I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but according to this movie
, which is currently showing in German cinemas, he’s back again! Based on the book by Timur Vermes
, the flick tells the story about Adolf Hitler waking up in present day Berlin and starting a comeback. I don’t want to spoiler for those, who haven’t read the book or seen the movie yet, but would rather like to ask: Has he even been away?
No politics, just comedy
This post is not about politics and about the sad renaissance of extreme right-wing ideas and parties. There are smarter people than me, writing for renowned newspapers, who focused on that before. I am more intrigued by the fact, that this guy whose political career is far from being funny is also a reliable, constant and almost infinite source of jokes with a built-in laughter-guarantee. Therefore I’d like to dedicate this post to the Hitler-Joke that has never been away.
The early days
For starters, every self-respecting comedian has to have the Hitler imitation in his repertoire. Think of Charlie Chaplin
, who discovered Hitler’s theatrical talent very early, the unforgotten Louis de Funes (Muskatnuss Herr Müller!)
or the legends of Monty Python
But while at first he was more the laughing stock from an Western-Allied point of view (did they have Comedy during Communism?!), even the Germans themselves lost respect and their political correctness at some point and did countless parodies on the Fuhrer. Harald Schmidt
, Christoph Maria Herbst
or Jan Böhermann
are some examples.
Being Hitler is easy
What makes the impersonation so fascinating for comedians is that you don’t need much for the role. Maybe a shave or a glue on beard and the ability to speak from your throat – done. The unique way of Hitler’s speech makes the role recognizable to everybody. You don’t even need facial hair, women did the impersonation often enough as well. But just because a joke is easy to make, does not explain why it’s made so often.
Simple “kitchen psychology” explanations might be that making fun of something gruesome can be helpful in processing events. Laughing can be cathartic and a Hitler that gives you make-up advice
certainly loses his aggressive aura and horror. Moreover the Hitler joke is so popular because it still has the smell of a forbidden fruit. It is more of a taboo in Germany than for example in Britain or the US.
Everyday we’re Adolfing
Even people without any theatrical ambitions use the Hitler joke in a variety of contexts. A famous scene from the Simpsons (see video below) triggered a running gag: Almost everything is “Worse than Hitler!” nowadays. It is kind of an anti-climax. For example when your Bus is late, you find a worm in your apple or encounter a series of red lights on the way to work. Worse than f***ing Hitler!
He’s never been away
So, to answer the question from the introduction: No, he has never been away. Hitler parodies have been performed since he came onto the political stage and there won’t be a shortage of parodists in the future. If you find this funny is a completely different question though.