‘Look, Peter, this is our people!’

Wim Helsen’s Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig as a Role-playing Game and Enacted Ideology[1]

Wim Helsen’s (1968) stand-up comedy is often characterized as absurd, confusing, transgressive or Dadaist.[2] One could not categorize him as just a gagman, although he sometimes explicitly inserts moments for the telling of jokes. These jokes, however, often seem to be told by another character than the ‘narrator’, who should use a more neutral tone – but it is hard to tell if this character exists in Helsen’s performances, as Benjamin Verhoeven demonstrates.[3] The storylines in his shows are associative and chaotic, and the shifting between characters is fuzzy, which can have almost schizophrenic effects. Despite this fuzziness, several layers of one or more personalities of the character Helsen is acting can be (loosely) defined. This psychological depth – full of associations, self-doubts and hungry for affirmation – reminds of the monologue intérieur, the ‘stream of consciousness’, as found in many modernistic novels.[4] One could analyze Helsen’s shows as such, applying methods from literary studies, especially since most of them have been published in book form, but perhaps that would be too narrow a perspective. As theatre scholar Dick Zijp already asserted, Helsen’s comedy challenges ‘traditional expectations of authenticity and social engagement by presenting confused persona not able to deal with ‘normal’ social situations’, and it does indeed, but in a very interactive and playful way which could probably not be fully understood by using concepts and approaches from literary studies.[5] Because of this playfulness it might be fruitful to engage concepts from game studies (where ‘play’ is a very central theme) when analyzing Helsen’s stand-up comedy, since his style seems to include more than mere interactivity, as audience members often are assigned roles by Helsen, even outside the space of the theatre.

The latter is, for instance, the case in Bij mij zijt ge veilig (‘You are in safe hands with me’). Bij mij zijt ge veilig is a show which Helsen performed from 2005 to 2007 and published in a book containing a script of this second show together with Heden Soup!, his first show.[6] During the show, Helsen slowly unfolds a megalomaniac dictator as his main character. Via several different genres (like political speech, fables and some) Helsen redefines the outside world: all the human beings outside the theatre are turned into salamanders by a rain shower, so the members of the audience in the theatre of the show are the only survivors of the world’s population, unless maybe one other group would also have been sheltered by a theatre (‘probably in Luxembourg’). By preparing for the possibly hostile attitude of the other group, Helsen presents himself as their leader, via call-and-response interactions, political speeches, and even the appointing of one audience members as his minister. This minister is invited to the stage and has to read out a speech written by Helsen and is later being sent on expedition to explore the outside world and spot possible survivors or threats.

Some characteristics of Bij mij zijt ge veilig probably fall outside the scope of literary of theatrical analyses and demand other approaches. During the show, the event slowly seems to evolve into a role-playing game the audience also becomes actor, and the space where the acting happens expands even beyond the theatrical building. Also, the status of Wim Helsen as an actor is rather complicated: stand-up comedians tend to be considered ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ (their ‘naked selves’), and indeed, Helsen uses his own name, talking and clothing style, but is obviously impersonating characters, albeit they are sometimes hard to distinguish.[7]

Analyzing shows like Bij mij zijt ge veilig while respecting these characteristics demands an approach which deals with the layeredness of identities like ‘character’, ‘the audience’, and the signification of (theatrical) space. Also should be taken into account what and how the thematic content of the show comes about: if Bij mij zijt ge veilig is about power relations in totalitarian regimes, as it seems, which techniques are used, when we consider not only narrative and language, but the possible enactment of this ideology as well? I think the field of game studies provides many useful concepts and approaches to tackle these complexities. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate in which ways analyses of shows like Helsen’s can or cannot benefit from a synthesis of approaches from theatre and game studies, by answering the following question:

How can Bij mij zijt ge veilig be analyzed as role-play, taking into account characteristics beyond the levels of mere language or narrative?

To answer this rather broad question, I propose these sub questions:

  • How is Helsen’s character constructed and what can be said about its authenticity?
  • How can the audience be characterized, as it seems to become an actor as well?
  • How does the use and manipulation of space and spatial boundaries effect the relations between Helsen(‘s characters) and the audience (as players)?
  • How do the characters or players interact, what is their status, which power relations could be identified?
  • How do these relations construct the ‘story’ of the show, which narrative is constructed?
  • How does can this constructed narrative be compared to the narrative in the language of the show (the script)?

The structure of the argument will follow the sequence of this questions, as, hopefully, each question brings forth the next in a more or less ‘natural’ way, by starting at Helsen’s persona, and subsequently zoom out to the other ‘players’ in the role-playing game of the show, the space they inhabit and manipulate, the power relations they respect, the meanings (the ‘narrative’) they structure through their actions, beyond the level of story and language. This paper is explorative in the sense that this argumentation structure is followed by giving examples from the show that could be analyzed by one concept, but could be complicated by other, contradictory examples, which demand other concepts to be satisfactorily analyzed with. The aim of this exploration is, therefore, not to give a deep analysis of Bij mij zijt ge veilig in its entirety, but to demonstrate what happens when this show is analyzed not as just a story (monologues, dialogues, narrators) or theatre (interactivity, the fourth wall), but as a playful event, by using concept from the field of game studies.

Actors, characters, the audience

As I already announced, the exploration will start at Wim Helsen as a performer, and the character(s) he constructs through his performance. In a study to the stand-up comedy of Micha Wertheim (often compared to Helsen’s absurdistic and disruptive style), theatre scholar Dick Zijp problematizes the notion of authenticity and theatricality as an ill-fitting dichotomy when interpreting stand-up comedy. As I already mentioned, stand-up comedians often appear to be ‘themselves’ on stage, while switching to characters or stereotypes from time to time. This binary opposition between ‘real’ person (actor) and ‘fake’ (acted) seems helpful (enough) for the analysis of most stand-up comedians’ performances. However, this dichotomy is probably too simplistic, at least for the performances of Wertheim and Helsen. Both comedians deconstruct the various layers of their identities on stage, even the level of the ‘naked self’. In these performances the notions of authenticity and theatricality cannot be viewed as characteristics of objects or persons on stage, but as effects rhetorically realized in the interaction between spectacle and spectator.[8]

Regarding Helsen’s authenticity in Bij mij zijt ge veilig, a few comparisons can be made with the performances by Billy Connolly and Micha Wertheim. Oliver Double, a scholar on popular performance and stand-up comedy, contrasts the performances of Connolly with Ted Ray. Where Ray used his voice to impersonate certain stereotypes which were not necessary for conveying, but mostly decorating his jokes, Connolly used his voice to give layers to characters, which made these more relatable and realistic.[9] Another difference was Ray’s more formal clothing and clear diction versus Connolly’s ordinary clothes and sloppy, everyday speech.[10] Helsen presents himself the same way, wearing a rather casual suit and talking rather naturally (most of the time) and even explicitly reflecting on that:

Example 1
So I dressed like this. Neutral clothes. Clothing which communicates: I’m not better, not more interesting, nor more important than whoever sitting here. I’m still that regular guy. Despite everything.[11]

Helsen is right, he wears the clothes he describes, but the very act of describing can be considered un-authentic, theatrical because Helsen seems to impersonate a narrator reflecting on a character. A clearer example can be found in a fragment where Helsen addresses his own character:

Example 2
Yes, yes, yes, Wim, oh!
This is our humor, Wim! This is the real humor of the people, the real humor of the Huguenots, please continue for hours! Not just the jokes themselves, Wim, but actually how tell ‘em![12]

This play with authenticity versus theatricality demonstrates the shortcomings of such a dichotomy. Therefore, Zijp introduces a concept from the work of theatre scholar Maaike Bleeker to overcome the binary opposition between ‘real’ and ‘fake’, and discusses how Bleeker uses the notion of absorption from the studies of visual arts (Michael Fried) to deal with theatrical situations in which boundaries between spectacle and spectator, actor and audience, person and persona, real and fake are blurred. Fried used the term to refer to a painting technique in late eighteenth-century visual art, which aimed to make the physical (the texture and the surface) medium of the painting disappear in the viewer’s experience.[13] The seemingly monologues intérieurs in example 2 (above) do already vanish the surface of the fourth wall (the ‘texture of the painting’) a little bit – so, generate absorption, and the audience is allowed close proximity to Helsen’s character, but still remains quite passive.

A more radical absorption of the audience into Helsen’s space, and vice versa, is the scene in which he invites Peter/Ernst (this is a difference between the script (Peter) and video (Ernst)) to come to the stage for a hug, after having called him a liar, a stinker, a deceiver, an adulterous sexist, a hypocritical fraud, a selfish pig, a rapist, a mass murderer, and subsequently Helsen praising Peter/Ernst for admitting that (which is, actually, not quite the case). After the blaming and the praising (‘Peter/Ernst does it! He dares to admit he is all these things!’), Helsen creates a silence in which he spreads his arms and he invites Peter/Ernst to the stage to embrace him (awkwardly long), and starts to praise him as a man worth to trust.[14]

This example does not only show the complexities of authenticity or theatricality in Helsen’s character, but also that of a member of the audience. The spheres of spectacle and spectator start to blend: actor and audience are reciprocally absorbing the other. Most of the members of the audience, however, are not actively involved in this change. So, what is the difference between Peter/Ernst and other people? The difference lies not in the fact of spoken interaction between Helsen and Peter/Ernst per se because there are more (short) dialogues between Helsen and members from the audience. Perhaps several conceptualizations about space and its significance from game studies might give a deeper understanding of the mechanisms at play when it comes to the complex relations between actors and audiences.

The stage, the theatre, the world

As the notion of absorption works only partially as an interpretative tool, the concepts of game world and magic circle might help out. The game world is a social construction, which is ‘always perceived, interpreted and manipulated through its present state.’[15] It is the product ‘collective imagining’ and provides a space for a game to unfold.[16] For the game world being effective, it is important that givens from the ‘real world’ are handled differently: they are assigned different meanings, or become even irrelevant.[17] However, hardly any game scholar claims there is a strict border between the game world and the real world.[18] Sociologist Gregory Alan Fine distinguishes, following fellow sociologist Erving Goffman, three frames considering the game world and its surroundings. These frames are, again, social constructs: the primary framework is the ‘actual real world’, the second framework is the ‘game frame’ (in which players talk about and react on the process of the game), and the third framework is the player character frame (the actions of the characters within the game).[19]

Peter/Ernst’s invitation to the stage can be seen not only as redistribution of roles through interaction and absorption, but perhaps even more as a manipulation and resignification of space. In Bij mij zijt ge veilig, when considered a game, the three frames of the game world can easily be observed. The primary framework could be a set of more or less ‘simple’ facts, like there is a large hall with many chairs occupied by spectators with different cultural backgrounds directed to a stage, where one person performs a show which he also performs in other, comparable contexts, many evenings in a row. The set-up of the theater is, of course a cultural construct, just as some general rules, like that the audience will not overrule the performer in terms of noise, that one generally has to pay to attend a show, but also rules regarding the status of spatial areas in the game world of the theatre, like the exclusivity of the stage, the ‘closeness’ of the theatre hall (the outside world becomes rather irrelevant), etc. Within this theatrical setting the game takes place. On the level of the second framework, all reactions on the developments within the game should be localized, like the laughing by the audience, but also comments by Helsen on the audience’s reactions should be included. A perfect example of this could be found in Spijtig spijtig spijtig, another of Helsen’s shows, which starts as follows:

Example 3
Eh, sorry, but, eh, that initial applause, your applause, just, was maybe not a very long and warm applause. It was not an applause that encourages me, as an artist, to make the best of it. But hey, that’s how it is. I might feel sorry for it, but I do understand, so OK!

[very abundant applause]

No, that is really awkward! That was the most stupid thing you could do, that was not my message! But now it is, your applause turned that into my message, like I actually wanted a better applause! And now, again, I seem the nervous artist hungry for applause and endorsement, [chirpy voice:] while I’m so confident![20]

These are comments on how the game is played, but not on the level of the story (which is the third framework), but on general politeness. However, in Spijtig spijtig spijtig, this start already illustrates the character Helsen constructs during the rest of the show: a man of failures and tactlessness. The third framework, the in-game actions and utterances (of the characters), is mostly constructed around Helsen’s character: the dictator on the stage in Bij mij zijt ge veilig. But, like example 3 demonstrated, it can be hard to distinguish which parts of Helsen’s texts are to be localized in the second or in the third framework, because often they seem a mixture of the two:

Example 4
This is a beautiful moment. All the ladies remained seated [Helsen told them to leave if they believed they could live without his protection], so actually they say: ‘Yes, Wim’.
But I’ll reward them for their loyalty and obedience, I will give them many things. My women, my girls, my friend, my slutties.

I will bring peace to their souls. Peace.
All the bullshit that made you unhappy will be gone:
No women must have perfect sizes, or strive to perfect sizes, or even think about perfect sizes, and become pregnant, and again worry about perfect sizes. No!
Do you feel it? The opportunity? The space? The space to make some dirty jokes right now?
‘No women should think about perfect sizes, if she can swallow silently after a devout suck-off, I’m satisfied.’
No, I would not tell such jokes, I’m sorry.[21]

Example 4 shows how Helsen maintains several levels in his characterization: the first ten lines are obviously uttered by the dictator character, but the last part reflects on this character, or perhaps on the context of a stand-up comedy show. Perhaps this last part should be located between the third framework (it could possibly be uttered by the dictator) and the second framework (a player of the game reflecting what his character could or should not do). Game scholar Timo Kellomäki’s refinement of Goffman’s model adds a layer which might be useful for this fragment of the show. Kellomäki splits the third frame into a ‘level of narration’ (‘surrogate’ players between meta-communication and direct speech) and a ‘level of characters’ (direct speech of the characters).[22] However, a main characteristic of these frames is still the possible blurring of them, or, more accurately, the alternating highlighting of one/some of the frames.[23]

Perhaps the last lines from example 4 should be identified as text from, mostly, the level of narration – in-game reflections on the behavior of a character by a character, and not a player – but persistently resonating in the other frameworks as well, and, thus, blurring the characters and personae of Wim Helsen in Bij mij zijt ge veilig.

The frames of Goffman, Fine and Kellomäki mostly deal with meaning and the manipulation of meaning: objects or actions can have different, even conflicting meanings in different frames – like the reflectivity of Helsen-as-player versus the lack of self-reflection by Helsen-as-character (dictator). A very important element in the construction and manipulation is the space of the stage, and the borders of the theatre hall. First, Peter/Ernst becomes more actively part of the game by entering the stage, but plays also an important role in re-signifying the outside world. Peter/Ernst character, the minister of Justice, is sent outside the theatre building to explore the outside world, and thereby including that world physically in the story of the show.

The concept of the magic circle might be relevant here. This term, once coined by the famous Dutch historian Johan Huizinga[24], describes how a certain space becomes a ‘consecrated spot’ by playful activity.[25] Game players often enter a pre-existing space (the game world, the theatre), but signify certain areas via playful interaction: the magic circle can be seen as a contract, meta-communicated through the frameworks of Goffman.[26] This contract is however flexible: the magic circle can be redefined through meta-communication, or blurred, as for example happens in pervasive games.[27] The use of space in Bij mij zijt ge veilig, the resignification of it, and the agency of at least one audience member as well, demonstrate how flexible a magic circle can be without losing its usefulness as a tools for analysis, because it remains relevant to determine in which frameworks of the game world the manipulation of the magic circle actually takes place.

The persona of Peter/Ernst, for instance, enters the game world just as the other members of the audience. But by accepting Helsen’s invitation to the stage, he enters, as a player (primary framework) the magic circle on the stage. In this circle, he adapts (slowly) a character, or is, at least, observed as one (second framework). This character gains more agency during the show (third framework): after mostly listening to Helsen talking, he is later addressed to read out a political speech by Helsen, and finally even pushing the boundaries of the magic circle beyond the walls of the theatre. In a certain way, Peter/Ernst gains the power to change the meaning and function of space during the show. But is that really the case? It is still Helsen who wrote the speech and, in the end, who initiates all change. So, indeed, the form, meaning and function of characters, developments, space, are socially constructed during the game of show, but not all players are equally authorized to change these structures.

Role-playing, power relations, hierarchies

As these frames, worlds, and circles are social constructs, it is important to distinguish to how different parties/players/characters relate to each other in the process of constructing these things. Is it possible for some parties to agree silently? Is there room for an audience? Answering these questions, it might be helpful to involve research to a specific type of games: role-playing games because research on role-playing games (RPGs) is much more focused on change and redefinitions within the game world than the (older) notions of the game world and magic circle reflected upon. Game scholar Markus Montola construed three rules, three definitional criteria for RPGs:

  1. Role-playing is an interactive process of defining and re-defining the state, properties and contents of an imaginary game world. (world rule)
  2. The power to define the game world is allocated to participants of the game. The participants recognize the existence of this power hierarchy. (power rule)
  3. Player-participants define the game world through personified character constructs, conforming to the state, properties and contents of the game world. (character rule) [28]

I would argue that Bij mij zijt ge veilig can be identified as an RPG. The show is indeed characterized by interactive processes of defining and re-defining the game world and its contents (the world rule), while there are differences in power to (re)define the game world that are acknowledged by participants (power rule), and some of them do indeed so via the construction of characters (character rule). So, there are power hierarchies at play, giving some characters more power to change the game settings than other characters. In RPGs, a central role is often played by the game master, who can be ‘dictatorial and omnipotent’ – as Montola puts it, perfectly fitting the example of this paper.[29] Helsen is obviously the game master, on several levels, in different frameworks. In the primary framework, he is the one who selects the theaters to play in, the outlook of the stage, the length of the show, etc. In the second framework, Helsen is the one who, as a player, invites Peter/Ernst into the magic circle of the stage, and thereby resignifying him into a character. On redefinition from the level of narration (meta-communication by characters), the next fragment might give a good example:

Example 5
Look, Peter, this is our people!
Yes, you may also look around. These are the people whom you will spend the rest of your lives with. So look around.
I see some guys already putting a Top 3 in their heads.
And the women keep just looking at me – slutties.[30]

In this example it is clearly the dictator who is talking. But this character is redefining the game world, by including the audience in its totality in the interaction (making them characters, at least for a short while), and by reflecting on the narrative of the game (‘the rest of your lives’). On the character level, Helsen is also the one who redefines the game world, for example by giving the minister of Justice the task to explore the outside world.

I think analyzing Bij mij zijt ge veilig as an RPG gives deeper understandings how the show demonstrates dictatorial regimes. Even on the level of apparent interactivity and playfulness, it is still Helsen who (sometimes very implicitly), as a game master, is ultimately in charge.

Narratives, social systems, ideology

The dominance of Helsen on all levels (comedian, player, character-on-narrative-level, character-on-character-level) is, however, complicated by the ending of the show. After a nightmare-like scene (hallucinating light and sound effects) which imagines the fear for Helsen’s ubiquitous dominance, ending in a loud climax, Helsen reveals that the fables he told (about Rudi, a salamander) are fake, that Rudi is a made up loser, that everything is fake, that his wife is not murdered by him at all (that slumbered through the show now and then), and that she just left him. Helsen sings ‘Ne me quitte pas’ by Jacques Brel (hardly recognizable), and ends as follows:

Example 6
Yes, the moment has come.
Rudi crawled into my ear, back to where he came from.
He walks around in my head, lies down.
And says the only thing left to say,
the thing everybody is waiting for:

Dammit
Dammit
Dammit[31]

‘Dammit’ (‘Nondeju’) was Rudi’s default curse word, so the show ends with an obviously made up character saying its catchphrase, complicating the status of Helsen as the dictator. Helsens persona consists obviously of different characters: the dictator, Rudi, and the seemingly more authentic character stating in the end that all the rest was fake (Example 6), etc. But, as Zijp already pointed out, making distinctions between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ is not very useful. Montola acknowledges this layeredness and contingency of identities and characters by considering the ‘player’s diegetic identity’ as its character.[32] Following Hakkarainen and Stenros, he sees character as a set of roles bound together by fiction.’[33] This prevents the essentialization of ‘stiff’ identities, or ‘real’ and ‘fake’ identities, because all identities (even those of the players in the ‘real world’) are fictional constructs – equally real or fake as the identities within the game. These conceptions are not meant to deny the real, physical presence of players or characters, but to do justice to the fluency, flexibility and contingency of identities. This view on what a character actually consists of seems very much in line with how Helsen constructs his characters: example 6 shows how fictional all aspects of his persona actually are, even in seemingly ‘authentic’ moments of reflection and sincerity.

The fictional nature of identities and characters as described by Hakkarainen and Stenros (the diegetic identity) easily leads to the idea that their actions are fiction as well, and thereby construct a narrative, a story.[34] But, the usefulness of narrativity as a concept for studying RPGs is not very clear. Several scholars reject it, because ‘narrative’ as a notion, is way too broad (everything can be ‘read’ as a narrative’), or because time works differently in narratives and games, or because reader/viewer of a story-world differs from the player in a game world.[35] On the other hand, most games feature background stories, share some procedural characteristics with narrative, and sequences of actions (often) become stories in the heads of the participants.[36] If stories can be stories just in the heads of players, ‘the whole concept of audience needs to be rethought’, according to Stenros, because ‘the audience and performer positions are internalized in the same person.’[37]

This might seem a bit abstract for the current case of Bij mij zijt ge veilig, but I think this insights hit the core of what the show might be about. By involving the audience in the RPG of the show, while demonstrating how layered and fragmented his own character and person are, Helsen shows that the characters of the audience are just as unstable as his own. The fictive nature of identities, and, at the same time meaningfulness of the sequence of his/their actions, indicate that the show is not just a story which is told, but, perhaps even more, a store which is enacted.

This could be compared to Gang rape, a RPG Montola discusses, which functions as cultural criticism by verbally acting out the situation of a gang rape just to give the players the terrifying experience of a real situation of rape. Gang rape ‘is intended to be an ugly, disgusting and naturalistic portrayal of horrible acts’.[38] It is talked through and not acted out (so it is not a larp), but, however, the participants are still profoundly emotionally effected by the game.[39] Montola states that this game contests the magic circle in a different way than pervasive games (spatial extension); these games contest the concept of the magic circle being a protective frame.[40] The players go beyond the traditional magic circle, to explore a state of mind, an ideology perhaps, which is not theirs. As we compare Bij mij zijt ge veilig with Gang rape (which might be more horrifying, but for the sake of the argument), the agency of the audience is even more clear. Audience and performance positions are indeed ‘internalized in the same person’, because all parties enact the ideology construed by the psychopath dictator of Helsen’s persona. By entering, expanding and contesting the magic circle (as a protective frame), and thereby adapting the values of Helsen’s character, all audience members get involved in this enacted ideology – a ‘naturalistic portrayal of horrible acts’[41].

Conclusion

Beyond the levels of language and narrative Bij mij zijt ge veilig can indeed be analyzed as an RPG, according to the three rules construed by Montola. That implies that there are certain power relations between characters – Helsen as a game master – at play, which demonstrate the ‘content’ of the script. It also implies that the audience is actively engaged in the development of the show, not in the plot per se, but the structure of its own identity is important for the success of the game. By acknowledges the fluidity of identities, the enacted ideology of the show becomes even more effective: if Helsen can be a psychopath, and he is just in the same game and identity-wise unstable as we are – then we (the audience) could as well consist of psychopaths with dictatorial tendencies. By creating a highly fictional game world full of absurdist jokes, fables, and strange music, the realness of the ideology and the instability of notions like identity, loyalty and cohesion are very effectively demonstrated. Via (enacted) narrative the story of a deceasing delusional dictator unfolds, in far more many and complex ways than a close reading of the script might ever reveal.

I think the use of concepts from (mostly) game studies provided richer insights in several mechanisms in Bij mij zijt ge veilig which would remain uncovered otherwise. I wonder, however, to what extent this is the case for other comedy shows, apart from the fact that this analysis overlooked many aspects of Bij mij zijt ge veilig. One could, for instance, look more closely to the fable parts (which I skipped for the sake of brevity), the staging directions in the script, the motive of the murdered wife, or, since the show could be analyzed as a game, what cheating would look like. Helsen obviously pushes some boundaries, but is he cheating, and whom would he be cheating? Theatrical conventions? Peter? Ernst? Our people – probably.


Endnotes

[1] Special thanks to Dick Zijp (MA, Utrecht University) for providing insightful literature from the field of theatre studies.

[2] Paul Mennes, ‘Het schaap van Damocles. Over Heden Soup!’, in Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig, edited by W. Helsen (Antwerpen/Amsterdam: Manteau/Meulenhoff, 2007), 5.

[3] Benjamin Verhoeven already pointed out how problematic a dichotomy like ‘actor’ versus ‘character’ is in the case of Wim Helsen’s performances. See: Benjamin Verhoeven, ‘Wim Helsen en “Wim Helsen”: Stand-up comedy en theaterwetenschap’, master’s thesis (Universiteit Antwerpen, 2013).

[4] Willem Nijssen, a reviewer on Bol.com (a Dutch web shop), already made this comparison: Willem Nijsen, ‘Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig’, Bol.com, consulted October 1, 2017, https://www.bol.com/nl/p/heden-soup-bij-mij- zijt-ge-veilig/1001004007114579.

[5] Dick Zijp, ‘Re-Thinking Dutch Cabaret: The Conservative Implications of Humour in the Dutch Cabaret Tradition’, master’s thesis (University of Amsterdam, 2014), 65.

[6] Wim Helsen, Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig (Antwerpen/Amsterdam: Manteau/Meulenhoff, 2007).

[7] See: Zijp, 50, and: Oliver Double, ‘Characterization in Stand-up Comedy: from Ted Ray to Billy Connolly, via Bertold Brecht’, New Theatre Quarterly 16-4 (2000), 315, 321. Zijp and Double borrow the term ‘naked self’ from: David Marc, Comic Visions (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 13.

[8] Zijp, 54.

[9] Double, 318-320.

[10] Idem, 320.

[11] Helsen Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig, 50. All translations from this source are by me.

[12] Idem, 83. The video is slightly different but still resembles the script very much: https://youtu.be/rWijIs7tdPw?t=2m28s.

[13] Zijp, 53-54. See also: Maaike Bleeker, Visuality in the Theatre: The Locus of Looking (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011); Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

[14] Helsen Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig, 65-66. See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7QIdYvNt1k.

[15] Markus Montola, ‘On the Edge of the Magic Circle’, PhD Dissertation at University of Tampere, 2012.

[16] Kendall Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe. On the Foundations of the Representational Arts (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1990), 18. Quoted in: Montola, ‘On the Edge of the Magic Circle’, 58.

[17]Jaakko Stenros, ‘In Defence of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play’, Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association Journal 1-2 (2014): 150, 157.

[18] Idem, 152.

[19] Gary Alan Fine, Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 186. See also: Frans Mäyrä, Dialogue and Interaction in Role-Playing Games: Playful Communication as Ludic Culture, Tampere: author’s version, 2017, http://people.uta.fi/~frans.mayra/Dialogue-in-RPGs.pdf, 3.

[20] My transcription and translation of: Wim Helsen, Spijtig spijtig spijtig – Applaus, YouTube clip, accessed November 4, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE2WIJq2xHY.

[21] Helsen, Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig, 80.

[22] Frans Mäyrä, Dialogue and Interaction in Role-Playing Games: Playful Communication as Ludic Culture, Tampere: author’s version, 2017, http://people.uta.fi/~frans.mayra/Dialogue-in-RPGs.pdf, 5-6.

[23] Idem, 3.

[24] See: Johan Huizinga, Homo ludens: proeve eener bepaling van het spel-element der cultuur (Groningen: Wolters- Noordhoff, 1938). English translation: Homo ludens: A study of play element in culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 10.

[25] Stenros, ‘In Defense of a Magic Circle’, 165.

[26] Montola, ‘On the Edge of the Magic Circle’, 53.

[27] Stenros, ‘In Defense of a Magic Circle’, 172.

[28] Markus Montola, ‘The Invisible Rules of Role-Playing: The Social Framework of Role-Playing Process’,  International Journal of Role-Playing 1 (2009): 23-24.

[29] Idem, 24.

[30] Helsen, Heden Soup! Bij Mij Zijt Ge Veilig, 67.

[31] Idem, 93.

[32] Montola, The Invisible Rules of Role-Playing, 32. Italics in original.

[33] Idem, 32. Montola refers (without page number)to: Henri Hakkarainen and Jaakko Stenros, ‘The Meilahti School. Thoughts on Role-Playing’, in As Larp Grows Up. Theory and Methods, edited by M. Gade, L. Thorup and M. Sander (Copenhagen: Projektgruppen KP03, 2002).

[34] See previous note.

[35] Satu Heliö, ‘Role-Playing: A Narrative Experience and a Mindset’, in Beyond Role and Play: Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination, edited by M. Montola and J. Stenros, 65-74 (Helsinki: Ropecon, 2004), 67-68.

[36] See: Heliö, 64; Montola, ‘On the Edge of the Magic Circle’, 92.

[37] Jaako Stenros, ‘Nordic Larp: Theatre, Art and Game’, in Nordic Larp, edited by M. Montola and J. Stenros (Stockholm: Fëa Livia, 2010), 301.

[38] Montola, ‘On the Edge of the Magic Circle’, 97.

[39] Idem, 98.

[40] Ibidem.

[41] Idem, 97.


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