Hugo Ball (1886-1927) was the co-founder of the avant-garde artistic and literary movement of Dadaism, which developed in the wake of Expressionism. From 1912 on, he was a writer and dramaturge in Munich, where he performed occasionally in the cabaret Simpl. Here, in a poem written with Klabund and first performed by Marietta di Monaco in 1914, the word "Dada first appeared. As a radical critic of his times and a committed pacifist, he emigrated to Switzerland in 1915 together with his wife. He first worked as a pianist in the Zurich music-hall cabaret Maxim. As founder, director and performer in the Cabaret Voltaire starting in February 1916, Hugo Ball was one of the central creators of the new artistic movement on the cabaret stage, for:
"Dada is the cabaret of the world, just as the world, the cabaret, is Dada. (Richard Huelsenbeck)
Ortrud Beginnen (1938-1999) was one of the great soloists of German cabaret history: an "improvisational genius with chaos as her method (Theater heute, 1999). An actress, a singer, and a cabaret performer, she complemented theatrical roles for Claus Peymann with about twenty cabaret programs from 1973 on. Her trademark was the double-edged, ironic interpretation of classical texts as well as her "trivial theater style as developed in programs such as "I Want to Be Your Comrade ("Ich will deine Kameradin sein) and "Front Theater. Already from 1969 to 1975, when she performed in the ensemble of Berlins Imperial Cabaret (Reichskabarett), she was celebrated as the "Duse of the Ludwigkirchplatz and a "Diva in Aspic (Friedrich Luft). She specialized in bizarre, flitting female character portraits located between madness and suffering. Her programs, "drawn from the suitcase of catastrophes, portrayed a grotesque collection of images of the German mentality.
"A silent-movie prima donna with the sweet sinfulness of old-school sentimentalists
a comedienne who provokes more laughter the more seriously she behaves. A would-be vamp and would-be untouchable virginand both of them at the same time. (Klaus Gietel, 1992)
Matthias Beltz (1945-2002) was a representative of the "post-heroic cabaret, with which he opened up new perspectives for the stagnating political cabaret of the late seventies. He performed in the ensemble of Karl Napps Chaos-Theater (1978 on), the Temporary Frankfurt Front Theater (Vorläufiges Frankfurter Fronttheater, until 1987), and the Imperial Wedding Night (Reichspolterabend, 1990/94). He was also the co-founder of the Frankfurt variety theater Tiger-Palace. As a creative chronicler of the "sponti movement and an ironic follower of every conspiracy theory, Belz played the political fool in the role of the average Joe who undertakes philosophical excursions ranging from philosopher Theodore W. Adorno to TV star Heinz Schenk. Inspired by what he calls his "view of totality from the privacy of the kitchen, Beltz used complex streams of consciousness to cast a light on the absurdities of everyday insanity and comments with tender sarcasm on events playing out on the adventurous playground of democracy.
"A relentless, merciless reckoning with the trials and tribulations of the global revolution and the early report on the apparent final victory of capitalism
Matthias Beltz was able to magically transform reality in his listeners heads with his high-speed linguistic juggling. (Johnny Klinke)
Herbert Bonewitz (1933) is the cunning fool in the tradition of the democratic carneval, satirically ridiculing all forms of authority, and a virtuoso of the margins. In his carneval roles as well as his sixteen cabaret shows since 1975, he was the populist but never pandering mouthpiece of the little man, lashing out at reactionary tendencies and bigotry with deceptive wit and dialectical humor. His solo performances as Prince Bibi, the Committee Servant, or Hofmatz made him as popular with the audience as he was feared by the bureaucrats of carneval television broadcasts. This anarchist of humor (as he called himself) revitalized the revolutionary and literary potential of the Rhenish carneval (Fastnacht) and in so doing, he opened up new perspectives for the cabaret as well.
A chronicler who packages all the discrepancies of everyday life in poetry and prose. An artist who argues vehemently in all directions for more tolerance and humanity. In the truest sense of the word, a strange fool. (Günter Schenk)
Aristide Bruant (1851-1925) was one of the first stars of the cabaret and a forefather
of the modern cabaret song. As an ensemble member of the first cabaret of the modern
age, the Parisian Black Cat (Chat noir), from 1881 on, and then in his own cabaret The
Reed Whistle (Mirliton) of 1885, he presented his socially critical songs that attacked
the bourgeoisie and glorified the social outcasts. His songs served as models up through
the singer-songwriter movement of the 1960s. Bruant’s appearance in high boots, a red
shirt, a broad-rimmed hat and with a rugged walking stick was immortalized by Henri
Toulouse-Lautrec in portraits, drawings, and posters. His drastic castigations of the
audience, raging against the cabaret as a tourist attraction, are legendary.
“It’s the rainy air of the streets in the outlying districts, where the occasional lantern
burns in the evenings, the cross and the gallows are both nearby, and all the tragedies
of the stabbings and girls’ sad tales end in the clinic… To the French, Bruant was the
expression of his times, of his era, of his bygone Paris, which he immortalized for world
literature.” (Kurt Tucholsky, 1925)
Curt Bry (1902-1974) was one of the biggest cabaret talents at the beginning of the thirties, but his career was interrupted and ultimately destroyed by the Third Reich. The "born cabaret performer (Werner Finck) with a triple talent as an author, composer and pianist was the house author and composer of the Catacombs (Die Katakombe) from 1932 on. Following his emigration in 1933, he continued to provide texts for them from Amsterdam, where he also wrote sketches and songs for the cabaret Ping Pong, which had meanwhile emigrated. Lale Andersen and Dora Paulsen performed his numbers. From 1935 on, he was involved in the Viennese cabarets ABC, Dear Augustine (Lieber Augustin), and Sixth Heaven (Zum sechsten Himmel). His artistic career came to an end in 1938, when he emigrated to the US, where he was unable to gain a footing in the entertainment industry.
"A master of the literary parody with a political subtext, whose numbers are still remembered in Holland. His melancholy songs reflect the situation of exile; they are more poetic, but less direct than those of Mehring and Brecht. (Jacques Klöters)
Ernst Busch (1900-1980) was the singer of the proletariat and of proletarian history, a nuanced king of the democratic worker’s song. As the “singing heart of the working class” (according to Hanns Eisler), he performed songs of Tucholsky and Kästner in the Berlin cabarets Stuff and Nonsense (Larifari), the Catacombs (Katakombe) and in the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker); he also sang at demonstrations and worker’s meetings. After emigrating in 1933, he took part in the Spanish Civil War, and when interned in France, he led the theater group at the camp Gurs and performed in Peter Pan’s cabaret. He was extradited to Germany in 1943 and sentenced to a life term in prison. After liberation, the “Gründgens of the GDR” revived his career as a powerful actor of the people in numerous films and in Berlin ensembles.
“Not an entertainer, not a sentimentalist, nor a dry reciter of revolution, but rather a militant artist of our times. When Busch sings political songs, they retain their humor in all their seriousness, and their seriousness in their humor. They keep us alert. They are hits and others keep singing them.” (Herbert Ihering)
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) is the world’s most famous German singer and actress of the twentieth century. Following her early theatrical appearances, she landed a hit in Mischa Spoliansky’s intimate revue of 1928, “Es liegt in der Luft” (“It’s in the Air”). The stories of her “discovery” for the role of “Lola Lola” in the first German sound film, “Der Blaue Engel” (“The Blue Angel”) have grown into legends. After that film’s premiere in 1930, her Hollywood film career began, and she created the figure of the “vamp with character and an enigmatic, ineffable aura” (Werner Sudendorf). In World War II, she entertained Allied troops on the front lines, and in the mid-fifties, she launched a second career as an internationally acclaimed chanson star:
Blandine Ebinger (1899-1993) was the celebrated singer discovered at the beginning of the twenties, an "unmatched portrayer of invisible proletarian children (Alfred Polgar). Her husband Friedrich Hollaender wrote the cycle of "Songs of a Poor Girl ("Lieder eines armen Mädchens) for her, with which she had great successes in the cabarets Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), Megalomania (Cabaret Größenwahn), and the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne). She later sparkled in the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) with Klabunds street songs and in Walter Mehrings modernist metropolitan ballads. But her favorite theme was the social misery of Berlins tenement courtyards. After 1933, she took over the direction of the Tingel Tangel Theater for a short time before emigrating in 1937. Returning to Berlin in 1948, she memorialized the cabaret of the Weimar Republic in her song programs, while she also performed on stage and in films.
“She plays the sweet young girl and the ferocious hussy… You can’t forget her, thanks to those unique cheekbones beneath that heavenly realm of shadows … Her immortal bottom, her stride, the eloquence of her legs, that disdain in a tiny turn of her lips. A rare creature full of carefree, playful indolence—one is stunned by beauty. (Alfred Kerr)
"One could call her a rachitic Madonna
This lisping, scrawny person with the big, severe eyes is a master of the tragic-grotesque. (Erich Kästner)
Peter Ensikat (1941-2013) is the master of East German satirists, a many-faceted virtuoso of subtleties and a brilliant, dialectical critic of narrow-mindedness. He began his career with the “Jesters’ Council” in Leipzig, which was soon banned, and since the late sixties, he has written for all the East German ensembles. The programs he wrote together with Wolfgang Schaller are a pinnacle of GDR cabaret and a milestone of modern Germany: contemplative reflections on the failure of socialist ideals. As the main author and artistic director of Berlin's "Thistle" from 1991 to 2004, this sensitive rationalist remained true to himself even in a market economy. Ensikat, a melancholy Cassandra, insists on the necessity of civic courage even in a democracy—or especially there. "Playfully making the status quo dance, envisioning utopia as our future and not as a delusion, your creations, which continued in the new society, could have been accused of nostalgia. But you cannot abandon the Enlightenment—as if your Lessing Prize was the backpack you never take off." (Wolfgang Schaller)
Heinz Erhardt (1909-1979) was the reigning king of comedians during the German economic miracle of the fifties. He was discovered by Willi Schaeffers for Berlins Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) in 1938 as a solo entertainer at the piano; appearances in the Scala and other variety theaters and cabarets followed, as well as shows for the troops. After 1945, he appeared in countless films as a moronic, teasing anarchist with revolutionary tendencies. He also performed in solo programs, on the radio, and on stage, for there was always time for "One More Poem ("Noch n Gedicht, his slogan). As an entertainer who cleverly maneuvered between his love for language and rhymes on one hand and pointless nonsense on the other, he was a spark of light in the claustrophobic philistinism of the Adenauer era. His merriness hovered somewhere between subversion and affirmation.
"His humor was soft and double-edged. He developed inhibitions and bashfulness into well-apportioned roadblocks that he tried to avoid with tireless energy and the apathy of a hippopotamus, only to be caught up ever more tightly in chains of nonsense. A pure fool, he used his awkward mental acrobatics to deal with the injustices of everyday life. (Die Zeit, 1983)
Karl Farkas (1893-1971) is the Socratic master of the Austrian cabaret. Following his appearances in Viennas Hell (Die Hölle) and in the Femina, he joined the Simpl in 1921 and remained true to this stage to the end of his days as a writer, emcee, performer and director. Here, together with Fritz Grünbaum, Farkas developed and perfected the double emcee act, the satirical dialogue between the smart guy and the dummy, alongside writing revues, scenes, and sketches. He emigrated in 1938 and went to the United States in 1941, where he was among the leading talents of the relocated Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) in New York. After his return from exile, this multitalent, whom Rudolf Weys called the laughter of the century, was much in demand not just in the Simpl, where he discovered many talents including Fritz Muliar, but also for the cinema, radio, television, and theater.
An Austrian institution, the last representative of a glorious era of cabaret. A linguistic tightrope-walker, a guarantor for finely honed puns and clever analyses of topical events. Brilliant commentaries on the times, delivered by a wise tortoise in a blazer. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
Werner Finck (1902-1978) was the founder and creative nexus of the Berlin cabaret The Catacombs (Die Katakombe), which took aim at Hitler with satirical performancesuntil it was banned. After a six-week internment in a concentration camp in 1935 and a new ban on his performances, Goebbels "favorite enemy escaped into the "gray cloth by joining the army in 1939. After the war, he started the Munich Grinners College (Schmunzelkolleg) and in 1948 the Mousetrap (Mausefalle) in Stuttgart, and into the 1970s he toured with his solo programs. Bert Brecht dedicated his poem "Eulenspiegel Survives the War to him ("Eulenspiegel überlebt den Krieg). With stuttering punch lines, the master of the unfinished sentence became an important rejuvenator of the topical, satirical cabaret, while giving it a philosophical dimension as well.
"In his commentaries were hidden the concentration camps, the home searches, the general fear, the general mendacity. His mockery of all this had something incredibly soft-spoken about it, something melancholy and sadand it had a unusual power of consolation. (Sebastian Haffner, 1933)
Kaspar Fischer (1938-2000) was the great magician among the artists of the small stage: an actor, cabaret performer, painter and author. Touring with his own programs from 1967 on, the Swiss master of transformations presented humans, objects, odors and emotions through pantomime and language in the fantastic scenarios of his "world circus. A grotesque and surrealistic world emerged in which the permanent metamorphosis was the central theme. The dogs tongue turned into a saxophone, and grandma became a saw. Everyday objects as well as the language itself developed their own life and led to infinite chains of associations with the objective of portraying that which cannot be portrayed.
"And so, in the course of an evening, Kaspar Fischer conjures up a chamber of images, sounds, and pandemonium on the stagewith incomparable results. The steadfastness with which he pursues even the most trivial details, and the seriousness with which he undertakes his pointless game produce a reality that you can either see or not see. I think it is an expression of freedom when someone performs a bowl of vegetable soup. (Franz Hohler, 1970)
Kurt Gerron (1897-1944), an actor, cabaret performer and director, was the epitome of the border-crosser during the 1920s. He performed in the cabarets Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), Megalomania (Cabaret Größenwahn), the Rocket (Rakete), KüKa, the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), the Wasps (Die Wespen), and in Nelsons and Hollaenders revues. He was also seen in over seventy films and was at home in all the Berlin theaters. He was compelling in the cabaret as a powerful singer who could also hit the softer notes, a master of all styles from Brecht to Hollaender. After emigrating to the Netherlands in 1933, he joined Willy Rosens Theater of the Prominent Ones (Theater der Prominenten) and the Nelson Revues. He was deported to the concentration camp Theresienstadt in February 1944, where he directed the Carousel. In the macabre reality of this cabaret, which was founded to entertain the guards and the inmates, he played for his life. That same year, he was sent to Auschwitz and murdered.
"The Paul Wegner of the small arts, he slaps his fellow man with manure shovels.
The huge man, imposing as he is, is dripping at the end of every verse. With enthusiasm. Boiling. Rattling. Raging. He seizes the viewers who are sitting down there staring into the mirror. He captures them. (Film und Brettl, 1922)
Valeska Gert (1892-1978) was the great performance artist of the German cabaret and of crucial importance for the development of the modern dance theater. Her guest performances ranged from the cabarets Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch) to the Catacombs (Die Katakombe), alongside solo programs, films, and theater appearances. In 1932, she opened her own cabaret in Berlin, the Cabbage-Head (Kohlkopp). After her emigration to the US in 1939, this was followed by her Beggar Bar in New York, and then by the Witches Kitchen (Hexenküche) in Berlin in 1950, and finally, from1956 on, the Goat-Stall (Ziegenstall) on the island of Sylt. The expressive, grotesque pantomimes and poems of the "girl from the mummies cellar rank among the most unusual creations ever seen on the cabaret stage.
"Glorious as on the last day of Sodom and of incomparable spirit
It is an èpater le bourgeois of cunning maliciousness. Gert destroys every erotic and sentimental swindle; she has a sovereign and elementary lasciviousness. She destroys the Tiller-Girl racket and the pseudo-Parisian allure of the Diseuse with the power of Daumier. (Max Herrmann-Neiße, 1927)
Paul Graetz (1890-1937), the captivating performer of cabaret monologues and songs by Kurt Tucholsky and Walter Mehring, was one of the great stars of the cabaret during the Weimar era. He was a central figure in the first democratic, political cabaret Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch) in 1919-1921, after which he appeared in Trude Hesterberg’s Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), the Charlott Casino, and the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker)—alongside countless film and theater roles. The “quintessential Berliner of all Berlin comics” (Kurt Tucholsky) became a popular institution, a model for everyone who earned the moniker “a sharp tongue with a heart.” His trademark was his unique staccato style, with which he mastered even the complex linguistic syncopations of Walter Mehring. The creator of the modern spoken song emigrated in 1933 and died in Hollywood in 1937, of “a broken heart over the loss of his Berlin homeland” (Ernst Toller).
Fritz Grünbaum (1880-1941) was the most important Austrian cabaret artist until 1933, the ironically self-deprecating philosopher among the emcees. He was a master of profound chitchat, and already famous during the Imperial era in Vienna and Berlin, where he performed in Hell (Die Hölle) and the Black Cat (Schwarzer Kater). He commuted between the two republics after 1918 as well, as he wrote and performed in Berlins Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) as well as in Viennas Simpl. In the latter, he developed the double emcee act together with Karl Farkas in 1922. Grünbaum also wrote several books, operetta libretti, and pop songs like "I Saw Helen Bathing ("Ich hab das Fräulein Helen baden sehn). In 1933, he returned to Austria and directed the Simpl until his deportation to the concentration camp Dachau in 1938. On the day before his arrest, he commented from the darkened stage of the Simpl, "I cant see a thing, absolutely nothing. I must have wandered into Nazi culture.
“Paul Graetz—and the evening is worthwhile and rapturous. Vigorous, brazen, exhaustive, bursting with spirit. A proletarian trumpet, clowning with genuine wit, bubbling improvisations with the tempo of automobiles, versatile, vibrating, caustic.” (Vossische Zeitung, 1920)
"The little fellow with the enormous punch lines that always hit their mark without injuringbecause their caustic effect was neutralized by kindness. He thought with his heart; he was a stirring philosopher in the guise of a drastic comic. (Karl Farkas)
Otto Grünmandl (1924-2000) was the cranky philosopher of the outlying districts, who told his stories about the lunacy of banality with stoic calm but with complicated intellectual processes. During his work as the head of entertainment for the Tyrolean broadcasting network, he presented his first solo program for the Austrian Radio in 1967. The grumpy comic made the lack of punch lines his punch line, for "the best way to be silent is to talk (Grünmandl in "My Name Isnt Oblomow). Bizarre paradoxes and parodies taken to absurdist extremes characterized the "Alpine Interviews ("Alpenländische Interviews) with which he earned his reputation on the radio from 1973 on. Here, the everyday phenomena included a canary that tumbled to his doom while mountain climbing.
"What tongue-twisting weasel-like swiftness is for Jandl, tapir-like slowness is for Grünmandl. His one-man barroom gang could grace any performance of Horvathtorture from the Vienna Woods.
Here reason and logic are mercilessly taken to the point of higher nonsense. If one could invent an absurdist cabaret, then he has done it. (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1980)
Wolfgang Gruner (1826-2002) was the West German cabarets embodiment of the proverbial Berlin original with a snotty mouth and a warm heart. Whether appearing as the street sweeper "Otto Schruppke in the Berlin evening news during the sixties, as the taxi driver "Fritze Fink in the television quiz show "The Big Prize ("Der große Preis) in the eighties, or in his countless solo acts with Berlins Porcupines (Stachelschweine), the rapid-fire talker Gruner transformed himself into the "man on the street with perfect punch lines and an alert sense of political relationships and personalities. As an author, performer and director, he influenced the populist style of traditional West Berlin cabaret, and as its symbol, he became the most popular cabaret star of the post-war era, alongside Dieter Hildebrandt. Appearing as a popular actor in films, on television and in the theater, all the roles he created have one thing in common:
"Its always someone whos no idiot, cleaning up the mess of the times, stuffing it into his trashcan and commenting on it. (Gruner on Gruner)
Eckhart Hachfeld (1910-1994) was the most versatile among those authors who created the quality and standards of postwar West German cabaret. Supported by Werner Finck, he played an important role in the re-orientation of the cabaret after 1945 as a writer for Hamburgs Bonbonniere, Stuttgarts Mousetrap (Mausefalle), or Berlins Porcupines (Stachelschweine). He shaped the Kom(m)ödchen in Dusseldorf as their house author, and he developed the character of the "Mann with the Drum for Wolfgang Neuss. Hachfeld was the most creative satirist of the economic miracle; he wrote for the radio and television, penned film scripts for Heinz Rühmann, and contributed weekly columns in the newspaper Die Welt under the name "Amadeusand later for the magazine Stern. But the "Kaiser of the Cabaret Authors (Sammy Drechsel) had his biggest success with pop song lyrics for Udo Jürgens, such as "But With Cream, Please ("Aber bitte mit Sahne).
"Anyone who could write texts for Heinz Erhardt and Wolfgang Neuss has to have a scope of humor that reminds you of a vacation from Bonhoeffers asylum. He is an intellectual Flick conglomerate, and whoever seizes his assets will prove to be the Wilhelm Busch of the twentieth century. (Wolfgang Neuss)
Joachim Hackethal (1924-2003) was the heavyweight of the West German cabaret scene, and not just in political terms. As founder, writer, actor, and director of the Amnestied (Die Amnestierten) in Cologne, he shaped their political-literary style, which was described as the “scream of a betrayed generation” (Kay Lorentz). The impetus and recurring theme of his carefully researched documentary satires was modern Germany’s still unvanquished fascist past. A sensitive polemicist, he also wrote for the Kom(m)ödchen in Cologne and the Munich Lach- und Schießgesellschaft. In the seventies, he found a new home with the Powerwatchers (Machtwächter) in Cologne, whose turn from variety programs to thematic evenings about marriage, health, and justice was one of the major innovations of the Brandt era.
“Biting aggressiveness and the courage to name the guilty parties. Cabaret as a tribunal, with merciless punch lines, crude but with linguistic perfection—the ‘fat guy’ can do it.” (Frankfurter Rundschau)
Dieter Hallervorden (b. 1935) is the busy harlequin of political humor in the form of an anarchic slapstick cabaret performer. After starting out with the Served (Die Bedienten), this “populist intellectual” (as Harald Martenstein called him) was a founding member in 1960 of the Berlin Voles (Die Wühlmäuse), which he still leads today—following over thirty ensemble shows, the house has been a popular locale for guest performers since 1986. The “Dr. Mabuse of the Cabaret” (NRZ) transformed himself in the Seventies into the goofy “Didi” on television and in films, and he became the greatest nonsense artist of the nation. In the early Nineties, this “capital cabaret institution” (Die Welt) abandoned his absurdist clowning and turned his attention once more to critical satire—“doing the splits between ratings and quality,” in his own words—for the television shows “Spottschau” and “Spott-Light.” Then in the new millennium, the perfectionist primal comedian lit up the stage and the screen.
“An Eulenspiegel in a red suit and a black or plaid vest, he juggles the wisdom and absurdity of that healthy common sense that is so often tricked up—an ironic conjurer walking the tightrope between truth and falsehood.” (Berliner Morgenpost)
Peter Hammerschlag (1902-1942) was the great linguistic artist of the Austrian cabaret and one of the most colorful characters in the brief halcyon days of Viennese cabaret during the thirties, which ended with the invasion of the Germans in 1938. After his first appearances in the Berlin Catacombs (Die Katakombe), the off-the-cuff poet was co-founder, emcee, and house author of Literature at the Naschmarkt (Literatur am Naschmarkt); here he captivated his viewers with virtuoso impromptus and fantastic parodies inspired by suggestions from the audience. Bizarre rhymes, a taste for the macabre and grotesque, and a love for nonsensical wordplay characterized his texts. The last of the coffee-house poets also wrote for ABC and Dear Augustine (Lieber Augustin). After a failed emigration attempt, he was arrested in 1941, deported to Theresienstadt, and murdered in Auschwitz.
Half a sweetheart, half spooky, but always fascinating: a child plunged into the world, a fool persecuted by intellect, a runaway bourgeois, a poet who created tender verses, who loved diminutives and conjured up moods, who invented songs full of wild imagination. (Hans Weigel)
Jaroslav Hasek (1883-1923) is the first and most popular Czech satirist of international significance. His Prague dog dealer Joseph Svejk (Schweik), a man of simple heart and anarchist mind, is a universal model of civil disobedience, comparable to the immortal fools Simplicius Simplicissimus and Till Eulenspiegel. Hasek, a bohemian who knew how to hold his liquor, was the editor of several magazines, and after the war, as a regular in Prague’s bars, cabarets and cafés, he presented his humoresques and anecdotes in cabarets including Montmartre and Cervená Sedma. A “Franz Kafka of comedy,” as Max Brod called him, Hasek did not live to see the success of his picaresque novel, which was published in 1921 and only won international recognition with the 1926 German translation.
“Humor that is a pleasant mixture of bottled beer and schnapps. The most mocking satire of imperial Austria I’ve ever seen, half a millimeter from immortality. … Call Schweik over, get the bottle of walnut schnapps, and let’s toast to you both, Hasek. To a great poet and to the good soldier Schweik.” (Kurt Tucholsky, 1926)
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) is the greatest forefather of the German cabaret—a poet of freedom, the creator of political feature journalism, and a democratic visionary. His works uniting sentimentality and radicalism were in the repertoire of the first German cabarets, and they inspire the poets of the cabaret to the present day. Heine’s virtuosic use of everyday language is characteristic for his style as well as his blend of personal reflections and topical criticism, for instance in the 1844 verse epos “Germany: A Winter’s Tale.” This poetic cosmopolitan and “runaway romantic” lived in post-revolutionary Paris from the 1830s on; a satirical chronicler of the Biedermeier age, the “first truly modern German author” (according to Stefan Heym) was banned throughout the German Confederation in 1835.
“Heine was an passionate skeptic and a skeptical agitator. … He was the first great German poet to dare to make humor a completely natural and self-evident component of his poetry and his prose. His verses are sensitive and yet sarcastic, passionate and at the same time ironic, often sad and nonetheless funny.” (Marcel Reich-Ranicki)
Ursula Herking (1912-1974) was the rubble-woman and the voice of the collapse following the Second World War. She was the personification of a Germany that was defeated but still not lost. "Uncompromising, volcanic, and with boundless optimism (Dieter Hildebrandt), the resolute and tomboyish singer and hilarious actress embodied individual integrity and unimpeachable tolerance. Following her first cabaret experiences in Werner Fincks Catacombs (Die Katakombe), she triumphed after the war with songs by Erich Kästner in the Munich Show-Booth (Schaubude). Herking was one of the founders of the Little Freedom (Kleine Freiheit), before she played with the ensemble of the Munich Lach- und Schießgesellschaft in 1956, where she was the "mother of the company (Sammy Drechsel). Film and theater roles followed, as well as solo programs from the early sixties on.
"A big city girl with knife-sharp power and a charm as cold as asphalt, who conjures up a positive nihilism between a gulf of despair and sarcastic joy of life. She has the power of extreme intensification. She can make the terrible and the darkest chasms visible. (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1946)
Trude Hesterberg (1892-1967) was among the first women to be involved not just on but also behind the cabaret stage in the roles of both cabaret director and performer. Acclaimed as a singer of lyrics by Kurt Tucholsky, Friedrich Hollaender, Klabund, and also Erich Kästner, she appeared in Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), Carousel (Karussell) and various revues of Erik Charell. After 1945, she could be seen again in the Munich Onion (Zweibel) and the Berlin Tingeltangel. The "Frau Director with a weakness for extravagant hats (Paul Graetz) founded and led the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), one of the first political cabarets, featuring Walter Mehring as house author in the years 1922-23. After her attempt to offer critical cabaret failed with her Muses Swing (Musenschaukel) as late as 1933, she devoted her energies to film and theater roles until the end of the "thousand year Reich.
"Trude Hesterberg is a painter
She creates textures, sketches out grand contours, wipes away the shadows and now and then casts bright, sharp lights with her hands
A voice ranging from the cellos vulgarity to the pizzicato sweetness of a gypsy violin. (Film und Brettl, 1923)
Werner Richard Heymann (1896-1961) was the musical godfather of the topical, satirical cabaret during the Weimar Republic. As a pianist, composer and musical director, he helped shape the three influential stages Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), Megalomania (Größenwahn) and especially the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne). His expressionistically colored settings of texts by Walter Mehring, in particular, reflect the ambiguities and modernity of the metropolis Berlin at the beginning of the twenties. Heymann was the General Musical Director of the film firm Ufa from 1926, and here it was that, together with lyricist Robert Gilbert, he created the genre of the sound film operetta with titles like Three Guys from the Gas Station (Die Drei von der Tankstelle) and Congress Dances (Der Kongress tanzt). Thanks not least of all to his songs, they were hits at the box office, for, as the songs say, A friend, a real friendThats once in a lifetime, it never happens again.
Dear Werner, you left us a bit too early, but your wonderful songs will remain classics as long as there is still a literary cabaretand long thereafter, I hope. (Trude Hesterberg)
Dieter Hildebrandt (1927-2013) is the popular icon of the political cabaret, and its best-known representative in the twentieth century. After his start with the Nameless Ones (Die Namenlosen), the angry moralist belonged to the ensemble of the Munich Lach- und Schießgesellschaft, which he co-founded, from 1956 to 1972. Six programs with Werner Schneyder followed, in which the duo of opposites revived the classic form of the double emcee act. Hildebrandt was the protagonist of the German satirical television series Notes from the Provinces (Notizen aus der Provinz, ZDF, 1973/79) and the television cabaret Windshield Wipers (Scheibenwischer, ARD, 1980-2003). Here the king of the punch line (Bruno Jonas) tested the limits of satire in the mass media over and over. As an intellectual Eulenspiegel and funny trickster (Ursula Herking), he enraged those in power and became the satirical conscience of the nation.
A jester of quite bashful chutzpa
an improviser who trips up on ideas, who stammers around every double entendre so long that it becomes a triple entendre. This inimitable technique of leaving out the suggestiveness and suggesting the omissions, this way of completing his thoughts by swallowing his syllableseven from behind the glass of the TV screen, he can throttle you. (Ruprecht Skasa-Weiß)
Franz Hohler (1943) is the virtuosic elder of Switzerland’s poetic cabaret. The
committed jester and sensitive juggler of language has been demonstrating the absurdity
of normalcy since 1965 in his constantly surprising cabaret suites. In stories and songs,
as a “free conjurer and a specialist in cello-subculture” (in his own words), this narrator
of apocalyptic fairy tales trusts in the enlightening power of the comic and uses his
imagination to transform basement theaters into worlds of fantasy. His films, plays, radio
plays and books—for adults as well as children—reveal the skeptical dreamer to be a
critical thinker with an eye for the terrors and madness of the modern world where, as he
pithily demonstrates, “from one sentence to the next, everything can turn scary” (Karl
“Language as expression of thought, language as a means to understanding and
misunderstanding… Be it as a storyteller, airplane hijacker, statistician or a despairing
self-diagnostician, he can make the most stubborn audience play along—and think along.
You have to love mankind a lot to be able to teach them, in such an entertaining way, the
dangers of their own thoughtlessness and speechlessness.” (Michael Bauer)
Friedrich Hollaender (1896-1976) was the songwriting genius of the century, a foremost figure of the twenties as a pianist, composer, and lyricist. Singers like Blandine Ebinger and, of course, Marlene Dietrich owed their success to the songs of this musical prodigy. He wrote perfect melodies for lyrics by Kurt Tucholsky, Walter Mehring, and Klabund. From 1926 on, his revues combining literary, political and erotic satire were the epitome of the cabaret during the Weimar Republic. They were featured in his 1931 Tingel Tangel Theater as well. Hollaender emigrated to the US in 1933 and became one of Hollywoods most prolific composers. After his return to Germany, he bade farewell to the cabaret stage after four intimate revues for Munichs Little Freedom (Kleine Freiheit).
"A cabaret cannot survive without a spirit of attack, without a thirst for a fight. Its the perfect battleground on which you can drive away those murderous men of iron with the only pure weapons: sharply honed words and explosive music. (Friedrich Hollaender, 1932)
Hanns Dieter Hüsch (1925-2005) was West Germanys humanistic philosopher and poet of fine literary sensibilities, who embodies the poetic and literary tradition like nobody else. He was a master of surreal associations and a virtuoso juggler of literary fireworks. This "poet of critical fantasy (Peter Schneider) presented his unique mixture in some seventy-five programs from 1948 onspanning more than half a century. His work is an unmistakable blend of topical literature, existential clowning, and parodistic nonsense. These also dominated his cabaret Arche Nova. A creative jester born out of intellectual despair and inspired by Blochs "principle of hope, his style has inspired two generations of cabaret performers. Hüsch was considered "the only poet among Germanys cabaret authors; he doesnt write verses for the cabaret, but makes a cabaret out of his verses (Theater heute).
"Profound and poetic cabaret
His only topicality: Man himself. We dream of an extremely ironic cabaret, a cabaret free of wrong thinking, a skeptical cabaret with a pure intellect, bittersweet melancholy, and a playful heart. (Hanns Dieter Hüsch)
Heino Jaeger (1938-1997) was the forgotten genius of the cabaret, a “pitiless ear-witness of the absurd” (Hanns Dieter Hüsch) who caused amazement and created a completely new style with his double-edged stories and his foolish parodies, just a hair’s breadth away from reality. It was all funny, senseless, and horrifying at the same time, and his radio features of “Dr. Jaeger’s Advice for Living” followed this recipe, too. In the early eighties, he withdrew from the stage, and in 1986 this “extremely unusual poet” (as Eckhard Henscheid called him) surrendered in light of the world’s reigning confusion and was admitted to a sanatorium.
“A master of everyday comedy, farce, and the grotesque in scenic form, usually in monologues or dialogues. A downright unbelievable virtuoso in the imitation of voices and voice types. A fountain of intuition and improvisation, rising from unending, indeed self-nurturing springs from the realm of the fantastic transformed into words. … Brilliance and speed on a very dark background; a raging intellect perched on the edge of reality.” (Robert Gernhardt)
Liesl Karlstadt (1892-1960) was the affable female comic at the side of Karl Valentin. In the creative collaboration of their sketches and dialogues, her virtuosic acting and refined clowning channeled the “quiet, deadly nonsense traveling toward the unreal” (Weltbühne) back into bearable and conciliatory directions. Born as Elisabeth Wellano, she started out as a soubrette, but for thirty years, this chameleon-lady of the cabaret put her brilliant ability to transform herself to the test in the symbiotic partnership with the improvisational genius of Karl Valentin, who always portrayed himself. Karlstadt countered that notorious grouch’s surrealistic ecstasies of nonsense with Svejk-like slyness and pragmatic realism. “A small, round person with huge talent” (as Monika Dimpfl called her), this “peerless queen of the trouser role” (Carl Niessen) made her mark after Valentin’s death as a character actress in plays by Ludwig Thoma, and was a sensation on the radio in the role of Mother Brandl, creating a timeless monument of the unique Munich philosophy.
“If you never saw Karlstadt, if you missed her, then you should be ashamed!” (Roda Roda)
Erich Kästner (1899-1974) was a "singer of the little man and the poet of the little freedoms (Marcel Reich-Ranicki). With his witty and reflective verses that appear so simple, he guaranteed the continuity of the literary cabaret of the twenties into the postwar years. Following his first performances with his "utilitarian poetry during the post-inflationary era of "new objectivity prior to 1933 in Berlin cabarets such as Küka, the Tingel Tangel, Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) and Werner Fincks Catacombs (Die Katakombe), he was only able to publish during the Third Reich with a special authorization or under a pseudonym. After the war, the pessimistic enlightener continued work of the Berlin era, now in Munich. With his melancholy and poetic songs, scenes, and sketches for the Showbooth (Schaubude) and Little Freedom (Kleine Freiheit), he influenced the cabaret of the years immediately following war until the foundation of two German states. His ideal of the cabaret as a moral and philosophical institution and a lyrical theater of the times anticipated the political and satirical ensemble cabarets of the fifties.
"My writing is directed against the indolence of the heart and the stubbornness of the mind. (Erich Kästner)
Klabund (1890-1928) was a central figure of Munichs bohemian scene, which generated new literary impulses for the entertainment-driven cabaret. Following performances of his socially critical ballads in the Munich Simpl and in Zurichs Cabaret Voltaire, this expressionistic author (whose works include ten novels, various dramas, seventeen volumes of poems, and adaptations from the Chinese) became one of the literary forefathers of the cabaret during the Weimar Republic. His poems of Berlin street culture were set to music by Friedrich Hollaender and sung by Blandine Ebinger, Rosa Valetti, Trude Hesterberg, or Kate Kühl, but he also performed them himself with explosive power in Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch) or the Wild Stage (Wild Bühne). The effect was true to his motto: "God puked me out! Dawn! Klabund! Day draws nigh!
"The last free rhapsodist, the last of the ancient dynasty of vagabond poets
Poems of moonlight and dialectical wit; pathos, melancholy, and dirty jokes from the barroom. His ideas quickly transformed themselves into rhythms, words, and refrains. And above it all, there soared the charming libertinism of that name: Klabund. (Carl von Ossietzky, 1928)
Ephraim Kishon (1924-2005) is the world’s most popular comic author of the twentieth century, and the literary representative of successful German-Jewish relations following World War 2. Born in Hungary as Ferenc Hoffmann, he emigrated to Israel in 1949; from 1952 on, he wrote political and satirical commentaries for a variety of daily newspapers. From 1959 to 1962, Kishon led the Tel Aviv cabaret The Green Onion (Die grüne Zwiebel), and from the sixties on, his novels, stories and plays made him (in his own words) “the favorite author of the descendants of my hangmen.” Inspired by the tradition of eastern Jewish humor, his realistic, yet absurd humoresques and charming satires feature “the best wife of all” and highlight the perversions of bureaucracy. These are universally valid snapshots of the fictitious city of fools, Schilda, as transported into modern times.
Dietrich Kittner (1935-2013) is the politically committed, activist jester of the intellect among the West German cabaret artists. A radical, left-wing missionary against the capitalist social and economic system, this marathon runner of the small stage founded the Editorialists (Leid-Artikler) in Göttingen in 1960. After that ensemble closed in 1966, he has toured as a solo cabaret performer. In 1957, he opened the Theater on the Bult, which he ran until 1993, after 1986 under the name Theater by the Kitchen Garden (Theater am Küchengarten). Kittner is a passionate pacifist and a satirical provocateur, whose programs combining information, analysis, and satire as well as protest and activism intervene in the public life of the Republic.
“An oriental Münchhausen who utters serious truths with a light spirit. Without respect for taboos, he mocks bigotry and racist arrogance, and he spoofs human vanity, egotism and intolerance. Crabby and critical, this melancholy misanthrope portrays political conceits and the petty corruptions of the populace.” (Die Welt)
He is a solo fighter and partisan who encroaches significantly further into enemy terrain than all the established cabarets put together. He is one of the few enlighteners in this country who succeed in overcoming what Brecht called the five difficulties in disseminating the truth. (Günter Wallraff)
Trude Kolman (1904-1969) was Munich’s first female producer-director, and a central
figure in that city’s cabaret and theater scene during the fifties and sixties. She co-
founded and led the stage Little Freedom (Kleine Freiheit) which opened in 1951, and
coaxed Erich Kästner and Friedrich Hollaender back to the cabaret, as well as discovering
and promoting Martin Morlock and Helen Vita. Actually, this “witch of precision”
(as Hanne Wieder called her) was continuing the work she had begun as the leader of
Berlin’s Tingel Tangel, where she became the director in 1935 until, shortly thereafter,
it was closed by the Gestapo for its “unbridled Jewish impudence and vulgarity.” Her
mission was satire as a scathing critique of the world, theatrical cabaret as a philosophical
institution. Moving to Vienna that same year, this revolutionary of the eleventh muse
joined Curt Bry, whom she knew from their days in the Catacombs, and opened Sixth
Heaven (Sechster Himmel), then emigrated to England in 1939 and made a living as a
“How often, and how marvelously, we quarreled, and over and over it was a success. To
go on without your electrifying personality will be a painful loss. Thank you!” (Friedrich
Georg Kreisler (1922-2011) is the poetic master of dark, even apocalyptic songs. With their gloomy, punning humor, his songs and stories also tell of the destruction of Jewish culture at the hands of the Nazis. He returned to Vienna from his American exile in the mid-fifties and was an early sensation there with his plays and novels. He performed in the Cabaret Without a Name (Kabarett ohne Namen) and from the late fifties on presented now classic songs in solo and duet programs, performing throughout Europe. As an author, composer and singer rolled into one, he is a satirical all-round man. The light-hearted misanthrope with his surreal and macabre "Everblacks, "Non-Aryan Arias ("Nichtarische Arien) and political songs became a model for an entire generation of musical cabaret artists.
"His intellectual brilliance notwithstanding, his inspiration stems from his overwhelming and graphic imagination. He is a fellow of infinite humor and deep melancholy, who suffers from the conscience of his times: a moralist, a poet, a parodist, a rebel, as infatuated with language as Nestroy and as surreal as E.T.A. Hoffmann. (Hans Weigel, 1972)
Kate Kühl (1899-1970) is the brash child of nature among the great divas of the Weimar era. She was discovered by Rosa Valetti for the Cabaret Megalomania (Größenwahn). The red nightingale, a female equivalent of Ernst Bush, appeared in all the important political cabarets, from the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne) to the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) and the Catakombs (Katakombe). This Mother Courage of the literary cabaret, in the words of Felix Joachimson, excelled as an interpreter of Tucholsky as well as in songs and texts by Brecht, Kästner, and Ringelnatz; she also performed on stage and in films. In 1933, she withdrew from Berlin and survived the Third Reich working for the provincial radio. But after 1945, Kate Kühls song programs memorialized the great authors of the twenties.
Talent boils: Kate Kühl, with her dumpling cheeks and big, amusingly startled eyes, and with a voice that sounded like a scratchy clarion. She could trumpet straight into peoples hearts. She sounded so full of optimism, with a lovely, severe, and terse freshness
A queen with her hands on her hips. (Friedrich Luft)
Volker Kühn (1933) is one of the twentieth century’s leading media satirists and authoritative historians of the cabaret. He is a culturally and historically literate grand master of documentary montage, in which as Der Spiegel said, original sound documents appear to be parodies, and the parodies appear to be originals. A collaborator for Berlin’s Reichskabarett and the broadcasts “Windshield Wipers (“Scheibenwischer”) and “Notes From the Provinces” (Notizen aus der Provinz”), and for over a decade the main author for the monthly satirical report “To the Last Frequency” (“Bis zur letzten Frequenz”), this verbally powerful defender of a satire aimed at political change has devoted himself to enlightenment through humor, aimed at the mature, responsible citizen. As an author for radio and television--as well as an editor, director and producer of satirical, documentary theatrical revues--this “mole in search of dawn’s red glow” (according to Hessischer Rundfunk) has also trenchantly sketched the history of the cabaret in numerous publications, empathetically portraying the movement’s protagonists.
“He observes the diction of those people others usually play for suckers…. A chronicler of sad reality who does without the righteous outrage but instead trusts in satire as the one true moral institution.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
Edgar Külow (1925-2012) was the most courageous cabaret artist of the German Democratic Republic and a central figure in the ascent of the Leipzig Peppermill (Pfeffermühle) as it became the countrys best cabaret at the beginning of the 1960s. Born in Westfalen, he had already gained notoriety for his pranks and rebelliousness as a schoolboy. Starting in 1959, he was a performer, author, and director, and from 1962 on, he ran the Peppermill, where he created the style of the ensemble that constantly crossed the borders of permissible satire. He was fired in 1964 for his ideological diversions in the banned show Lets Be Honest (Wolln wir doch mal ehrlich sein), but being beloved by audiences, he found refuge as an actor for East German television. And as the artistic director of the Tactless Ones (Die Taktlosen) in Halle, an author for the satirical magazine Eulenspiegel, and as a chairperson at the authors programs of the Thistle (Distel), Külow continued to be a provocative critic of the communist state, especially of the all-powerful unity party. Until today, he stubbornly stands by his lifes motto, which also resurfaces in his programs from the eighties on, revolving around the cantankerous street philosopher Willi Koslowski:
With all the blows Ive received, I believe you have to be a leftist in this world.
Lore Lorentz (1920-1994) was the grande dame of the West German cabaret, the heart and soul of the Dusseldorf Kom(m)ödchen, which she co-founded in 1947. As the leader and star of various ensembles until 1983, she became the incarnation of that theaters style as it developed over many years: "enlightenment with a cultivated touch. Seven solo programs followed until 1993, in which the "prima ballerina assoluta of political satire, the majestic cabaret siren with the bohemian charm and intellectual incisiveness (FAZ, 1980) took on the role of the democratic Cassandra of the second German republic, true to her motto "rage is young. Her delivery was precise and at time caustic, but never insulting; throughout the changing development of the cabaret art, she always succeeded at walking the thin line between tradition and innovation.
"The object of your attack has to be vulnerable, but your method must be invulnerable. Cabaret is sort of a theater of the times; we have to adapt to our times, to analyze them and research them so we can motivate the progressive elements in our audience to think politicallywe can give the bourgeois audience a kick in the pants, get them moving. (Lore Lorentz)
Loriot (1923-2011) is the brilliant, all-round satirist of the mundane. His sketches and dialogues, highlights of television satire, have become a staple of the popular imagination. From the early fifties on, his drawings appeared regularly in the magazines Stern, Quick, and Pardon: cabaret made with a sharp pen. Later, in many television shows, the gentlemanly parodist, a refined trickster sitting on a Biedermeier sofa, demonstrated the catastrophic absurdity of reality and the malice of inanimate objects. As a caricaturist, famous for his bulbous-nosed characters, but also as an author, television star, and film-maker, Loriot’s motto remains, “Every man makes his own misfortune.” His absurd dramas of the everyday, hovering between slapstick and sociology, reveal the comic earnestness of life.
“Loriot has an incredibly fine sensory repertoire, an infallible instinct for the ridiculous side of our world…. With imagination, wit, and parodic farces, Loriot lays bare our customs and the characters who evoke them. With ironic nobility, he proves that even nonsense can alter our consciousness.” (Michael Skasa)
Jürgen von Manger (1923-1994) was the forefather of an entire generation of dialect performers and comedians from the Ruhr region. In his solo programs from 1963 to 1985, his character of "Adolf Tegtmeier was a psychogram of the regional character type ("homo sapiens kohlenpottiensis). His tragicomedies of everyday life reveal the mentality of the proverbial "man on the street in finely tuned, literary monologues, while they transformed dialect into noble stage diction. Without denouncing them, Manger showed the petit bourgeois in all his helplessness, confronted by a bewildering world. In what seems to be mindless, friendly chatting, he unmasked the current situation with ironic menace.
"What Karl Valentin was for Munich and "Herr Karl is for Vienna, thats what Mangers home-made figure Adolf Tegtmeier is for the Ruhr area. The audience laughs loudly, though at times they are taken aback, because they are never quite sure if this is a popular comedian talking or someone who just thinks the populace is laughable. In any event, he is a unique and unusual satirist. (Berliner Morgenpost, 1972)
Erika Mann (1905-1969) was the level head and passionate heart of the Munich Pepper-Mill (Pfeffermühle), which opened in January 1933 to become "the most successful and effective theatrical enterprise of the German émigrés (Klaus Mann) She was the founder, main author, charming emcee, and also a convincing performer, especially in her favorite role as the melancholy clown. This "gracious Amazon (Ludwig Marcuse) and her ensemble worked against Hitler under the most difficult conditions. "Get involved: your earth is at stake! was their motto. First moving from one Swiss canton to the next, then touring through Europe in 1935-36, the émigrés increasingly lost their permission to perform thanks to behind-the-scenes intervention from the German authorities and rowdy fights where they performed. Their attempt to settle in New York failed.
"Even where she had to be bitter, even in her accusations and protests, the charm of her smile, her voice, and her gestures won the day. Her moralistic and political pleas were successful because they came from the heart and were presented with artistic precision. (Klaus Mann)
Gisela May (1924) is the First Lady of the German-language political song, but also, as a student of Hanns Eisler and Helene Weigel, the pre-eminent Brecht performer during the second half of the twentieth century. "Just an actress with a certain dose of musicality (May on May), she moved from her jobs in Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, and Schwerin to the German Theater (Deutsches Theater) in Berlin in 1951. Here she presented her first song program in 1957. From 1962 on, she was a member of the Berlin Ensemble, where for thirty years she earned attention as an expressive embodiment of various female characters; at the same time she triumphed internationally with her concerts. In a unique symbiosis, the delivery of the "socialist nightingale (FAZ, 1982) combines the charm of Marlene Dietrich, the dry wit of Lotte Lenya, and the pathos of Ernst Busch. She sings of the "creature man with incorruptible objectivity and profound empathy.
"She has that cooing tone of crass intelligence; she can whip sonority and make dissonances ring
A singing actress of rare power who sets the standard. (Die Welt, 1965)
Walter Mehring (1896-1981) is the author who dominated the political and satirical cabaret during the first years of the Weimar Republic. Inspired by Dadaism, Mehring wrote songs, scenes, and short dramas for Berlins cabarets Megalomania (Größenwahn), Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), Proscenium (Die Rampe), Carousel (Karussell), Everymans Cabaret (Kabarett für Alle), Kaftan, Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), Catacombs (Die Katakombe), and Munichs Bonbonniere. As the artistic director and house author of the very first political cabaret, Schall und Rauch (Schall und Rauch, which was initiated by Max Reinhardt), he set the tone. After his emigration in 1933, his texts were a staple of émigré cabarets around the world. In Erika Manns Pepper-Mill (Pfeffermühle), he performed the mournful hymn of exile, the "Émigré Chorale ("Emigrantenchoral) himself.
"In his lyrics, Mehring introduced a completely new tone into literature. These verses are strangely unreal, made of glass, and sometimes a carefully planned twist on the paper strangles you, sometimes the rhythm tears. This poet can even influence the readers heartbeat when he wants. (Kurt Tucholsky, 1929)
Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) was one of the literary forefathers of the German cabaret. His "Gallows Songs and dramatic parodies are among the most widely performed texts of the years before the First World War, and his texts have become classics of the cabaret stage: "On earth there roams a lonely knee, and "The seagulls by their looks suggest / that Emma is their name. (English versions: Max Knight) The cabaret Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch) was founded by Max Reinhardt in January 1901 as a benefit for this master of profound grotesques and nonsense poetry, who was suffering from tuberculosis. His texts are still performed today, above all by Gert Fröbe, Günther Lüders and Otto Sander.
"The younger generation goes into hysterics over the stories of Palmstroem, Korf and Cousin Kunkel like never before.
They laugh themselves silly and then are amazed by the profound poetry that turns funny only at the last momentand not until the very end do they notice that theyve learned a philosophical motto. Kant-like mottos in poetic form. (Kurt Tucholsky, 1919)
Martin Morlock (1918-1983) was the skeptical poet among the lyricists who made their mark on the cabaret during the years of the economic miracle. He was discovered by Werner Finck and mentored by Erich Kästner. This model moralist set the standard for the programs of Dusseldorfs Kom(m)ödchen and the Munich Lach- und Schießgesellschaft with his little jewels polished to literary precision and cut to reveal their most malicious power (Spiegel, 1983). Morlock was the first West German television critic and almost a national institution in his role of Teleman for the magazine Der Spiegel. As a topical columnist for various newspapers and a linguistically adept author for radio and television, his formulations, thought processes, and polemical summaries with exact diagnoses (Joachim Kaiser) were stunning.
He left Olympus behind and instead sat down on the marketplace, in the seat of the scoffers
. Too bad Kerr and Polgar and Tucholsky are no longer alive. They would have loved Martin Morlocks Rules for Spoilsports. (Erich Kästner, 1967)
Erich Mühsam (1878-1934) was one of the first explicitly political authors of the German cabaret. Already in the twenties, his ballad of the "revolutionary ("Der Revoluzzer) had become a classic of the genre. The self-professed anarchist performed his street ballads and revolutionary social poetry in Berlins bohemian pubs during the Wilhelmine years and was house author of the Simpl from 1903 on. He wrote for various satirical journals and was also one of the sharpest critics of the growing cabaret industry, which he accused of emptiness and a lack of poetic sensibility. Nonetheless, in his own appearances, he preferred to perform doggerel rhymes and nonsense poetry. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919 and was murdered in the concentration camp Oranienburg in 1934.
"His verses were spirited and diverse. Some sang of battle and revolution, and others were jesting and playful. He was an ironic bohemian and a relentless rebel. His heart drew him to those who were exploited. (Egon Erwin Kisch, 1934)
Rudolf Nelson (1878-1960), a pianist, composer, and cabaret director, was the leading representative of the elegant, metropolitan cabaret that combined frivolity with literary ambitions. His intelligent entertainment dominated the Wilhemine era. After co-founding the Roland of Berlin (Roland von Berlin) in 1904, the master of the "light muse opened the "Black Cat (Chat noir) in Berlin in 1907, then Nelsons Playhouse (Nelsons Künstlerspiele) in 1914. He created the genre of cabaret revue for his Nelson Theater in 1919, a form that would bring him great success in the twenties. In 1933, he emigrated and led the Amsterdam theater La Gaieté, escaped deportation by going into hiding, and wrote his last revue, "Berlin Weh Weh, in 1949, following his return from exile to Berlin. For almost fifty years, the slogan "And Rudi writes the music was a guarantee for quality and success.
"Singable, upbeat, with a liberating charm. He demolishes the dark and gloomy side of life and leaves us with a delightful melody. A blend of the merry, the tender, the rhythmic and the finely parodistic. (Fritzi Massary)
Günter Neumann (1913-1972) was the central figure of the Berlin cabaret immediately after the Second World War. His revues for the Cabaret Ulenspiegel, patterned after those of Friedrich Hollaender and Rudolf Nelson, dealt with the political realities of the divided city and contributed to the democratic re-education of the Germans. "A rare double talent and a brilliant satirist (Friedrich Luft), the "voice of Berlin began in Werner Fincks Catacombs (Die Katakombe) and Willi Schaeffers Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), where he was discovered before 1933. He gained national popularity as the founder, composer, and author of the most popular mass media cabaret to date: the Islanders (Die Insulaner), first broadcast in 1948. In 150 shows, they performed cabaret on the front lines of the cold war and spoke from the heart of the citizens of West Berlinand elsewhere.
"He made Berlin laugh about conditions that would otherwise have made us weep. He showed us and the world that a political song isnt necessarily a nasty song: it can be witty and charming, too. (Curt Flatow, 1971)
Wolfgang Neuss (1923-1989) was the enfant terrible of West German cabaret. After starting off in a front line cabaret for the troops, he toured through the Berlin cabarets in 1949 with his solos of "The Mann with the Drum ("Der Mann mit der Pauke, written by Eckart Hachfeld). He also directed for the Porcupines (Stachelschweine) and presented several shows together with his partner Wolfgang Müller. In addition, the beloved satirical actor of satirical and political cabaret appeared in more than fifty films. In his three solo programs from 1963 to 1967, he rebelled against the saturated society of prosperity and its style of cabaret. With a cynical and sharp humor and high-speed patter, he attacked the left-of-center bourgeois audience. In 1970 he withdrew from the stage but celebrated a comeback as the idol of the underground cabaret and a "living legend in the early eighties.
"He is a brilliant loudmouth, has something threateningly brilliant about him, and a natural foolhardiness
He explodes and improvises for over ninety minutes, does absurdist cabaret and takes aim at real conditions and injustices
Hes Villon, Kästner, Ringelnatz, and Tucholsky, hes all of them rolled into one. (Theater heute, 1964)
Rainer Otto (1939) is the foremost theoretician of socialist cabaret and a central
figure of the East German cabaret scene from the 1970s on. As an author, dramaturge,
director and producer, he led the Leipzig Peppermill (Pfeffermühle) from 1965 until its
privatization in 1993, and he directed shows on many other cabaret stages. A pragmatic
trickster and snazzy manipulator, this “diplomat of coarseness” (as Harald Pfeifer called
him) organized the first Cabaret Festival of the GDR in 1969, brought Dieter Hildebrandt
and Werner Schneider to Leipzig for a sensational guest appearance in the eighties, and
was one of the founders of the Laughter Trade Show (Lachmesse). After the fall of the
wall, he continued to place his faith in the power of language and the intelligence of the
audience, collaborating with the Leipzig ensemble Tender Rage (Sanftwut) from 1993
to 2006. A profound historical expert, he also writes radio and newspaper reports on
historical and contemporary cabaret.
“An argumentative, mild-mannered dictator whose productions set standards, and who
relentlessly defends the independence of satire and the cabaret against the power interests
of the bureaucrats.” (Jürgen Hart)
Gerhard Polt (1942) is the unsettling master of real-life satire and a linguistically brilliant grumbler. Since 1975, this earthy "word-juggler in the corner of the soul (taz) has been presenting the socio-pathology of the average German through the person of the Bavarian. He is a formidable actor and a compelling ear-witness of everyday experience, and both on stage and in his films, plays, and television series (which he co-authored with Christian Müller), he presents the mindset of the eternal philistine who lurks inside all of us. With frightening credibility, Polt embodies his discovery of the "homo sapiens perfidis, an upright monster whose stammering chatter reveals the intellectual biotopes of prehistoric times.
"From the upper floors of this demolished society, Polt explores the downright phony Fifties, down to the smallest details of their deformed, crumbling and nonetheless carefree grammar and semantics, slightly tipsy with nonsense. And he pays special attention to the failures, the outcasts, the impoverished and the exploited
. Polt is the passion for reality and what we could call a great love for its follies, foibles, jests, and monstrous delusions. (Jürgen Roth)
Helmut Qualtinger (1928-1986) was the multi-faceted acting genius of Austria’s post-war political cabaret, which blossomed thanks largely to his involvement. An exceptional talent, he first appeared in the ensemble of Gerhard Bronner’s Cabaret Without a Name, and from 1961 on, he was all the rage with solo programs and readings. His play Herr Karl, co-written with Carl Merz, still ranks as the ultimate psychological portrait of the eternal Philistine. “The most important Austrian satirist since Karl Kraus,” as Erich Fried called him, explored the dark underbelly of the Austrian soul not only in his role as an author, but also as an actor in films and on stage.
“His voice could jump suddenly from screaming rage to the faintest whisper; his facial expression could change fast as lighting from that of a tyrant to a pathetic fellow, from a man with a heart of stone to a whining loser. Nobody mastered the fine nuances of such subtle transitions from sentimentality to brutality as perfectly as this thin-skinned, vulnerable giant with the delicate, sensitive soul.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1986)
Alfred Rasser (1907-1977) was the first, and for many years the only political cabaret
Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) was the most popular satirist of the Weimar Republic. He was a leading author of the periodical Weltbühne (World Stage), but his articles, poems, and polemics also appeared in many other newspapers and magazines. As an author for numerous cabarets, including Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), Megalomania (Größenwahn), the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), the Proscenium (Die Rampe), the Rocket (Rakete), the Gondola (Die Gondel), Larifari and the Nelson Revues, he shaped the literary and political cabaret of the twentiesand with his reviews of cabaret shows as well. Tucholsky penned his half erotic, half political pieces for singers like Rosa Valetti, Gussy Holl, Trude Hesterberg or Kate Kühl. Of his four pseudonyms, Theobald Tiger was the one who wrote for the cabaret.
performer in Switzerland, a “cabaret genius and jester of compelling vehemence”
(Werner Wollenberger). After joining Zurich’s Pickle (Cornichon) in 1935, he founded
and led the Cactus (Kaktus) in Basel (1943-1953) and then toured Switzerland with
a number of one-man programs until the mid-sixties. From 1967 to 1975, he was a
parliamentarian in the Swiss Federal Assembly. This left-wing actor’s lifelong theme was
Switzerland’s self-image as a model neutral democracy, and in the role of Läppli, Basel’s
incarnation of the soldier Švejk, he exposed and satirically attacked its shortcomings.
“As a magnificently improvising court jester of the sovereign, of the free people, he is
always willing to wear the fool’s cap as a symbol of prosecutorial dignity and to attack
the stubborn foolishness high-placed hypocrites with the vital foolishness of the mocker
and parodist. Even in the most foolish farce, he manages to unmask human weaknesses
and to express what is typical in words and gestures.” (Walter Lesch)
Otto Reutter (1897-1931) was the pre-eminent music hall artist of the imperial era. As the popular singer of the man on the street and a philosophical humorist, he was the most popularand highest-paidstar of Berlins "Winter Garden (Wintergarten), among other venues. From 1895 until his death, this witty king of the punch lines and "ancestor of Germanys singing comics (Max Herrmann-Neiße) made guest appearances in all the German-language variety theaters. The unique blend of topical criticism, everyday observances, and Berlin impudence in his songs (over a thousand of them) and monologues is still a model for cabaret and song authors today. "In fifty years, itll all be over ("In fünfzig Jahren ist alles vorbei), "Nothing can surprise me any more ("Ick wundre mir über gar nischt mehr), "Take an old guy (Nehmn Sie n Alten): many of his refrains crept into the everyday language and became catchwords.
"He had to fight against a language that is clumsy and has to be bent and kneaded, a language you have to practice for years and years before it will dance
But with him, it hopped. There are the most unusual, almost melancholy ideas there, skeptical ones written with beer, but close to the clowning jests of genius. (Kurt Tucholsky)
Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934) was the melancholy wandering minstrel among the poets and satirists who worked on the stages of the Weimar Republic, out of which grew the post-war legend of the golden decade of cabaret. Already between 1909 and 1911, he was the house poet of the Simpl, and after 1919, the seafarer, painter and poet who had failed in several careers devoted himself completely to the cabaret. He had guest appearances in Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne) the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), and Munichs Bonbonniere, and regular performance tours through the entire German-speaking regions followed. Dressed in a sailor suit (a reference to his alter ego "Kuddel Daddeldu), "drunken and tumbling on the waves, a metaphysicist with tragicomic gestures (Felix Joachimson), he would present his poems combining irony, the grotesque, Weltschmerz and sarcasm while he observed the world with the eyes of a grown-up child.
"An art that can reveal a heavy heart within the condition of weightlessness, an art that makes dark thoughts shine brightly
Profundity with an accent on the fun. (Peter Rühmkorf)
Rodolphe Salis (1851-1897) is the “inventor” of modern cabaret, the founder, director, and master of ceremonies of the Parisian Chat Noir (Black Cat), which opened in November 1881. This first “cabaret artistique” played in the artists’ quarter Montmartre until 1897, and during this time it evolved from a bohemian gathering place into a tourist attraction. Salis himself excelled as an eccentric but savvy entrepreneur, whose groundbreaking blend of painting, poetry, music and theater as presented here provided a model for the German stages that were founded twenty years later. Decorated with medals, wearing a pompous imaginary uniform, and blustering wildly, this self-ordained “Seigneur de Chatnoirville” combined in one person the bohemian and the bourgeois, and similarly, his monologues united satirical mockery and opportunistic subservience. “A prophet with a thundering voice, like a preacher of vengeance… a carefree trickster who knows how to laugh—the most difficult and yet the most humanitarian art. A philosopher who detests the world and mankind, but who loves the ridiculous spectacle of “life.” (Hermann Bahr)
Wolfgang Schaller (1940) is an elegiac advocate of a left-wing utopia and the foremost author of East German cabaret. He joined Dresden's "Club of Hercules" in 1970, became their dramaturge and house author, and took over the artistic direction in 1988. Schaller shaped the style of what was to become the most courageous and most modern cabaret ensemble of the GDR. The shows he co-wrote with Peter Ensikat were models of the art. Even after 1989, the hopeful skeptic Schaller, an empathic spokesman for the man on the street and a committed defender of East German identity, has kept his fighting spirit and maintained his faith in the potential of cabaret as a vehicle of social change. "It was a new tone, a completely new earnestness behind the fun. Finally someone was delivering satire where the jests stopped being harmless. His wit seemed to stem from a rage I knew well. It was the rage about the way socialism had degenerated into a joke in East Germany. That many of the people who today condemn his stance already did so back then as well proves that Schaller's stance is true conviction." (Peter Ensikat)
Werner Schneyder (1937) is the sharp-tongued gentleman satirist and clever emcee of non-conformist greatness at the twilight of the twentieth century. “A revolutionary out of a fundamentally conservative attitude” (as Schneyder called himself) and “a cabaret performer out of moral necessity” (according to Dieter Hildebrandt), this multi-talent created solo shows with a rare but elegant synthesis of socially analytical cabaret and melancholy songs, making for literary programs with political quality. Earlier, in five successful two-man shows with Dieter Hildebrandt, this “punk of the first hour” (as Vienna’s ‘Die Presse’ called him) showed himself to be an ironic master of well-honed dialogue. With wit and enormous intelligence, he presented cabaret as a verbal boxing-match.
“He lashes out in all directions—that’s his virtue—and at all sides available, but always in the name of the poor devils against the rich devils. Like Nestroy and Kraus, he is infatuated with language. His critical verses are more condensed and more poetic, and his aphorisms deserve the highest respect and wide acclaim. A writing contemporary of the highest degree.” (Hans Weigl)
Klaus Peter Schreiner (1930) is the ironic enlightener and satirical journalist among the cabaret authors of the Federal Republic. From 1958 to 2000, he was the house author and figurehead of the Munich Lach- und Schießgesellschaft. "A frustrated lazybones and a desperate moralist (Schreiner on himself), he also wrote for the cabarets Onion (Zwiebel) in Munich, Colognes Mustard-Pot (Senftöpfchen), and Stuttgartss Renitenztheater, the television shows "Notes from the Provinces ("Notizen aus der Provinz), the "Windshield-Wipers ("Scheibenwischer) and the first comedy series "Klimbim. His "head-on satires, a mixture of prophecy and poetry, are outstanding for their "special talent for surprising conclusions and infallible sense for tomorrows sensibilities (Dieter Hildebrandt). His recurring theme is the manipulation of language as an expression of the manipulation of thought by those in power.
"His works are polemic masterpieces in ultimate compression. This satirical craftsman magnificently avoids the temptation to deviate from the message for the sake of an additional joke.
Sharp and disrespectful, he exposes complicated relationships, holds up the selected authorities for inspection, and deconstructs their sonorous slogans. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
Jura Soyfer (1912-1939) is the most important political and satirical author of the
Austrian cabaret until 1945. He was one of the leaders during the golden years of
Viennese cabaret during the thirties, as house author of the Political Cabaret (Politisches
Kabarett) and the “ABC,” and as a writer for the Literature on Naschmarkt and various
agitprop troupes. With the satirical parables of his “Mittelstücke” or “in-between
plays” (short dramas performed between variety-style show segments), he developed
the tradition of the Viennese popular theater. The recurring theme of these sketches
blending skeptical satire, revolutionary pathos, and elegiac lyricism was mankind before
the apocalypse, together with the utopia of a “humane humankind.” Soyfer was arrested
after the German invasion and sent to Dachau, where he wrote the “Dachau Song” and
died the following year.
“He joined the ranks of the artists of gallows humor during those years of absolute
hopelessness and helplessness. While the rest of us were more or less talented, he was
a genius, no imitator or copy-cat; he was a legitimate heir to the tradition of Johann
Nestroy. Jura Soyfer was an unfinished masterpiece.” (Hans Weigel)
Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985) was the sensitive musical aesthete and jazzman among the composers who created the cabaret of the early twentieth century with their songs and revues. He was less a satirist than an intellectual with a precise gift of observation. As a sparkling pianist, as well, "Moische Mozart (as Roman Cykowski called him) embodied the sophisticated social parody that ironically mirrored the fashions and trends of the "Roaring Twenties. He was musical director of Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch), the Wild Stage (Wilde Bühne), and other Berlin cabarets, and in 1928 he had a breakthrough with his revue "Its in the Air ("Es liegt in der Luft). More stage productions followed, culminating in his unique cabaret opera "Call Mr. Plim! ("Rufen Sie Herrn Plim!). After his emigration to England, Spoliansky worked for films and broadcasting.
"His unending, singing, giggling, mocking melodies were not just underscoring, but real composition. The music emphasized the punch lines of the text so effectively, turned the material into parody, enveloped the lyrics in magical wrappings, and drove the performers onward in merry relentlessness. (Kurt Pinthus)
Klaus Staeck (1938) is the foremost political graphic artist and satirical poster maker of the Federal Republic. Since the end of the 1960s, he has consistently managed to produce art as a political tool and to provoke those in power. He draws his inspiration from John Heartfield’s montages and collages of images and texts, and from George Grosz’ Berlin Dadaism. In posters, postcards, photos and installations, this committed enlightener and internationally recognized performance artist engages in virtuosic manipulation of fragments of reality and quotations from advertisements and everyday language. “A Wolfgang Neuss of optical techniques” (as Fritz J. Raddatz called him), the moral agitator has interceded with succinct persistence in the socio-political debates of the second German democracy. Staeck provides razor-sharp metaphors of the current condition of the Republic “with cunning clothed in the guise of the philistine” (Der Spiegel).
“Wherever he appears, wherever he gets involved, hope for change grows. Here utopia grows a bit more tangible, more concrete; it gets a more human face: the face of Klaus Staeck.” (Wolfgang Thierse)
Emil Steinberger (1933) is a humanitarian cult comedian, the wily, charming Everyman who raised Swiss cabaret to a peak of popularity with slightly grotesque miniatures of everyday themes. He began in the cabarets Güggürüggü and Cabaradise, and in 1964, he launched his solo shows that revolved around the authentic fictional character “Emil.” He has appeared throughout the German-speaking world with these programs since the 1970s. “Terribly funny,” the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote of him, “but funny in that dimension where jokes, satire, irony, and higher significance join hands.” This earthy tightrope-walker of the mundane created a wide range of timeless figures whose monologues in dialogue form became masterpieces of the grand art of seemingly off-the-cuff improvisation.
“It’s the confident hopelessness that makes these characters so astonishing. The confidence of their insecurity strikes the viewer. What Emil does is so essentially human that everyone identifies with it in some way. It’s something few have accomplished—Charles Chaplin, for instance, or Karl Valentin. You always laugh with Emil, not at him.” (Franz Hohler)
the flowing lightness of his tone, the ever-ready punch lines, the menace behind the apparently innocent featuresTheobald Tiger is a master! (Berliner Tageblatt, 1919).
After turning silent in the early thirties, Tucholsky committed suicide in 1935 in his Swedish exile.
Karl Valentin (1882-1948) fascinated intellectuals as well as simple people beginning with his first performances in the Munich pub cabaret Simpl in 1906. Valentin explored the borders between cabaret, popular theater and clowning; he was a thought-twister and "Linkskomiker (Kurt Tucholsky), an anarchic and philosophical clown. After studying carpentry, he toured with his partner Liesl Karlstadt from 1911 to 1935. In the twenties he had a national breakthrough with his guest appearances in Berlins Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker). After 1933, he was viewed with suspicion by the Nazis, and his Chamber of Horrors (Panoptikum) and his own cabaret The Knights Dive (Ritterspelunke, 1939/40) failed ultimately, he withdrew from the stage for seven years: "I wont say a word, at least theyll allow me to say that much.
"His asthmatic non-singing voice is the most exciting voice. With profound consternation, it leads from nonsensical texts like Dawn, Dawn straight up to the yawning chasm of the deepest human sadness. (Hermann Hesse)
Rosa Valetti (1878-1937) was the most striking and most impressive female figure of the cabaret during the twenties—perhaps during the entire history of cabaret. She was the director of the Rocket (Die Rakete) and the Proscenium (Die Rampe), the founder of Stuff and Nonsense (Larifari), a performer in Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch) and the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker), as well as the initiator of the Cabaret Megalomania (Cabaret Größenwahn), which was rooted in the leftist spirit of the times and the Berlin underworld. Both on stage and behind the scenes, the multi-faceted actress and expressive cabaret performer fought for a new political cabaret with a literary character. “Ugly as the night and bursting with a brilliant personality” (as Trude Hesterberg wrote), she made an impression in the premiere of The Threepenny Opera as well as the film The Blue Angel, and she turned the songs of Tucholsky, Mehring and Hollaender “into an unforgettable cabaret experience” (said Ludwig Marcuse).
“Rosa Valetti’s specialty is where the great cry of outrage, hate, or defiance erupts from a scorned or mistreated creature. Inevitably, given her entire nature and her temperament, all her interpretations have a revolutionary spirit. (Max Hermann-Neiße, 1925)
Helen Vita (1928-2001) was the last classic singer of the German cabaret, a nightingale of the small stage who masqueraded as a comic. She started out in the ensemble of Zurichs Cabaret Federal and Munichs Little Freedom (Kleine Freiheit), and in the mid-sixties she presented her own solo programs. With a generous musical talent, spirited acting, and impudent irony, she performed the best of the cabaret repertoire from Brecht to Tucholsky. She was a popular film actress in the fifties, the German answer to Marilyn Monroe, but she was famous, even infamous, for her so-called "Naughty Songs ("Freche Chansons): erotic folk songs from old France. According to the German courts, they threatened to bring about the "downfall of the West with their "muddling of the moral order.
"Helen Vita is a master of the art of having a great effect with next to nothing. She can show a thousand faces, drone like a man, squeak lasciviously, and when things get downright direct, then she undermines it with a pure, solemn tremolo. (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1990)
Claire Waldoff (1884-1957) was Berlins favorite singer and popular actress for some thirty years on all of the citys stages. Besides her theatrical roles, this "original talent (Alfred Kerr) was a guest artist in many cabarets and music halls before she withdrew into private life, thanks to repeated disruptions of her concerts by Nazi thugs. Until 1918, she was the star of Roland of Berlin and the Linden Cabaret, with songs like "His Names Herman ("Hermann heesst er). In the twenties she sparkled in the Cabaret of the Comedians (Kabarett der Komiker) or Erik Charells revues, seemingly the personification of Berolina and a "singing Heinrich Zille in numbers by Kurt Tucholsky or Friedrich Hollaender. She gave her last performances after 1933 in the Scala and the Winter Garden (Wintergarten). The bourgeoisie, the working class, and the intellectuals alike loved this quintessential Berlin woman hailing from the coalmines of the Ruhr, whose singing could switch from impudent growling to soft tenderness.
"Berlins West side and its East side, the sophisticate and the masseuse, never side by side but always synthesized into one character: Thats Waldoff! (Harry Kahn, 1910)
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) was the leading satirist of the German empire, a demonic street ballad singer on the cabaret stage before 1914, a show master who relentlessly attacked the bourgeois sexual morality of his time as an expression of the social and political misery, and an “uncomic comedian” (Robert Walser). Wedekind was a writer for the premiere satirical journal of the Wilhelmine era, the Simplicissimus, from 1896 on, and in 1898 he was sentenced to prison for insulting the Emperor. From 1901, the writer performed in various Munich cabarets. As a spiritual predecessor to the singer-songwriters, his performances of self-composed songs to the lute for the Eleven Executioners (Elf Scharfrichter, where scenes from his dramas were also performed) were a major reason for the Schwabing ensemble’s fame as the site of the most significant critical artists’ cabaret.
Peter Wehle (1914-1986), the bizarre and lovable jester of post-war Austrian cabaret,
“When he appeared on stage, a serious clown, a savagely mocking but also brooding and handsome satyr, immovably confronting the loudest laughter, then the captivating charm of true demonic power exuded from him.” (Hans Brandenburg)
is a comedian of the keyboard with witty words. Holding degrees in law and German
philology, this poet/composer/singer/pianist is one of the central figures of the modern,
satirical Viennese cabaret that developed after 1945. After his beginnings as a pianist
and emcee in the Casanova, he toured with the Little Four (Die kleinen Vier) and stood
out in the ensemble of the Unnamed Cabaret (Kabarett ohne Namen). Soon he was
presenting his musical and literary nonsense, rooted in irony and Jewish wit, in programs
with Gerhard Bronner. Wehle was a well-educated joker and a polyglot Viennese native,
and he was a leader in Austria’s radio and television cabaret. On the side, he wrote over
a thousand songs and pop hits.
“From early on, this son of a good family threw himself into the arms of a light-hearted
and sometimes mean-spirited muse, and since he was determined never to let her go, she
blessed him generously—with musical and verbal wit and with a talent for not taking
things seriously, least of all himself.” (Ulrich Weinzierl)
Hanne Wieder (1929-1989) is the fascinating Circe of post-war German cabaret,
an “irreverent queen of cabaret” and a self-possessed singer of classic dimensions. She
appeared for five years at the Dusseldorf Kom(m)ödchen alongside Lore Lorentz before
joining the Amnestied (Die Amnestierten) in Kiel, ultimately landing in Munich’s Little
Freedom (Kleine Freiheit). Here the dark, sexy diva with a cavernous voice capitavated
her audience in Friedrich Hollaender’s revues of the fifties. Their success was largely due
to this “totally unbelievable woman” with her “smile that was capable of poking fun at
the entire eroticism of world literature” (Hollaender). Numerous film and theatrical roles
followed, as well as frequent solo programs with songs ranging from Bertolt Brecht to
“A singer who can do just about anything. She chirps and purrs, grunts with lust, and
stretches in brazen, tender melancholy, only to slip effortlessly and impudently into
irony. A musical personality that is the absolute peer of the cabaret royalty of yesteryear.”
Hugo Wiener (1904-1993) was the most popular and productive Austrian composer and an author of classic chansons. Starting in 1928, he wrote some 65 cabaret revues. As a composer and pianist, he worked in the Viennese cabarets Hell (Hölle), the Stage on the Bottom of the Alser (Brettl am Alsergund), ABC and Femina until 1938. After his emigration to South America, he was an entertainer in clubs and bars from Bogota to Caracas, together with his wife, Cissy Kraner, and other émigrés with their Viennese brand of nastiness called "Wiener Schmähfor, as the song went, "Nowak wont let me go to pot ("Aber der Nowak lässt mich nicht verkommen). Wiener returned to Vienna in 1949, where he co-wrote all the Simpl revues with Karl Farkas over sixteen years. He gave shape to the intelligent and spirited entertainment style of the essentially apolitical, traditional cabaret of the fifties and sixties. Tours of song programs with Cissy Kraner followed, as well as about twenty books of satirical short stories.
"Merriness is decorated with a light, melancholy flair. Genuine Vienna, garnished with rhymed popular wit, is presented on stage as delightful satire, without sentimentality and kitsch and effects. Its cabaret in the cabaret, perfect miniature art. (Rudolf Weys, 1970)
Gerhard Woyda (1925) is a tone-setting impresario of West German cabaret as well as the creative core of the Stuttgart Renitenztheater, which he co-founded in 1961 and directed until 2005. The man of three talents succeeded here where Werner Finck failed with his “Mousetrap”: establishing a political cabaret in Stuttgart. As a compassionate pianist, composer, and author of the house ensemble, he presented satire and philosophy “in the spirit of the big C with which they once spelled Cabaret” (Ruprecht Skasa-Weiß). This “delicate gentleman with the hot temperament of a Masurian ram,” in the words of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, was a discoverer and proponent of young talent, but also hired many international stars, and with a sense of Prussian duty and French laisser-faire, he built his theater into one of the most important touring venues of the Republic, a cultural institution of national significance.
“His nobility and sensitivity, his love for art and artists, his modesty and professionalism turned the ‘Renitenz’ into a big family, a home for personal and artistic encounters.” (Sebastian Weingarten)