Russian comic Dan The Stranger builds a new life in Germany after fleeing Russia / © AFP
In a club in Munich, the laughs come easily from the crowd although the jokes from the Russian comic onstage come from the darkest of places.
Running to escape the police, struggling with depression and spending a childhood with an alcoholic father are all fair game for Dan The Stranger.
The Russian comic with piercing blue eyes left his homeland after death threats when he spoke out against the war in Ukraine. A funeral wreath was even delivered to one of his gigs before he left for Turkey with his wife and their three dogs.
Now the 35-year-old is building a new life in Germany and looking for a new following with a finely honed act of side-splitters delivered in English.
"I mostly talk about my trauma," said Dan, who prefers not to give his real name. "And of course if you lived in Russia, you have trauma -- you have enough for your whole career," he said with a grin.
He is now selling out shows like the one in Munich and has 40,000 followers on Instagram thanks to his short, deeply wry posts.
"Every time my German friends tell stories from their childhood, everyone laughs. Every time I tell stories from my Russian childhood, everyone offers help."
Or his morning routines -- staring at a blank wall for half an hour -- or checking social media.
As soon as wakes he feels the need to "read the opinions of incompetent or simply crazy people on all important issues. Now I am ready to start my day."
Meditation doesn't help, he complained in another post, because "it is impossible to relax listening to a meditation in a Russian accent."
- Group therapy -
At his Munich gig more than 100 people including many young Russians who now live in Germany packed the club.
His one-hour set is classic black comedy covering his schooling in Russia, his childhood in a small town not far from the Ukrainian border and run-ins with local police.
The tension builds as he recounts threats on his life after he condemned Russia's invasion of its neighbour in 2022.
But the mood shifts again as he takes on Germany's infamous red tape and cheerless bureaucrats, which draws appreciative nods from the audience.
For some, his act can feel like group therapy.
Russian emigre and IT specialist Xenia, who moved to Munich several years ago, said there are "lots of depressing things, obviously, that go through your head" when she thinks about her home country.
But Dan "makes it possible to joke about it -- I think it kind of makes it easier".
- Confounding stereotypes -
Another tech worker Aleksander, 25, a fellow Russian who follows Dan on social media, said he hopes the fact the comic performs in English will allow him to reach a bigger audience.
"When people from other countries explore the Russian reality through Dan's jokes, they're going to be surprised," he said.
"I believe that it's very much different from the overall public image of Russia."
The comedian is also touring in Spain and Portugal, which hosts a large Russian diaspora, as well as Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris.
But a return to Russia is not on the cards, especially after his long, ultimately successful battle to get an artist visa in Germany which spared him the even more complex procedure of applying for asylum.
Only around eight percent of the few thousand Russians who applied for refuge there were accepted in the first 10 months to October, according to official figures.
At the end of his show, Dan posed for selfies with fans and chats with members of the audience, often in Russian. Many thank him for coming.
"We feel like we need to get in touch and check if everyone's OK," said Dan.