Cartoon/Humour

Anarchic humour – FIL

Is it even possible to capture the anarchic humour of the Berlin artist Fil in words? It appears to be an impossible task, because where he needs only a few lines and words, you’d need pages of explanation in text form. His trademarks are the suburban yobs ‘Didi & Stulle’ from the comic strip of the same name, which appears in the Berlin city newspaper Zitty. The dissimilar pair of pigs are as lovable and chaotic, as enervating and sentimental as Laurel and Hardy, Bert and Ernie, the Marx Brothers and the Simpsons all rolled into one. The glorious two natter away in the Berlin dialect, and the original linguistic constructions that Fil places in their mouths are great fun in their own right. Didi & Stulle are Fil’s omnipotent weapon against know-it-alls and trendies, against politics and society.

Didi and Stulle now appear regularly in comic albums and have attained cult status way beyond Berlin. Released from time and space, Fil's chaotic and dynamic duo are sent travelling into the future or into the past, have a tryst with death and the devil, as well as all kinds of adventures with God and David Bowie. At the same time Fil casually incorporates into his epic comic world an acerbic commentary on bands and musicians such as Blumfeld, Tomte or Iggy Pop. Even aspects of youth culture such as Cosplay and hiphop, or Berlin's long-term students and the Swabian enclave on Prenzlauer Berg are the butt of his ironic put-downs.

But Fil’s revealing caricatures are ruthless, sparing neither the comic scene nor Fil himself. As ‘Fil the Shrill’, the artist is part of his picture stories and also appears under his own name as a solo entertainer, with songs and sketches. A critic very accurately paid tribute to Fil’s live performances as an ‘incarnation of the comics’, because the Berlin caricaturist retains the original strengths of the comics, the comedy and the exaggeration, and uses them in the same way in his performances and cartoons. His comics and parodies are a distorting mirror of our culture, in which you can recognise yourself and real life, admittedly in a slightly deformed way, but still clearly. Fil delights in juggling the images of our collective memory, well and truly mixing them up with countless cultural cross-references and quotes from the world of the comic and fiction. Real and made-up events come together to serve as a basis for the depiction of his comic characters.

Fil’s comics are satire and subversion at the same time and are captivating in their chaotic, genre-transcending mixture of fiction and reality. In his comic Geschichten aus dem Comicgarten, real politicians, personalities and friends of the artist appear alongside Lolek and Bolek, Werner and Catwoman. In his album Gestatten Fil, he boldly gives the main part in Die Leiden des jungen W to the comic character Werner, surrounding him with cynical caricatures of the literary figures of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. For inspiration for his cartoons, Fil draws equally on the real world and fictional worlds, on high culture and pop culture, and on the everyday madness that lurks on everyone’s doorstep.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Heinrich Hoffmann, Fil, together with Atak, has revived one of Germany's most successful children's books, Struwelpeter (Kein & aber, 2009). Fil's fresh textual interpretations of the characters Zappelphilipp, Hans-guck-in-die Luft etc, over-exaggerate the strict morality of the original by some margin and have been brilliantly complemented by Atak's illustrations.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
Mail Symbolinfo@stockholm.goethe.org
March 2005