Saturday, November 08, 2014

It's always funnier in German

This is a clip from a FRASIER episode called "Miss Right Now" that David Isaacs and I wrote.  It was translated into German.  If ever there was a language perfectly suited for the rhythms of humor it's German.    Zu genie├čen.

24 comments:

Ray32 said...

You do realize that every German reader of your blog (though not necessarily the average German TV viewer) will strongly disagree with that headline? We original-version snobs may not be a majority, but we will annoy everyone at parties with our passion for taking shots at the German dubs.

I mean, we're right. Sitcom dubs especially are often atrocious - full of translation errors and shoddy line readings that often get even basic word emphasis wrong. But I'm saying, prepare yourself for an onslaught of examples. (I expect most to be from "Buffy" or "Friends" though. Oh dear, that "Friends" dub.)

blinky said...

You can smell the bratwurst cooking!

Thomas from Bavaria said...

I'm not a fan of most German dubs either, but they didn't do that a bad job with Frasier, especially if you compare it to complete disasters like the German Simpsons.

By the way: I always wonder what the German language sounds like to someone who doesn't speak it... sadly, I'll probably never be able to figure that out.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Roger Moore has said that the German dub for his series "The Persuaders" was almost deliberately inaccurate, and that the translators were treating themselves to a surrealistic good time.

Anonymous said...

Ach, der mein schlibber. ....

Christian said...

Ray32 said...
We original-version snobs may not be a majority, but we will annoy everyone at parties with our passion for taking shots at the German dubs.


I can't tell you how many parties I've seen ruined by violent arguments over the quality of German-dubbed sitcoms.

emily said...

Die Schauspieler machte es lustig regarless der Sprache.

Rob Larkin said...

I thought the German actor doing Fraser did a credible job! He had the right timbre in his voice.

Check out "Mannerwirtschaft" the German dubbed version of "The Odd Couple":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJxHw_Z_0ns

An effort seems to have been made to find voice actors matching the voices of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. The actor doing Randall comes remarkably close. I almost though it was Randall doing his own dubbing!

Anonymous said...

I suspect my comments will not be appreciated but here they are. First of all, I've lived in Germany for a good while and have suffered through a great many bad dubs. The dubbing industry here supports a lot of people and even though I find it remarkably awful in terms of accuracy(directors have no control over foreign dubs and the translations for the scenes that will be dubbed on a given day are often, literally, done the night before with the resulting lack of context, quality, etc.) it shows no sign of going away.

That said, I genuinely enjoyed the scene partly because I find Kelsey Grammar's voice a trifle annoying(frankly, the scene would have functioned in silence) and while the dubbed voice was absurdly un-synchronized, it wasn't Mr. Grammar's-de gustibus non est disputandum. I had a similar experience watching the atrocious film, Troy. Brad Pitt's hopelessly written role was less irritating when his voice was dubbed.

Dubbing is the bane of several countries.

Cheers,

Alan Tomlinson

Largo161 said...

This is one of my favorite late-era Frasier episodes. I didn't know it was a Levine & Issacs script. Love it!

H Johnson said...

Geez you krau... strike that, fellow inhabitants of Earth who originate in Germany, lighten up. That was hilarious.

I thought the voices were apt representations and since I was familiar with the episode, I thought their intonation was great too.

And since I don't speak German it was funny anyway (refer to post title).

Aloha

PNW Corey said...

Do you get any royalties off of "your" stuff when it's played in other/foreign markets?

If so, do you call it your "Hawaiian vacation" or "Mr.Icee-time?"

PNW Corey said...

A Levine re-write...
"If so, do you call it your "Hawaiian vacation" or "Mr.Icee-time?" should be...


"If so, do you call 'em your "Hawaiian Vacation, Chanakah gelt or "it's Mr. ICCE time?"

Mike said...

To be fair, the actor dubbing Daphne's brother does a great English accent.

Mike said...

>complete disasters like the German Simpsons.

How hard is it to translate "The Bart, The"

Paul Duca said...

Somewhere, Adolf Hitler is laughing...

Anonymous said...

"Paul Duca said...
Somewhere, Adolf Hitler is laughing..."

what a superb joke. Jeez

Johnny Walker said...

The dubbed versions of sitcoms can be totally unwatchable. They can't use the production audio, and so can't use any of the real audience's laughs. They did a good job with that Frasier episode, but on a recent trip to Spain I saw a bit of The Big Bang Theory and it made me neauseous. The canned laughter they'd been forced to insert was unbearable!

That said. most European TVs have the ability to switch to the English language feed, don't they?

Thomas from Bavaria said...

That said. most European TVs have the ability to switch to the English language feed, don't they?
They do, but usually there is no English language feed. I remember being a 6th grade student and learning English for the second year. I used to watch "Golden Girls" on Austrian television because it was one of the very few series that would offer switching to the original language. Finally we got satellite tv with CNN and CNBC 24/7. Hard to imagine that once there was no Youtube where you could find foreign language stuff.

Bart from Cologne said...

"If ever there was a language perfectly suited for the rhythms of humor it's German."
It is funny because it is true:
"Minnie and Sam were the [Marx] brothers' parents; he, a French speaker from Alsace, Minnie from Germany. The household grew up speaking Yiddish and German at home, English at school." (C.P. Lee: Imigrants, Humour and the Marx Brothers)

VP81955 said...

A nice way to honor this weekend's 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (although theoretically, both the former East and West Germany could have watched the entirety of the "Frasier" run). Great work, Ken.

XantaKlaus said...

As a reader from Germany, I of course have some points to add to the discussion.

First of all, in Germany it is not custom to have a broadcast of a TV show with dubbed audio and the original language as in some other countries (Netherlands, Norway[?]). As a German if you want to watch a TV show (legally) without dubbing you have to use German Pay TV or online streaming like Netflix and partially Amazon Instant Video - the latter for some reason has only a small number of films available in english but a good number of TV shows are available in the original language. Back in my day the only source for content without dubbing was The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Nigh Show with Conan O'Brien that were broadcast on NBC Europe with optional subtitles. No better way to get accustomed with a language than hearing people talk it naturally - much better than textbooks.

Now if a dubbing is good or not in my mind comes back to one factor: budget. I am leaving out the poor attempt to change the name of each role in an earliver version of a dubbed Cheers Ken is familiar with. A good budget gives you the option to hire an experienced "dialogue director" and good actors. Frasier is an excellent show dubbed in German from translating the source material to deliver the jokes and the range of the actors. Alf is another example of a good dubbing and a rare example in which the actor who spoke Alf is in my mind better than the original. Very charismatic portrayal, I was let down when I heard the original.

Nowadays there is no real budget for good TV dubbing. HIMYM is an example of a really poor job. When switching through channels I have heard some scenes from the german version and that was really horrible. They just translated the english version word by word (even with the english grammer) and paid no attention to the joke. I found myself retranslating dialogue back to english in order for it to make sense. The spoken words did not make sense in German. And in order to save money the trend is to cast actors fresh out of acting school to save money.

Another thing I have found out, and I hope I am not alone in that one, a factor if you like/tolerate a dubbing or not has something to do with personal experience of the material. For examples: I have watched Frasier for the first time from start to finish in the German version and later on have watched it with the english language option on the DVDs. I can tolerate rewatching an episode of Frasier in German again because I have associated the German voice of Frasier with Frasier. I was never able to watch Cheers on German television, so my first exposure to it was the English version on DVD. I would never be able to watch it in German now.

And finally there's bad voice casting. If you know the voice of the original actor and then get a totally different sounding voice actor for the German version, you have lost me. The german voice for Hugh Laurie in House M.D. is so deep, it does not sound a bit like Hugh - and having seen House M.D. in english first, I could not tolerate the voice at all. The late great Robin Williams knew how important dubbing was, after he won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting, he sent a copy of the statue to his great German voice (unfortunately the now also late and great) Peer Augustinski, who could portray the energy of Robin Williams so good and helped make him popular in Germany.

James Prichard said...

This has long been one of my favorite episodes, despite being so similar to a Cheers episode where Jennifer Tilly was brought in to play a similarly ditzy date for Frasier.

MacGilroy said...

I still can't quite wrap my head around the surrealistic sensation we had on a trip to Austria watching Hogan's Heroes dubbed in German. Think about it...