The Friendliest Place in the Universe: Love, Laughter, and Stand-Up Comedy in Berlin
Author: Hillary S. Webb
University Professors Press, 2022
Like many in the fall of 2017—a year into the Trump/Brexit era—I found myself becoming increasingly dismayed by the world’s turn toward what appeared to be a kind of hyper-xenophobia. On a whim, I traveled to Berlin, Germany, for a week’s vacation. There, I found renewed hope and personal healing in an unexpected place: Cosmic Comedy, an international stand-up venue described as “The Friendliest Comedy Club in Europe.”
Down in that dimly lit, beer-soaked basement, I watched with surprise and delight as the club’s two co-promoters, Dharmander Singh and Neil Numb, gathered a group of culturally and demographically diverse comedians and audience members, transforming them from strangers into supportive allies. United by the mutual desire to laugh at the absurdities of the human condition.
I wondered: Could Cosmic Comedy’s intentionally devised “culture of kindness” be an anodyne to our hostile world? Fixated on the possibility, I returned to Berlin a few months later, determined to uncover the secret sauce for creating bonds of empathy between strangers.
As with all journeys of the mind and heart, my investigations took me through myriad highs and lows, including the unwelcome realization that collective joy has a dark doppelgänger—the “madness of the crowd”—and that I, myself, was as susceptible to its intoxicating influence as anyone else. In the end, however, The Friendliest Place in the Universe: A Story of Love, Laughter, and Stand-Up Comedy in Berlin is a humorous, heart breaking, and, ultimately, hopeful look at the nature of human togetherness.
What Readers Are Saying:
“Hillary S. Webb’s The Friendliest Place in the Universe is at once a playful romp and a serious inquiry. It is a book in which absurdities are not to be dismissed, but celebrated and enjoyed. It is a story of transformation, a spiritual renewal unlike any you have ever read. Through her observations of the Berlin stand-up scene, Webb discovers life lessons delivered as laughter that readers will treasure and want to share.”
— Richard Hoffman, author, Love & Fury
“Webb's engaging voice keeps me reading, and her ability to capture details is equally masterful whether she is describing street scenes in Berlin, the social dynamics of a comedy club, or the swirls and eddies of thoughts and emotions. This is a journey readers will want to go on.”
— Alexis Rizzuto, former memoir editor, Beacon Press