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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

The seriously funny Cordula Stratmann

Comedian and commentator

I was sitting in the make-up suite, waiting for her to arrive. And when she did it was with a loud volley of laughter. She’s funny, spontaneous, very relaxed and very straightforward. Might be something to do with the fact that she’s from the Rhineland, where the locals are proud of being a jolly lot. Maybe it’s because she is, as she tells me, into yoga. Not in a group, however, but on her own: “I don’t like naked feet on strangers.” She’s Cordula Stratmann, my latest guest on Talking Germany. 

She’s often described as a comedian. But that’s not the full story. “What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced recently?” I ask her. “My Alltag,” she says, “My Alltag.” Alltag? Everyday life: the quirks and foibles of ordinary folk. So, in a way, she’s a social satirist. And she’s very good at it, especially when she improvises. She’s also written a novel. Of which there’s an audio version on CD. On it Cordula reads the female part herself, while her husband is played by the well-known German actor Matthias Brandt. That is, you’ll be intrigued to know, Matthias Brandt – son of the former German chancellor Willy Brandt. 

That’s an interesting link. Because when I ask Cordula for her appraisal – as someone who’s in the business – of how good, or otherwise, German domestic TV is, it becomes clear that she has strong views: “It’s driven by Angst!” Fear. “They’ve only got one thing on their minds – quotas. They never take any risks.” She tells me about a recent episode of Polizeiruf 110 – which translates as Police 110. As you’ve probably guessed, the emergency number here in Germany is 110 and Polizeiruf is a long-running detective series. (Interestingly, it had its origins in East Germany and was one of the few things taken over in the reunified Germany.) So, Cordula says, they made one pretty hard-hitting and controversial episode – called “Then they know not what they do” – about a terrorist suicide bomb attack on a soccer stadium. It must have been well made, disturbing and thought-provoking. Too disturbing, too thought-provoking, insists Cordula. The detective in question, by the way, was played by Matthias Brandt. So Cordula had heard a lot about how the broadcast had been shunted from prime time to late night. It’s the kind of approach, says Cordula, that forces everybody to play safe. And they do: “The viewers are sold short by the program-makers!” Some things just aren’t funny.


February 12, 2012