NewsOliver Polak's Netflix series "Your Life is a Joke":...

Oliver Polak's Netflix series "Your Life is a Joke": "It's not about destroying someone, it's about celebrating them"

Comedian Oliver Polak now has his own series on Netflix, which starts on November 9th. In “Your Life is a Joke” he spends a day with celebrities before roasting them in a stand-up in the evening.

Comedian Oliver Polak is sitting in a gold-colored Manta, he rests his arm on the headrest of the passenger seat, it’s a bit like in these romantic films the crackling moment shortly before the first kiss. In the passenger seat, Christian Ulmen looks almost like a child when starting school. The otherwise sovereign actor and comedian (“Jerks”) doesn’t even know whether to be happy or to be afraid when Polak starts to beat the show song: “I want to be with you for the day. No more alone without you. Show me everything you like Or whatever gnaws at you … Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. But maybe it hurts too! ”The 45-year-old entertainer, who already won the Grimme Prize for his TV show“ Applause and Raus ”and whose autobiographical books like“ The Jewish Patient ”were bestsellers, now has his own comedy show on Netflix, title: “Your Life Is a Joke”. About people who find his gags too hard, Polak says: “No joke is harder than reality.” Polak spends a day on the show with a celebrity: In addition to elms, the rappers Nura and Jennifer Weist in the first season Front singer of the band Jennifer Rostock. The celebrities choose their favorite places: Polak sniffs with elms at displays in the hardware store and swims in the Heiligensee, with Nura he goes to the roller disco and to the fortune teller. For Jennifer Weist, Polak sings the ice cream cone as a micro substitute, a romantic song on the street. But in addition to all the comedy, the show also has very profound moments.

Mr. Polak, “Your Life Is a Joke” is not your typical comedy show: It’s a wild mix of James Cordens, Carpool Karaoke, “La La Land” musical and therapy class. Because you not only spend the day with your guests, you also ask them personal questions in a very empathetic way in order to “roast” them in the evening on a stand-up stage, that is, to mock their quirks with loving gags. How did this concept come about?

There are three things that I like best: getting to know people and talking to them, singing and, in the end, the stand-up. I composed the intro song together with Erobique. During that time I heard a lot about the style from the R’n’B & Soul band “Blue Magic”. It’s that 70s Philly sound, but the sound of Barry Manilow is also reflected in the piece. I liked the fact that all three guests went into the show with such an open mind. One opened earlier, the other later, but everyone opened up and was ready. That touched me very much.

What exactly touched you? And how well did you know the guests in advance?

I only knew all three of them briefly before, but found them interesting and wanted to look deeper. There was no script, I just listened, at the moment I asked again more precisely. I hadn’t planned to speak to Jennifer Weist about her parents beforehand. I was very moved when she said that she hardly knew her father because he left the family early. Nura’s life story also moved me. Her mother was married to her father in Saudi Arabia so that she would not become a child soldier in Eritrea. As a three-year-old Nura fled with her mother and siblings from Saudi Arabia to Germany. It made me very thoughtful when she said that although she has lived here for most of her life and pays more taxes than many others, she cannot get a German passport. This can not be.

And what was the most emotional moment with elms?

When we clung to each other like monkeys in the cold water of the Heiligensee, it was already intimate. We talked about friendship, loneliness, being alone, that touched me. But even so, Ulmen touches me. I get along better with men like that than with men like that.

To person

Oliver Polak , born 1976 in Papenburg, is a stand-up comedian, author and podcaster. His television career starts with an internship with Stefan Raab. Then he moderates the music channel “Viva”. He goes on tour with live shows like “Der Endgegner”, “Krankes Schwein” or “Jud Süss Sauer”. His three books “I may, I am a Jew”, “The Jewish Patient” and “Against Jew-hatred” were bestsellers.

In 2017 he received the German Television Prize for the ARD series “The Laughing of Others” and the Grimme Prize for his ProSieben show “Applause and out”.

In 2022 he will go on tour with his new program “Sorry, for nothing”. He lives in Berlin and Paris with his terrier mix Arthur. From November 9th, Polak’s first Netflix comedy series can be seen worldwide. He is also currently writing a new book that will be published by Suhrkamp.

“Your Life Is a Joke” will air on Netflix November 9th. rose

After all these intimate moments, you roast elms with hard sentences like, “You look the way I often feel: like a sad, single sex fair visitor.” Is it easier or harder to roast people you like?

I think the basis of roasting someone is loving someone. This comes from the tradition from America that you make a toast to someone who has a birthday. Here, too, it’s funnier if you talk about the little ticks and weaknesses in a funny way. That’s why I wouldn’t roast someone I hate, because that’s not the point. It’s not that German schadenfreude thing. It’s about harmony. When someone has died, it’s nicer if you don’t just talk about how sad it is now that grandma is no longer there. But also talks about funny moments: “Do you remember when grandma went to the supermarket in a bathrobe so angry?” Then everyone laughs together. Roast is all about working out the uniqueness of this person. To me, Nura is like the best friend in comic book adaptations. Like Sid from “Ice Age” or the donkey from “Shrek”, just this lovable, loyal friend who always carries you away. I like that about her very much. It’s not about destroying someone, it’s about celebrating them. It was easy for me to do this with these three people because everyone is very special in their own way.

Your aunt Ilse Polak, who emigrated to New York as a Shoah survivor after the Second World War, is also very special in your life. You filmed a documentary about her on your cell phone, but the footage was lost because your cell phone crashed. Are you going to repeat that now that you can fly to the USA again? And how old is your aunt now?

93 or 94? I prefer to say 93 because she doesn’t like it when you make her older. I have to see if I’ll do the documentary about her when I go there in November. Depending on how she is when I’m there. But it’s still on my mind I would like to take her to the jetty again, where she first arrived in the USA by ship after the war. Above all, I want to spend a lot of time with her. We’ll go to Katz’s Delicatessen and eat sandwiches together. This is our ritual. And I want to go to Central Park with her, sit on a bench with her and feed pigeons together.

At the beginning of 2022 you can also be seen in the ARD multi-part series “Eldorado KaDeWe” in the role of the Jewish department store owner on the eve of the Nazis’ seizure of power. For a while you suffered greatly from being reduced to being “Jewish”. Why did you take on the role anyway?

When I got the message from the director Julia von Heinz that she would like to cast me for the role, I was hesitant until I met her personally. My Jewishness was a big issue for me for a long time. In the here and now, however, it no longer matters. It’s different on the stand-up stage, it’s a show. And now that’s acting, a role that I found interesting. I haven’t played for a long time either. I also really like department stores like KaDeWe, perhaps also because there is a connection there. My father owned “The House of Small Prizes – Wilhelm Polak” in Papenburg for 45 years. We carried women’s, men’s, children’s and maternity wear. My father was the first to have a children’s carousel in Emsland. As a child, I also liked to stand in the window with my friends as living mannequins.

If there was a second season of your Netflix series, who would you like to roast?

Otto Waalkes is someone I’d really like to get to know because I think he’s an incredibly interesting guy, but whom I’ve never met. Because he’s one of the few people I adore. He laid the foundation for me and many other people in a serious country like Germany, where making nonsense was always forbidden. Even at school I could always refer to him: “He does that too.” It would be great if we shot the episode in Emden, where he comes from, then we could go straight over to Papenburg.

Interview: Kathrin Rosendorff

Oliver Polak kuschelt mit Christian Ulmen im Heiligensee und spricht mit ihm über Freundschaft, Einsamkeit und Alleinsein. Foto: Netflix


Oliver Polak cuddles with Christian Ulmen in Heiligensee and talks to him about friendship, loneliness and being alone.
Nach einem Tag mit intimen Gesprächen werden die Gäst:innen wie Rapperin Nura auf der Stand-up-Bühne geroastet. Foto: Netflix


After a day of intimate conversations, the guests, like rapper Nura, are toasted on the stand-up stage.
Auch Jennifer Weist, die Frontsängerin der Band Jennifer Rostock, stellt sich Oliver Polaks Roast. Foto: Netflix


Jennifer Weist, the lead singer of the band Jennifer Rostock, also faces Oliver Polaks Roast.

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