s so funny! 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the show – I thought he was hilarious! Did you make the cake yourself??

      And thank you for taking the blog in the spirit it’s intended – I’ve been sifting through abuse all day 😦 So yes, I would love to go out for a drink – if you’re willing to be seen with the most hated woman in Latvia that is!

  4. cantaloupe says:

    Haha. My last name is Berzins. (I’m American, but guess where my dad was born…) I know this is an old entry, but I just stumbled upon your blog and it’s lovely. I know nothing of the land my family comes from, so this is much appreciated inside information.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Ms Berzins! This is where you’ll find the stuff the tourist books and sites don’t tell you 😉 I don’t suppose your dad’s name is Janis by any chance? That would be perfect! Glad you found the site and like it! Linda.

  5. Nice post. Laughter is the best medicine.

    visit providing information about gujarat tourist places.

  6. Alex says:


    Do you know is he touring with “Yeah,Yeah” or is it a new show? Thinking about going to Clevland(Ohio, USA) to see him .

  7. So this guy can poke fun at Latvians but they get mad at you?

  8. Louis here, the promoter for Dylan and the guy on the stage doing the opening. I’m glad you enjoyed the show and we are definitly bringing more stars to Latvia. We also do a club night almost every month, next one is Nov 5 but we are not sure of the venue yet.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Louis, thanks for getting in touch! I had a ball at Dylan Moran so definitely looking forward to going to more shows! I’ll keep an eye on the website for more details about the 5th of November. Keep up the good work! Linda.

    • Alex says:

      Hey Louis. My name is Alex. I live in Louisville KY(USA). I am thinking about driving to Cleveland to see Dylan. I was wondering if this is a new show or is he touring with “Yeah,Yeah”?

  9. Kate says:

    YES! I didn’t know this guy by name, just by face but oh my goodness he is hilarious! It sounds like he didn’t disappoint, I like how he tailored his material to his audience. I know it’s common to do but a lot of comedians will just do it at the beginning and then generate the same thing for each show.

    • Expat Eye says:

      My friend was saying she went to see someone last year – can’t remember which one! – but he kept shushing the audience saying he had to get through this stuff by 10pm and he didn’t have time for distractions haha! I think Dylan Moran is one of the few who tailors his act to each country he’s in. And it pays off!

  10. Pecora Nera says:

    Thanks for the video link. I hadn’t heard of this guy 🙂

  11. Nene says:

    I love getting to see Irish stuff abroad! Saw Mick Flannery here in the summer and it was a fab concert. God love him, he’s awful shy, and the Germans didn’t know what to make of him. Dylan sounded brilliant! 🙂

  12. Lila says:

    i seriously love that guy=) look he did a show in russia here:

    he went to serbia and bulgaria? he s the man. i read an article somwhere that he is the only one english speaking comedian who travelled in eastern europe. he had subtitles on his show in russia and in latvia did everyone understand him? good english language skills=)

    • Expat Eye says:

      He didn’t have subtitles here and everyone seemed to understand him! Apart from when he tried to speak Latvian 😉 A lot of them had been to see him the last time he was here as well. I think they know him from his TV show Black Books. They seriously loved him!

  13. Bob Lewis says:

    I think I’d have enjoyed that……!

  14. Anna says:

    Now that I think about it, it takes a great deal of work – research – to put together a show like that. I mean, everyone knows stereotypes about Russians, and I could pull a few Irish ones out of a hat (whiskey, leprechauns, St Patrick, green hills, Guinness – am I close?) without ever going to Ireland and knowing any Irish people (till very recently). But Latvia? Lithuania? The relationship between the two? Pretty much everything I know about Latvia, aside from geographic location and tensions w/Russia, I learned from this blog. So I’m super-duper impressed. I hope this guys comes to Moscow – his bit on Russians is mad funny!

  15. bevchen says:

    He was in Berlin this year, but I didn’t go. Couldn’t afford him AND Eddie Izzard, and Eddie took priority. I’d wanted to see him for literally YEARS!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Eddie Izzard was here too but I think I was away. I heard it wasn’t great actually. He did around 20 minutes, took a break and then did another 15. Very short. Did you think he was good?

      • bevchen says:

        Really? Was it the Force Majeur tour? That’s what I saw and he was BRILLIANT! A German comedian did a short sketch, then Eddie came on for about 20 minutes, then interval then Eddie again for about 30-40 minutes.

      • Expat Eye says:

        If it was this year, then it was the same one. Maybe the audience here wasn’t as good and he gave up early!

      • bevchen says:

        Possibly… he referred to old shows a few times when I saw him, and you could tell which members of the audience had seen the DVDs by who laughed.

        There was one joke that fell a bit flat, but he just did is usual “note to self, never try combining those two things again” (I can’t remember what they were) and moved on to something that the audience did respond to.

  16. I’m perplexed! Maybe since they found him funny despite him making fun of them they will find you funny if you read your blog on stage. Maybe they will give you cake then too! 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, I think if I stood on stage reading my blog people would throw things at me – and not cake! Maybe it was his delivery – men have something more hapless about them than women!

  17. pollyheath says:

    I love Dylan Moran!! I excitedly checked out his tour to see if he was coming over to Russia. No dice… Glad the Latvians had a nice respite from the day-to-day monotony.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I just had another look at the tour dates – oh well! He’s heading to the States for his next tour though – maybe you can catch him there 😉

      • Lila says:

        apparently not that many ppl in russia understood him the first time around. they should have sold the tickets to the students of the english language exclusively. how would i have enjoyed that! so jealous of linda=) hope to see him when im in uk…

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m sure you will! He seems to tour quite a lot. My mother had never heard of him. I was like ‘Mam, jesus, even Latvian people have heard of him! He’s one of the most famous Irish comedians going!’

  18. Good to have a good giggle and gaffaw once and a while and even more remarkable if its in company. But don’t be too sure he hasn’t been stalking your blog… after all “JAaaaaanis” was involved! 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, it was the crowd that shouted it out! I said nothing! And it was clearly the first time he’d heard the name! Or maybe he’d been pronouncing it Janice when he’d been reading it 😉

  19. 1WriteWay says:

    I didn’t know Latvians laughed or had a sense of humor. Learn something new … 🙂

  20. Funnier that you…? I bet my bottom dollar (not the CAKE dollar, though), that he swotted up for this gig by reading your blog…
    Sounds like it was a restorative evening 🙂

  21. Glad you were witness to Latvian laughter while having some giggles yourself. Dylan Moran is seriously funny and including the video of him was brilliant!

    • Expat Eye says:

      He was well worth going out in the rain for! He was even funnier in person. And actually weirdly sexy for an Irish guy 😉 Glad you enjoyed the video! Linda.

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