The Importance of Being Funny: Jewish Humour in Cabaret and Film of the Weimar Republic

Monday, 16 March 2020, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
This talk is part of a book project on the cultural history of Jewish artistic presence in German-speaking cabaret and film in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. (During my fellowship at the IWM, I am researching materials at the Austrian Exile Archive at ÖNB and the Österreichisches Kabarettarchiv in Graz.) In this presentation for the colloquium, I focus on a representative figure of cabaret and film, the German-Jewish comedian Siegfried Arno. Arno, who was labeled by contemporaries “our Buster Keaton”, was enormously successful on both the cabaret stage and the silver screen. In the 1920s, Arno and many of his colleagues were also at the centre of the so-called “cabaret wars”, as they were accused (and often sued) by the Centralverein of the German Citizens of the Jewish Faith of excessive use of Jewish jokes and fuelling antisemitism. My presentation will review Arno’s role in the very public debate about Jews in cabaret and film, and explore some of his actual performances in films as well as on the stage of the Kabarett der Komiker.

Mila Ganeva is Professor of German at Miami University in Ohio. Currently she is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comments by Ivan Krastev (IWM Permanent Fellow)