Alfons, the Reporter “I’m going to stay until I’ve understood the Germans”

Cabaret artist Emmanuel Peterfalvi alias Alfons
Cabaret artist Emmanuel Peterfalvi alias Alfons | Photo (detail): Pasquale D'Angiolillo © SR

An orange tracksuit jacket and a microphone covered with a huge deadcat windmuff – when cabaret artist Emmanuel Peterfalvi dons working attire, you can recognise him from afar. The Frenchman has made a name for himself in Germany as the reporter “Alfons”.

When he asks people at the market what they think about equality or multicultural society, they do not mince their words. He skilfully holds a mirror up to the Germans, but the French, too, come in for their fair share of criticism.

The lazy French

“Allô! Let me introduce myself – I am Alfons from France,” says Peterfalvi, puts a protective hand over his eyes and peers into the spotlight. “And who are you?” At this point, he has already won over the audience. “That accent is so cute,” comments a woman on row six, her hand in front of her mouth. “You can’t help liking him.” And nobody is better at finding out what the Germans really think. For example, for his programme Puschel-TV, he asks people at the market in Hamburg-Eidelstedt whether they would rather have a multicultural society with foreigners or only with Germans. The answer comes back promptly: we’d rather have it only with Germans. And an elderly gentleman responds to the question of which animal he thinks of when he looks at his wife by saying “a sperm whale”. What should the government do with migrants? Answer: expel them immediately. Who is lazier – the French or the Germans? The answer is quite clear: the French.

“I’m only responsible for the questions,” says Alfons and grins. And the questions are good. But the freely-given answers are particularly remarkable. How does he do it? “It just happened,” says Alfons, alias Peterfalvi. “I often went to the market and got talking to people. And I thought what they said was simply brilliant. Then we took the camera along and that automatically made it much harder to approach people. It was a much greater barrier when people had to talk on camera. Then I came along with my funny jacket and my microphone with the big deadcat windmuff. And suddenly people opened up, they were authentic.”

“For French people, a red traffic light is only a suggestion”

Authentic is precisely what Peterfalvi is too. Particularly in his programme Wiedersehen macht Freunde (i.e., Reunion Forges Friendship), based on a true story. On the stage of the St. Pauli Theater on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Alfons explains to his audience where the thirteenth arrondissement in Paris is. He puts his right arm over his head, forms a kind of circle with his left arm and taps the air next to his ear with his index finger. “About here. You see?” So metaphorically, that is where Alfons grew up and was socialised. For example in relation to red traffic lights. “For French people, a red traffic light is only a suggestion,” says Alfons. “We are not like you Germans in that. For you, everything has to be orderly. That is why you even talk about organised crime.” That’s something there would never be in France.

Alfons tells us about his childhood. He met his two best friends during a school detention. Jean-Francois, who always forgets things in the underground train and Jérôme, who goes around kissing all the women. Alfons tells us how the three Frenchmen get along in Paris and it emerges that he is a wonderful story-teller. He tells us how he got a bloody nose at a football stadium in Paris when he was a little boy and went back home with the football with all the players’ autographs that had been used in the game. How he replayed the goal of the month by AS Saint-Étienne’s ace striker Dominique Rocheteau in the town hall of the thirteenth arrondissement and has been banned from entering the building ever since. And how he and his two friends are still learning lessons for life from the homeless man Archimedes.

Successful television career in Germany

Peterfalvi has found his vocation as a Frenchman in Germany. “I always wanted to make television” he says. And that is a goal the cabaret artist achieved some time ago. After starting his career with the Premiere channel, guest appearances in the satirical magazine programmes Extra 3 and ZAK followed. Meanwhile, he has two programmes of his own on public service television, Puschel-TV and Alfons und Gäste. Peterfalvi has now been in Germany for 22 years. Initially, he was only planning to do his non-military service in Hamburg. “But I said I’d stay until I’ve understood the Germans.”