German television comedy

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Germany has a long tradition of television comedy stretching as far back as the 1950s, and with its origins in cabaret and radio.

1960s[edit]

  • 1963: Der 90. Geburtstag (Dinner for One) is a comedy sketch recorded on July 8, 1963 at Theater am Besenbinderhof in front of a real audience by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). Although it is actually performed in English, it is considered a cult television classic in Germany and it is still an integral component of the New Year's Eve schedule at several German television stations.

1970s[edit]

Bust of Rudi Carrell

When Otto's first show came out in 1973, it differed in many ways from those of traditional comedians also around at the time, such as Rudi Carrell (then aged 39) and Loriot (then 50). Rudi Carrell and Loriot dressed rather more formally in a suit and tie, and stood on a large stage with the audience seated in rows, whereas Otto, then only 25, with his long blond hair falling in his face, wore t-shirts and jeans, and sat on a smaller cabaret-style stage, closer to the audience. This generation gap was reflected in Ein Herz und eine Seele, a sitcom similar to Till Death Us Do Part, where the old-fashioned character Alfred Tetzlaff clashes comically with his daughter Rita and his son-in-law Michael, who stands for the German student movement of 1968. The more traditional shows remained extremely popular, however, and repeats are still regularly shown today. The older comedians also adapted; Rudi Carrell continued to appear in comedy shows until shortly before his death in 2006.

1980s[edit]

In the 1980s, as elsewhere, the pre-recorded sketch show came into its own in Germany: Sketchup, So Isses, Harald und Eddi. Like Britain's Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979–82), one such show, Rudis Tagesshow, although not exactly alternative comedy, also poked fun at the main news programme (Tagesschau) and involved political satire. This caused trouble in 1987 when Carrell cut together footage of Ayatollah Khomeni with shots of veiled women throwing their knickers. The outraged Iranian government responded by expelling two German diplomats and closing the Goethe Institute in Tehran.

Technological advances also meant that cameras were used away from the studios more and more; the Candid Camera-style show Verstehen Sie Spaß appeared, which is still running, in the original format, today. Unlike other countries' versions of Candid Camera, it remains very popular, with seven million viewers on a Saturday evening; almost 25% of the market. It has been going strong since 1980.

1990s[edit]

The 1990s saw female comedians appearing in more prominent roles; whereas actresses such as Evelyn Hamann in the '70s or Iris Berben in the '80s usually played a main character's wife or girlfriend, now women such as Esther Schweins, Tanja Schumann, Anke Engelke and Hella von Sinnen made a name for themselves in more independent roles, although still mostly as part of larger casts.

With television becoming more and more international, there was a lot of influence from abroad in many shows of the '90s: RTL Samstag Nacht was based on Saturday Night Live (USA), the Harald Schmidt Show was similar to the Late Show with David Letterman (USA), 7 Tage, 7 Köpfe was superficially based on Have I Got News For You? (GB).

since 2000[edit]

By the first decade of the new millennium, the trend began to move back away from the pre-recorded sketch shows of the '80s and '90s. Comedy talk shows such as TV Total and Elton.tv naturally involved more off-the-cuff humour, and soon these were joined by improvised shows such as Genial daneben and the original Schillerstraße. The main role in the latter is played by an actress, Cordula Stratmann; by now there were several shows whose main stars were female comedians, such as Ladykracher with Anke Engelke. Slapstick now played a less important role: instead, realism was in, with shows removing the laugh track, such as Stromberg (similar to The Office) or the sitcom Pastewka.

Sources[edit]

Much of this article is taken from information on the German language wikipedia (articles on comedians and comedy programmes).

See also[edit]