Mari is dismantling the patriarchy one joke at a time
Meet Mari – she’s spinning several unique plates at once when it comes to her current career situation. She’s a comedian and comedy producer, tour guide, online project manager, and part-time retail sales associate. She’s been living in Germany for a total of about 3 years, spread across 2 stints, but the entire time in Köln (Cologne for those who aren’t familiar with the German spelling). Most importantly, she’s part of the brunch sisterhood, where you can catch her grabbing coffee or brunch with her pals to get the latest hot gossip and talk about what it’s like to try and date cis-het German men.
Basically, Mari is funnier than you. And me. And we love it, which is why you will have fun reading the following interview about her life in Germany. Follow her on instagram @marivolar and her comedy collective @clitcomedyclub!
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you’re still here?
Coincidence brought me to Germany. Coincidence and faulty vocal chords.
My background is in classical music and opera and during my studies at university I really hit a wall. My mental health was in pieces, that took a toll on my physical health and wellbeing and I just couldn’t imagine how to move on from that until good friends invited me to spend a summer with them in Cologne. They lived nearby, one of them studied music in the city and had recently come across a great private singing teacher he thought could help me in my hour (well.. year) of need. And so I came here for 5 weeks. Realizing half way through if I would ever make a semi decent sound in my life again I’d have to spend some serious one on one learning time with this teacher. So – I took a year off from uni, found a full-time job at a Kindergarten (great for a germ-avoiding classical singer, of course) and moved to Cologne for a full year.
I left after my allotment of time was up to finish my studies back home (in Tallinn, Estonia), only to move out here again a year later. Now with a totally useless degree and a very small inkling that this is the right thing to do.
So no, what originally brought me here is not why I stuck around. But boy am I happy that I did.
What do you love most about living in Köln/Germany?
Its size. Whoever says size doesn’t matter is clearly lying. Cologne is small enough that everything you need is within 30min of comfortable cycling speed, but big enough for you not to run into that one (or.. many) embarrassing one night stand(s) EVERY OTHER FRIDAY.
I love that it’s a rather open-minded city, we take pride in slowing down and enjoying things we love.. It’s socially acceptable to walk around in whatever you feel like wearing (hello all my Ehrenfeld friends!) but we don’t do difference just for the sake of difference. It feels like a very authentic place to be.
Of course I could be reading this all totally wrong and living in a highly personal version of The Twilight Zone.
Let’s talk about your German language-learning journey. How did you start, how has the process been, how do you feel about your abilities now, etc.
My German skills are… survivable? Like, I no longer have anxiety attacks when I need to leave the house and ask a shop assistant which aisle their pasta sauces are in.. But they’re still shit enough for me to feel extremely uncomfortable making a doctor’s appointment with a receptionist who seems to just be there to judge my every move. Which is why I’ll probably die very young from a highly curable illness.
Do you have any favorite German word(s) or expression(s)? Why do you like it?
My ABSOLUTE favourite word in the German language is scheißegal. There is nothing even remotely as satisfying in English (or Estonian). It is the PERFECT word. Or “egal” if you’re trying to be all classy. It’s the best.
I know you work in retail part-time, and as a fellow international who worked in retail (in German!), I’m sure you also have some funny (and potentially horror) stories. Mind sharing one or two that come to mind?
Not me working in retail related, BUT, when I first arrived in Germany I was convinced I’d be perfectly fluent in less than 6 months. After all, I lived in the UK for just 2 years and assimilated to a level at which natives would assume me to be one of their own. How hard would it be to repeat that, aye?! VERY is the answer.
A couple of weeks into being here I had to top up my pay-as-you-go German phone number. So I google all my phrases beforehand and confidently walk into T-Mobile. “Ich brauche eine Einladung, bitte”. That was my opening line. And I stood by it. “Eine Einladung. Ich habe 20€”. It took a good 5 minutes before the very scared young man behind the counter understood I actually needed a “Aufladung” and wasn’t trying to bribe him for a date. With 20€. And that’s why my German is still shit. I have PTSD from my early days of eagerness.
What do your family members and friends in Estonia think of your life in Germany/decision to move and work abroad?
By now they’re comfortable with me being a bit mad and doing whatever. I think the biggest shock was when I left home to go to the UK aged 19. Once I survived that they were like “naah, she’ll live”. So we’re cool. Also – Estonia is not too far away. We’re actually trying something new this year for my birthday in December- we’re meeting up half way. Because I feel like always “holidaying” at home means you never actually holiday at all. And having family to visit is super nice and all, but in reality it means you have this copious amount of extra stress having to look after them on top of your normal everyday life stuff. And that adds up. So, for my birthday my entire family is meeting up in Prague for a long weekend! And I cannot even begin to describe how bougie that feels! Also, if anyone reading this has cool recs for Prague, fucking send them my way, please! I’ll secretly love you forever.
You decided to throw your hat in the ring in terms of stand-up comedy not too long ago. How did this decision come to be and what are some of the learnings you’ve gathered already?
The fun answer would be that once I saw opera was a dead end I needed a simpler way to make a fool of myself and honestly, there’s some definite truth in that. BUT, I’ve always loved comedy and comedic storytelling. I feel like good comedy is our version of ancient philosophy. There are such inherent truths at play when you make things around you feel funny for other people. And it means digging real deep into yourself. Because ultimately you cannot be afraid of ridicule. So you either have to have a really good relationship with yourself, that allows you to look at yourself as you are, or you need to be a really mediocre white man who just can’t be bothered..
You are part of the founding mothers who formed the Clit Comedy Club! Can you share a bit about the collective and why it’s important that it has a feminist foundation?
I AM the mother of Clit Comedy! Anshita (my Clit Comedy partner) and I have this saying that I’m the biological mother of Clit and she’s the godmother (and sometimes the fairy godmother. It depends how edgy we need to feel).
Clit Comedy Club is (as far as we know. And we did a google search) the first ever openly feminist comedy collective in Cologne. We try to organize stand up events that bring forth more women and people from marginalized backgrounds and we just want to smash the patriarchy. Also we’re really fun and being detail-oriented and overachieving women we always make sure to over-deliver. So you should check us out!
Where do you see your place in the world of comedy in the future? Do you have any specific goals you’re working toward?
Gosh, way to keep it light and fluffy, Chelsea! I’ve sort of given up on making long term plans. Of course there are things I want to do (and have already started with. At least some of them) – perform at a bunch of comedy festivals and write killer material for stage. Produce amazing events that knock people’s socks off.. You know.. The ushhh (usual). But I’ve made so many plans for the future in the past (in the UK I was sure I’d be a manager of a hotel at one point.. I mean, I’d suck at that!) and every time I come up with a plan, life takes it, smashes it in my face and says – loool. And then I try again and go at it from another perspective.
I definitely see myself performing a lot. But I also love educating people and I see how much my performance, voice and comedy experience can help people (especially women and marginalized communities) speak with more ease in public, present themselves more successfully in professional situations and work better with text, just to name a few things. So workshops are also definitely in my future (and present, should anyone want to book me for one). So, in essence – I think I’m ok with where I’m headed and whatever comes of it, comes of it.
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
I mean, women – all we want to do is to toot our own horn, #amirite! And we’re SO good at it, too.
Oh well, let’s give this a go then – I’m a Power Frau (where’s my t-shirt, btw??) because I continue to be ok. Despite or maybe because of international moves, career changes, changes in how I view myself and the world around it, despite the Patriarchy (or MAYBE because, although I don’t think so) doing it’s best to keep us all #humble and ever so repressed, I keep choosing to take up space in the world as I am and trying to convince myself and everybody else that I have plenty of reasons to do so. And that we all do. And orgasms. Being able to give myself orgasms is why I’m a Power Frau. Female masturbation needs more air time. Figuratively speaking. So let’s finish with that. Pun totally intended.