Cartoon/Humour

Nichtlustig (i.e. Notfunny) – Joscha Sauer

Joscha SauerSlideshow Jochen Sauer

Slideshow

What makes you decide to publish your collected cartoons under the title Nichtlustig (‘Not Funny’)? If you’re guessing that the artist and author Joscha Sauer has a penchant for black humour, you’d be on the right track: Sauer’s macabre humour provokes self-claimed moralists to mutter, ‘But that is not funny’. Needless to say the critics can’t suppress their grins.

Sauer came to cartoons by accident. On a whim the graphic artist reserved an internet domain under the name Nichtlustig.de and endeavoured to produce a cartoon for it every day as a form of occupational therapy. The website quickly became so popular among the internet community that it came to the attention of Carlsen Verlag (a Hamburg publishing house). Sauer’s cartoons can still be viewed in the virtual world but have now also been published in the practical square-format ‘Nichtlustig’ series. Be it in individual frames or longer strips, Sauer is a master of absurdist humour. In his cartoons, people, animals and extraterrestrials are confronted with everyday problems, albeit in grotesque situations or constellations. Well over 1000 comics arose for Nichtlustig (i.e. not funny). Sauer colours in all works by hand before he scans and reworks them on his computer. 

Extraterrestrial beings cannot abduct humans as planned for they’ve left their keys in the space ship. Kangaroos leave their pouches behind on buses. Then there are the episodes with crazy Herr Riebmann who lives in the chinks in walls and drives tenants of flats to distraction. Things get macabre when zebras run over zebras – and where do your think that happens? That’s right, on zebra crossings, the one place the stripy creatures are truly invisible. The cartoonist has a particular fondness for lemmings to whom a death-wish is attributed thus making them perfect material for his cartoons. Sauer has them leaping from the ten-metre springboard at the swimming-pool, but in the un-watery direction. And the play-parks for young lemmings are built at the edge of an abyss so that the slides end in a chasm. Death is omnipresent in Sauer’s cartoons, personified at times as the Grim Reaper with human traits such as a reluctance to go to work.

Sauer lives out his maxim with relish: humour is when one laughs nonetheless. To this end he has assembled a curious crew of characters who have one thing in common – they are all losers. They are the tragic losers of our time or of the course of history. Dinosaurs have their place every bit as much as the simple man on the street with all his quirks and failings – he is as much under threat in this success-oriented society as the prehistoric creatures once were. However, all the losers in Sauer’s cartoons share a characteristic lovable fatalistic outlook with which they stoically do battle with adversity. This leads to those occasional flashes of recognition with one’s own existence.

Sauer also writes stories several pages in length that are only published his books and serve as the basis for an animated film series that was funded through crowd-funding. Sauer is a marketing pro anyway: his figures now serve as the basis for any number of merchandising articles – Yeti hot-water bottles, plush dinosaurs, lemming key-chains or Grim Reaper baking moulds. He has also developed an application for mobile phones for collecting bottles as a Yeti, freeing marine animals and detonating bombs.  

Matthias Schneider is a cultural scientist, freelance cultural journalist and curator of film programs and exhibitions about comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
February 2013

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