Leipzig is the adopted home of the Austrian cabaret artist Lisa Eckhart. In any case, she sees a connection between Ösis and Ossis, between Stalin and Sisi. Many East Germans told her that they would have preferred to be united with Austria.
She appeared at the interview in Berlin in a white overall with a patch with the GDR flag and the Austrian coat of arms. And what does the Austrian federal eagle have in its claws? Hammer and sickle!
Ms. Eckhart, where did you get the GDR flag on your sleeve?
From the international network.
Isn’t there something like that to buy in Leipzig?
Those who still have originals at home would never sell them. But there are probably more spiritual devotionals.
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Her new program is called “Empress Stasi”. Tell us about it, please.
I thought the connection between communism and Austria could be worthwhile. Empress Stasi – that is a connection between Stalin and Sisi. It is about creating a community that is not based on the exclusion of others, a group that is looked down upon, but that exists in contrast to an imperial superman. I don’t do like the populists and say I’m one of you. I say very consciously: I am not one of you. And in contrast to me, everyone can be equal and not have to struggle with sexism, racism and so on.
Lisa Eckhart, Austrian cabaret artist, Berlin, on September 15, 2023 Benjamin Pritzkuleit
And why aren’t the West Germans allowed to take part?
They’re too busy shopping. They have no desire for communism or monarchy. There are a few citizens of the Reich who are complaining that they want the emperor back. But they become very quiet when I ask them: Which emperor, which of your three? Because there weren’t any more, and none of them were very glorious. You long for something that never existed in Germany. The big task now is to introduce communism to the Austrians and the monarchy to the East Germans.
Lisa Eckhart: Austria is the appendix, East Germany is the overbite
So you see a connection between East Germans and Austrians?
In any case. Many East Germans have told me that they would have preferred to be united with Austria. The Austrian is not aware of this. Ossi, Ösi – neither sounds so nice. More like the stupid sidekick from the tragic Germania. There is already a connection in a certain contempt for the West, through which we understand each other very well. Austria is the severed appendix and East Germany is the overbite.
Lisa Eckhart, born in Styria in 1992, won the Austrian Poetry Slam Championships in 2015. At the 2015 German Poetry Slam Championships in Augsburg, she was eliminated by draw with the same number of points as eventual winner Jan Philipp Zymny.
End of 2015 she made her cabaret solo debut with “As if you had better things to do”. Her program “The Benefits of Vice” started in 2018. Since 2019 she has been a regular guest on the ARD cabaret show “Nuhr im Erste”.
2020 was Lisa Eckhart was accused of anti-Semitism for a cabaret contribution broadcast on the WDR program “Mitternachtsspitzen” in 2018. In this context, she was disinvited from the Hamburg Harbor Front literature festival because of alleged security concerns.
With your new program “Empress Stasi the First” She will perform at the Admiralspalast in Berlin on October 19th and November 10th.
Who are you going to judge??
I make sure everyone gets a chance.
Oh well. Anything else would contradict equality. Christians are in, Muslims are in, Jews are in. The world religions must already be represented. Anti-Semitism is an issue because it is a problem, and I don’t ignore any problem.
And the topics that are still floating around?
Transgender is inside, veganism. All in a commendable way. I think the concept of fluid identities is wonderful. I expected it to be more light. I had no idea that this would end in even worse essentialism. Gender as a social construct, classically based on Judith Butler, made sense to me. I’m socialized as a woman, but I wouldn’t make a big deal out of that as my identity. I was hoping gender could be treated in a more playful way.
Also what concerns you?
Wouldn’t you say that you are a woman?
But. But when someone says, no, you’re a man – that doesn’t really affect me. And as far as gendering is concerned – for me it’s a question of metrics: Do I need another syllable? Am I a humorist or am I a humorist? The sound of the sentence dictates this to me and not my gender. And as far as the internal I is concerned: everyone under a cup size B gets that from me. That’s a grammatical push-up. That’s why I’m Empress. If I had C, I could also say Kaiser, because the secondary sexual characteristics would be large enough that I don’t need the female form. I don’t want to tell people what to call me. I am an intersection of people’s prejudices and my self-perception, what I feel about myself.
I can’t attach that much importance to it. Understanding yourself as a rigid self – where is the appeal in that? Nietzsche’s beautiful sentence “Become who you are” has been mutilated into “Be yourself”. Be authentic, don’t develop anymore, don’t try hard, just let it flow through your character. That is unfortunate. Because becoming should never stop.
You live in Leipzig, the same city as Dirk Oschmann.
I read the book and find it quite consistent, also in view of what I learned. This regular horror when I told people in the West that I had moved to East Germany.
Why did you even do that?
I was amorously kidnapped. In general, I have never decided on a city, but always on a person.
No, someone who was kidnapped to Leipzig himself. And now a Wessi and an Ösi live together and have fathered an East German bastard.
Lisa Eckhart: God knows it wasn’t difficult for me to say goodbye to Berlin
You lived in Berlin before, so you haven’t turned away from this city?
God knows it wasn’t difficult for me to say goodbye to Berlin. The city with its cultural overabundance is just a reproach; everyone thinks they are creative. The Beuysian delusion that everyone is an artist is spreading like a tumor in Berlin. But just because you don’t have any obvious talents doesn’t automatically make you an artist. This is all too hip for me too. I’m more geriatric.
Are the people of Leipzig more down-to-earth?
Not everyone thinks of themselves as an artist, let’s put it that way. And it is smaller and has a charming old town where there are no cars. I really appreciate it. I am someone who walks like an emperor and doesn’t drive a car. Leipzig is the better city for me.
Lisa Eckhart, Austrian cabaret artist, Berlin, on September 15, 2023 Benjamin Pritzkuleit
I thought you saw a connection between Austria and East Germany in the fact that right-wing parties have had great success in both regions.
That’s what we’re both told: that we’re a bit incapable of democracy. However, like the right, I do not advocate a dictatorship or, even worse, a direct democracy, but rather a parliamentary monarchy. – I don’t understand the popularity of these parties. Nobody there has diabolical charisma. What I see is crude and full of resentment. I don’t even know how people get them. It’s probably mostly defiance and not conviction. I try to offer people a way out with successful demagoguery.
Is it possible that things have become a little quieter for you after the scandal of 2020 and the allegations of anti-Semitism?
Well, definitely. The powder is gone. It’s not just me a stigma, but all of them, which were then summarized under the term misanthropy. I think that’s a label attached to humor itself. If you just think back to Laschet. What the chancellorship cost him was a laugh. That really upset me, although I didn’t have much sympathy for him. I never laugh as much as I do at funerals because I can’t cope with the tragic situation. We know that tragedy turns to comedy. And when someone laughs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t take something seriously, but rather the opposite. There is something arrogant about laughter. People laugh above something, nobody laughs under something. The imperative for me to step up is absurd. Humor is above all, humor will always take a backseat to all the unreasonable things in life: death, sexism, racism, what do I know.
At that time people asked what satire was and what it was allowed to do. Has it become more difficult to create satire in times of political correctness and identity politics? Do you ever think: I can’t do that now?
No, you shouldn’t let that put you off. What satire is not allowed to do is not be funny. And for the last two years I’ve felt much freer anyway. It was my turn, I’m still standing, the smoke has cleared, I didn’t surrender, and now – now I’m free of fools. What else can you give me? I don’t improvise. What I do is carefully considered. If I approve of it, and I am very critical, then it goes away. That doesn’t mean it won’t face headwinds, but I won’t apologize. Something I have to apologize for later is not even going on stage.
Did the allegations affect you back then?
Naturally. When you suddenly have more critics than people who know you. Nobody is psychologically prepared for this. If you think you’re not anti-Semitic, it’s doubly bitter. But I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was justifying myself or complaining. I’m like the Queen: Never explain, never complain.
Lisa Eckhart, Austrian cabaret artist, Berlin, September 15, 2023Benjamin Pritzkuleit
Lisa Eckhart: On October 3rd the Wessis can come over to us for a taster.
Do you actually discuss your program with anyone?
I test it on my husband and my mother. The two are quite different, one laughs here, the other laughs there. I notice from their reactions what needs to go. But these are only humorous, never moral concerns.
You certainly chose October 3rd as the day for the premiere of your program carefully, right?
In my kingdom, October 3rd is the day of the open wall, so the Wessis are allowed to come over to us for a sniff.
Will there be a wall again?
Willy-nilly. It is there to stop West Germans from entering the country. East Germans are allowed to travel wherever they want.
For almost half a year they only appear in East Germany. Why?
I thought it would be nice if the West Germans had to come over to us when they wanted something exclusive. It’s been the other way around for long enough.
Are you actually separating the fictional character Lisa Eckhart from yourself?
There is no such separation! Ideally, art should take possession of you. And everything is potential material. I’ve never shied away from exploiting something private and intimate if there’s a good punch line in it. Then you walk over dead bodies, especially family-wise. But they have all learned to forgive me because I can’t help it.
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