Guardian, 23 May 2006

From Turkish chavs to gay Star Trek

Germany’s most popular comedy shows

Die Harald-Schmidt-Show

This comedy talk show initially started out in 1995 as a shameless Letterman clone: they even had a regular postman character called “the letterman”. Over time, the eponymous host has become a huge star in his own right and now enjoys such complete artistic freedom that he has pulled off surreal stunts such as hosting a “Miles-Davis-Memorial” episode with his back to the audience, and, on one particularly memorable occasion, transmitting a 20-minute, on-air silence with the lights off. Schmidt’s reenactment of Hamlet using Playmobil figures is also fondly remembered.


Another blatant rip-off, this time of The Office – not that the broadcaster, Pro 7, admitted it initially. They claimed that all similarities to the original were “purely coincidental”, despite the fact that the only difference from the Ricky Gervais version is the transposing of the set from an office of a paper supplier to an insurance company called Capitol. After the BBC threatened to sue, Pro7 came clean. The show is named after the David Brent character Bernd Stromberg and quickly acquired a dedicated following.

TV Total

With a similar concept to Channel 4’s Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, and hosted by a blonde Chris Evans-a-like called Stefan Raab, this show provides a platform for various Big Brother inmates, C-list celebrities, emerging boy groups and other obscure TV personnel hungry for any kind of publicity. Fun facts about Stefan Raab: one of the show’s victims, a member of German rap group Rödelheim Hard Rhyme Project, broke Raab’s nose after being mocked repeatedly on air; he also ran for Germany in the EuroVision Song Contest in 2000, finishing in fifth place.

Bully Parade  

The brainchild of Munich comedian Michael “Bully” Herbig, this is a sketch show in the Harry Enfield’s Television Programme vein. Several of Herbig’s sketches made the leap on to the big screen, including a Monty-Pythonish take on 1960s German western movies and another about the gay crew of a Star Trek style spaceship. The former, Der Schuh des Manitu, was one of the biggest films of 2001, only surpassed by the first instalments of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. For reasons never entirely clear to anyone, Herbig often pops up in his sketches dressed as the famous Austrian empress Sissy.

Was guckst du?

The German Goodness Gracious Me. Hosted by Kaya Yanar, a German-born comedian of Turkish origin with a university degree in phonetics and philosophy. The show’s title (“What you looking at?”) is the catch phrase of its main character, a Turkish bouncer called Hakan. Yanar has a copyright on the phrase. The show’s success made the Turkish chav a standard comedy character in many other shows. The show’s other characters include Ranjid, an Indian taxi driver, the Italian small-time crook Francesco and a member of nearly every minority group in Germany including Russians, Poles and Arabs. After a complaint by the Greek community about the lack of sketches about Greeks, Yanar added the character of restaurant owner Alexandros Apostolakis.


Part of What’s our problem with Germany, G2 supplement