He was a yokel journalist with something of a drink problem who appeared on German TV screens just over 4 years ago. The assistant editor in chief of Grevenbroicher, a regional daily, Horst Schlämmer established his own political party and then rose to become chancellor. His biopic, Horst Schlämmer– Isch kandidiere (2009), was released on 20 August in German cinemas.
Invasion of the alter-egos
But Horst, of course, doesn't exist. Behind the politician – who campaigns with slogans such as "Sunbeds for all!" or "Yes, week-end!" – is comedian Hape Kerkeling, whose penchant for masquerading as fictional entities has attracted much attention. Schlämmer is easily his most famous character, and now he is making the move from fiction into reality. "My name is Horst Schlämmer. I’m going to become your next Chancellor," goes his election campaign trailer. It’s an intentionally provocative statement.
Who exactly is Horst Schlämmer? A real-life journalist out of the Westphalia countryside? An alter ego of Hape Kerkerling? Perhaps the idea he is pitching is one of hyper-reality, that conceit out of the glory days of postmodernism. Schlämmer himself was in no doubt of his real life existence in a Spiegel magazine interview, ‘I’m no alter ego; I’m real. I’m a tad fake, but real in general,’ he said. When asked how someone could tell the difference, he retorted "you can touch me, and I stink."
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(Horst Schlämmer election campaign trailer)
Hape Kerkeing is not the only comedian who has caused storms in political teacups. The French actor Cristophe Salengro created "the President of Groland" for French TV station Canal+. The character is best understood as a parody of French behaviour. Like all real-life existing countries, Groland has its own national anthem and flag. You can even apply for a Groland passport at the broadcaster’s television centre. Every citizen can apply to be the President of Groland, too. The only snag is that only the reigning President has the right to vote.
A Polish candidate with the unpronounceable name Ędward Ąckiconcerns himself with the dodgy dealings side to politics. The fictitious political figure, created by journalist and radio host Szymon Majewski, wants one thing more than anything else; to thoroughly clean house in Polish politics. The name of his party, ‘ĘĄ - Szczerzy do bólu’ (Honest Until it Hurts) shows that Ącki really means business. His anti-corruption speech in front of the Polish cultural palace reeled in a large catch of fans. It seems that it doesn’t take much to nominate yourself as a candidate. Perhaps Polish president Lech Kaczyński had better watch his step in 2010 to avoid the barbs of the red-bereted Ącki.
Are columnists justified in being worried about this invasion of alter egos in national parliaments? Kerkeling’s Horst Schlämmer would like a society that cares more about its VIPs and less about its politicians. Though Schlämmer/Kerkeling announced his candidacy to the media, he's been scared off by the necessary formalities to found a political party and to register for the elections. Likewise with the president of the Republic of Groland; in 2007 Salengro wanted to apply for the job at the Élysée palace but ultimately failed to get the required number of signatures. The same fate is most likely in wait for Schlämmer, should he ever muster the energy for all that paperwork. Aptly aimed slogans such as "Liberal, conservative and on the left – there’s something for all!” do leave one wondering whether some politicians are left hanging their heads in shame, or busy taking notes for their own campaigns.
Lilian Maria Pithan ( Translation by Aatish Pattni )
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