Fun Stuff > Humour
Everybody there? "Tri-Tra-Tralala, Kasperl is here again. Children, are you all there?" How often have we responded in excitement by screaming "Yeeees!" With the cold time of year there comes the thrilling Kasperl-season at the traditional Viennese Urania Puppet Theater. Punch and Judy type adventures of jester-hero Kasperl and his side-kick Pezi Bear have stunned a magnified young audience for decades. Pezi Bear even had his own regular 5 minute solo appearances with his grandfather and other bear family members in "Familie Petz." Broadcasted as one of the daily bedtime-clips before 6 PM, the TV show's name "Betthupferl" referred to candy and other things that make kids literally "jump into bed." In Elementary school, my daughter even made a Kasperl hand doll. Watching a recording of "Familie Petz" with her though, she would comment the 1970's play dismissively: "Verstehen die was von Mode - Do they know anything about fashion?"
Trademark: Red Hat. The name Kasper, in its Latin form Casparus, is a variation of the Persian boy's name Caspar, Jasper or Gaspar, meaning treasure ("ghaz") keeper ("bar"). Most commonly, the name is used for one of the three Biblical wise men, who is usually depicted as the African king who presented Myrrh to the newborn saviour, an embalming oil and actually a symbol of death. Since the 19th Century a star of the German puppet theater, the kids' hero Kasperl can be easily recognized by his long, red jelly bag cap, in German "Zipfelmuetze," and has ever since become a nickname for people, who are clowning around.
Beary Friend. Depending on the theater, Kasperl's side-kick would vary from Pezi the bear, who says "Krawuzikapuzi" in surprise, Strolchi the very sleepy dog, who can be woke up by the children in the audience calling his name, Seppl the kid-friend with the remarkable Seppl-hat that is still popular nowadays at the Munich Oktoberfest, up to Boing the bird, who always misses the end for having to use the restroom over all the excitement.
Lisping Dragon. Their arch enemies include a sorcerer, a witch and a crocodile, which Kasperl regularily defeats with wit, intellect and a wooden bat, locally called "Pritsche," pure slapstick so to say. Allies are grandma and the policeman, typically, and sometimes the friendly dragon Dagobert with the speech defect, always lisping "Bussi, Bussi" (sounding more like "Buffi, Buffi" though), when he wants a kiss. Wednesday afternoon had been Kasperl-time on TV, lately the broadcasts with the all time adventurer are banished into early morning hours. Nevertheless his live performances still capture the young folk (and their parents).
Escaping Trouble. Speaking of puppets, it may happen that we also feel pushed around. There are situations, which we better master with a little humour. Without overdoing it though, like a "Kasperl," making too much of a clown of us. At the same time the typical "Schlawiner," a sly dog, who always manages to sneak out ("herauswursteln") of critical situations. A typical "Wurschtl" from the Viennese "Wurstelprater"-amusement park, in Germany also known as "Hanswurst (Johnsausage)," in Italy as "Pulcinella," in English as "Punchinello" or just "Punch," behaving like the jester in the Middle Ages, relieving an atmosphere of seriousness and tension.
Speaking Up. What I have always admired is that in front of high authority (force majeure, as some would even say in divine comparison) only the jester was allowed to share his opinion openly, laughingly telling the barefaced truth. A jester's license allows one to say anything he or she wants, to act out frustration in a humorous way, to even mock with impunity, at the cost of not being taken seriously in other situations either. Even the Austrian expression "Herzkasperl (heart-buffoon?)" is one of these belittlements used to take away the fear of something very serious... a heart attack. Sometimes it is just a matter of how you wrap things into words to better cope with them.
Hope this one didn't become too childish. You must understand, he's just a cult figure, that KASPERL!
Urania Puppet Theater: Classic kids' entertainment with jester-hero Kasperl, his sidekick Pezi Bear and the lisping dragon Dagobert, nowadays with special effects.
The Burger who wouldn't be King
Out of Order. Those were the days: Taking the kids to puppet shows, followed by the obligatory visit to a newly opened Burger King nearby. One weekend that fast food chain was just a "King", not selling burgers for running out of bread. The official reason given was: "Due to technical problems..."
Global Toys. What almost matters more than the actual food is the little toy you get with a Child's Portion, Kids Meal or whatever you call it. As part of globalization, seeing a familiar toy from a Happy Meal in Spain was one thing, having a Slovenian colleague saying that this is exactly what his girl has got, too, another. And you got to be careful what to order where. As my daughter explained to me, ordering a Happy Meal at Burger King is like ordering a Turkish kebab at an Austrian hot dog stand. Some refer to fast food as "Mampf"- or "Munch"-food, like the eating sound, others call it cholesterol bomb.
Greek Dolls. Another time, another place: Walking in Athens, the capital of hand-held Souvlaki, we were still circling around the closed Acropolis, when we went by a shadow puppet theater. Later, we were explained that the same form of entertainment was quite traditional in Greece and Turkey, while the art form originally came over all the way from China. Dolls are moved on a stick and you only see their shadows through a cloth. In Greece the theater goes by the name "Figures & Kukles (caricatures & dolls)", which in China equals Pi Yin Hua (wall shadow-ing)" or "Deng Ying Xi (light & shadow show)".
Big Snapper. As we have been enjoying American and Greek fast food, luckily, Kasperl himself is still slim, agile and happy as always. One day at the Prater Kasperl in the famous Viennese amusement park, the hero would look at the crocodile and mumble: "Big mouth and slope teeth... It must be from Carinthia!" The unexpected political joke in front of all these kids took us by surprise, containing a short reference to the polarizing opposition leader of the time. Also the deep neckline of the wooden witch doll was something to get used to... but that is a different story.
Free Kasperl puppet show at Donauplex Cinema Center, right below Burger King!
Shadow puppet theater in Athens: "Figures & Kukles (caricatures & dolls)".
As those allusions and circumstances may have irritated the accompanying adults, they mostly remained unnoticed by the little ones. At the same time complaints have been noted that local politics are increasingly developing into a puppet theater.