Comedian Teun van den Elzen (27) produces ‘Saaie Kutpolitiek’ (Boring Shit Politics), a YouTube channel with satirical videos about Dutch politics. Van den Elzen’s Political Science studies at VU Amsterdam laid the foundations for his career. “My father always wants me to mention that I graduated cum laude.”
How did you come up with the idea for the YouTube channel?
„During the first lockdown, my shows were cancelled and I suddenly found myself sitting at home on the couch. The only thing I could do was write, write, write. I thought: at least I’ll have some more material for later. But the material didn’t measure up to what I’d hoped. During the second lockdown, I was a bit disillusioned by the news. When the childcare benefits scandal came to light, I didn’t understand it at all, even though I’d studied Political Science. That’s when I got the idea for Saaie Kutpolitiek (Boring Shit Politics)."
What do you hope to achieve with the videos?
„The media doesn’t deal with boring political issues. Tax laws, which is what the childcare benefits scandal is all about, don’t make it into the papers. It’s dull, and nobody’s going to read about it. I want to make those important issues interesting as well. I’d really like to take subjects that are extremely boring and make them fun in my videos. Things like the Hugo de Jonge’s vaccination fiasco. I think political reporters shouldn’t just focus on the latest soundbite. I try to look at the larger developments, like why all the left-leaning parties together have fewer seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte."
Did you always want to become a comedian?
„As a kid, I watched the show Functioneel naakt by Theo Maassen and it made a big impression on me. The way he told joke after joke, and how he held the audience in the palm of his hand. I thought: I want to do that too! But I didn’t really know how. Studying Political Science seemed like a more logical choice. After graduation, I considered looking for a journalism job, mainly to reassure my girlfriend that I’d try to earn a living and that comedy was something on the side. But after I won the Groningen Cabaret Festival in 2019, I could suddenly make a living with comedy. Until the coronavirus ruined it all, that is."
„My videos are really just edited mini-theses, but with jokes and pictures."
Do you use anything you learned studying Political Science at the VU when making your videos?
„Instead of taking exams, we only wrote essays, so I learned how to structure an argument. From start to finish, every paragraph, sentence and word has to relate to what came before it. The lecturers really hammered it into us that we had to draw the reader in. Not because the reader’s dumb, but because we deal with complicated issues. So I try to do that. My videos are really just edited mini-theses, but with jokes and pictures."
„The difference between the essays and my online videos is that now the political events I analyse are much closer in time. Political scientists often write analyses about ten-year periods in politics. But how does that help people today? I focus more on current events and situations that arise. And I think that a one-liner can sometimes say more than a long analysis. Like when I compared the Dutch health care system to Messi: the best in the world, but we won’t be able to afford it."
Are you equally critical about every party?
„I try to. There are still a few parties on my list that I haven’t dealt with yet. D66 hasn’t gotten much attention, so I’ll have to compensate for that after the election. I also want to take on all the newcomers."
Under one of your videos, someone commented: ‘Fun video, but too bad about the name’. Do you hear that more often?
„Someone recently asked if I could do without the word ‘kut’ (shit) in the title. I do have to try to avoid becoming the ‘kut’ guy. I understand the critique. Not everyone will have the word ‘kut’ in their mental vocabulary. But the name is appropriate to the topic. A lot of people think that keeping up with politics is boring and ‘shitty’. By acknowledging that in a satirical way, I hope to use humour to change that."