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Hans-Peter Wilhelm Kerkeling or Hape Kerkeling is a German comedian, actor, presenter and singer. He achieved great fame with his art figures such as Horst Schlämmer and various appearances as a moderator and comedian. The actor has largely retired from show business since 2014.
Hape Kerkeling was born on December 9, 1964 in Recklinghausen. His father was a carpenter and his mother a florist. Hape spent the first six years of his life in the Bocholt district of Recklinghausen, which was more rural. The family then moved to the city in the early 1970s, where young Hape spent much of his childhood in his grandmother’s corner shop in the suburb of Herten-Scherlebeck. His mother took her own life in 1973 after an operation that caused her to lose her sense of smell and taste. The paternal grandparents then moved in with Hape’s father and brother. Hape successfully completed his Abitur at the Marie-Curie-Gymnasium in Recklinghausen and was also active as an altar boy during his school days there. Even then he was gathering his first musical experiences together with his classmates. His former band “Gesundfutter” even released a record. The young Hape Kerkeling had his first television experience at the age of 17. He appeared on the show “Talentschuppen” and took part in various talent competitions. In 1983, Hape won the Passau cabaret prize, Scharfrichterbeil, and subsequently worked for various radio stations.
Hape received his first television format on December 17, 1984. The program “Kerkelings Kinderstunden”, co-produced by Radio-Bremen, dealt with the everyday school life of the pre-school child Hannilein and her family. All characters were played by Hape himself. With his music and sketch show “Kangaroo”, which was broadcast for the first time in January 1985, Hape finally achieved his commercially successful breakthrough. Further appearances in various show formats followed, including the show “Extratour”. According to Hape Kerkeling himself, the famous comedian Otto Waalkes contributed a great deal to the start of his career, as he introduced Hape to important and influential people in the scene. In the years from 1989 to 1991 active as presenter for the German preliminary decision for the Eurovision Song Contest on ARD. In 1989, Kerkeling continued to create the comedy format “Total Normal” in collaboration with Achim Hagemann and Angelo Colagrossi. Due to its media-critical attitude, the format was awarded the Golden Camera and the Grimme Prize. One action in particular was remembered as part of the show. In 1991, Hape disguised himself as Queen Beatrix and drove up to Belleveu Castle in a car in front of the camera, even before the real Queen. In 1993, Kerkeling’s first feature film entitled “Kein Pardon” was released. Hape himself worked simultaneously as a director and actor and was also involved in the work on the screenplay. A few other formats and acting appearances followed, but they were not really crowned with success. Only with the Sat-1 show “The world is laughing about it” did his media success come back. Kerkeling also moderated the annual AIDS donation gala several times for the TV station Sat-1. In June 2001, Kerkeling embarked on a 630km pilgrimage on the Spanish Way of St. James. He wrote down his experiences in his book “I’ll be gone then”, which he published in 2006. The book sold more than 3 million copies and became a bestseller.
After retiring from television in 2014, Hape only occasionally appeared as a voice actor in animated films. His two autobiographical books “I’m Gone Then” and “The Boy Must Go to the Fresh Air” were both released as feature films.
Hape’s media-critical program “Total Normal” is still considered his best work. The TV format has won several prizes, such as the Grimme Prize, the Bavarian Television Prize, the Golden Camera and the Golden Gong. Kerkeling received the German Comedy Prize in 2006 for his role as the fictional character Horst Schlämmer. The setting of his book “The boy must go to the fresh air” was awarded a gold record three times.
“I used to be skinny, pretty funny, but most of all: gone!”
– Hape Kerkeling
“More sensitive people than me would probably have gone into the bathtub with a hair dryer. What the hell. Tomorrow they’ll drive another sow through the village.”
Kerkeling’s surprisingly good ability to imitate sounds in different languages stems from the fact that he speaks many languages. Among other things, Hape is fluent in Dutch, Italian, Spanish, English and French.