The role of sidekick has accompanied him for 20 years. Stefan Raab first had Lutz van der Horst appear in a pink costume as the "bubble rabbit" before letting him in front of the camera for street polls. For ZDF's "heute show" he transferred the principle of the satirical field reporter to the political scene, where he is widely known for his confrontational questions at election parties and party conferences.
Tele 5 finally promoted him to moderator - and provided him with Thilo Gosejohann, his own assistant. In the spring they will present the horror film series “Saw” for the Munich broadcaster. Now they are expanding the spectrum with “Der Filmtalker”. In the initially six-digit series, Lutz van der Horst talks to guests about trash and comic-of-age films or explores the question of whether series are better feature films.
WORLD: When you presented your first contributions to "TV total", Stefan Raab described you as "camera horny". Was he right?
Lutz van der Horst: Yes, of course. Even as a child I always wanted to be in front of the camera. And as we all know, it's not that easy. In the beginning I made it by being a writer for “TV total”. This is how I got in front of the camera for the first time in the character of the “bubble rabbit”.
WORLD: How did you convince Raab to let you in front of the camera? He is not well known for his modest ego.
Van der Horst: That's right. It was actually my own initiative. At that time I was shooting something on my own with a fellow author at “TV total”. So I just went to Raab's office and asked him if he liked it. And this first clip actually ran that way on the show.
WORLD: Raab initially introduced you as "Günni". How did the pseudonym come about?
Van der Horst: I think Raab wanted to tease me. It was just a provocation because the name sucks - so even worse than Lutz. In retrospect, I should have said in every show that my name is actually Lutz. But I wasn't there yet. At the time I didn't realize that the game should have been played better.
WORLD: After each contribution as "Günni", the audience could vote on whether you can continue to work in front of the camera. You could choose between "That's fine with me" or "Never again, you ass!".
Van der Horst: I completely forgot about that. Oh my goodness, that's really mean.
WORLD: Did that seem undignified to you?
Van der Horst: What was the dignity of "TV total"? I used to be the "bubble rabbit". If it was about dignity, I would have been on the wrong show. No, I never had a problem with that. I knew from the start that this was a gag. But of course it was a lot of pressure when I was sitting there. Does the audience like what you do? Especially at the beginning of your television career, it's hard to prove yourself every week. Now I would be totally relaxed with such an action because I have already done a lot and know that I am valued for it.
WORLD: How happy are you that you don't have to do anything with the new edition of "TV total"?
Van der Horst: I'm almost disappointed that I haven't been asked so far. Part of the current retro trend is, of course, that I jump through the picture again as a "bubble rabbit". I must at least have the chance to cancel. Although I don't even know if I would cancel.
WORLD: You seem to be keen on it.
Van der Horst: [laughs] I'm a retro guy and I like to wallow in old memories. The first seasons of "Wetten, dass..?" with Frank Elstner are also on DVD on my film and series shelves. I think it's really great to throw on an episode from 1984 at 8:15 p.m. in the evening. Then I feel like I'm back in that time again. You also don't have to press pause to have this live experience.
WORLD: Your appearances as "bubble rabbit" and the street polls in "Günni - The Last Chance" were not necessarily application videos for political satire. How did you manage the transition to the “heute show”?
Van der Horst: Absolutely, first of all there were a few years in which nothing happened. That was maybe the hardest time ever. Once you're in the spotlight and you feel like people like you and laugh at your work - and then you suddenly fall into this hole. I went back to being a writer, doing thankless jobs like writing for glitch shows, which were plentiful at the time. This is comedy at its very bottom. For shows like "The Dumbest Germans in the World" I had to joke about the same excerpts over and over again. Every time a fat woman falls down on the ice surface. At some point you get confused because you can't think of anything anymore. It was clear to me that I didn't want to do that under any circumstances. So I sent hundreds of DVDs with showreels to broadcasters and production companies until the producer of the "heute-show" at the time got in touch. That was an incredibly important step in my career. After that it really picked up speed.
WORLD: You have been interviewing politicians in the Bundestag, at election parties and party conferences for thirteen years. What takes up more space in the preparation: the journalistic part or the gags?
Van der Horst: I think that goes hand in hand. The gags wouldn't work if I hadn't familiarized myself with journalism beforehand. This is absolutely necessary and makes shooting for the "heute-show" much more time-consuming than with all other formats. When I started at the “heute-show” back then, I had an average interest in politics. 2009 was still a relatively relaxed time. Now it's cracking at every corner. We live in a time when it is no longer possible not to be interested in politics.
WORLD: Has the way politicians deal with media representatives like you changed?
Van der Horst: Definitely, at the beginning I was still unknown. When I was at a party convention, people thought I was a serious reporter. Of course, that offered a different form of comedy. But now it's the case that almost everyone in politics watches the "Today Show". Almost everyone knows me there. This has advantages and disadvantages.
WORLD: What do you prefer: if the politician is just the area on which you can play the gag or if he reacts quick-witted?
Van der Horst: The mix is important. Of course I'm happy about someone like Karl Lauterbach, who delivers gags like a comedian. He does half the work there. But you have to get politicians to be speechless from time to time. Those are great moments too.
WORLD: Is dealing confidently with satire one of the basic tools of politics today?
Van der Horst: It always helps politicians a lot when they deal confidently with people like me. More and more people are watching the "Today Show". And viewers appreciate it when politicians show themselves differently than they are used to in the Bundestag. The comments on the clips show how good people think it makes politics more approachable.
WORLD: You have already mentioned Karl Lauterbach. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP and Anton Hofreiter from the Greens also appear frequently in your clips and seem to have a real weakness for you.
Van der Horst: [laughs] I think they like me. Hofreiter and Strack-Zimmermann are quick-witted and humorous. They can use interviews for themselves. When Anton Hofreiter was new at the time, I was at the Green party conference. He always ran away from me. In hindsight I can understand that. When you're new to a party, you don't want to bother with the prankster. Today he likes to talk to me.
WORLD: The counter-model to this is Friedrich Merz. In your CDU special, he walked past you and Fabian Köster, staring straight ahead.
Van der Horst: As far as this form of "journalism" is concerned, Merz is a man of the old school - to put it mildly. I grew up with Helmut Kohl as a child and was always surprised at how incredibly humorless and hostile he was to the press. Kohl would never have spoken to me because he would not have taken it seriously. Merz reminds me of the time when press representatives were initially mistrusted.
WORLD: What does Merz have to lose if he talks to you?
Van der Horst: I think his silence is doing him more harm. It would have been nicer for everyone involved if he had just stopped to answer a question or two for our CDU special. So we would have avoided this undignified number that we keep calling this man. That's a rhetorically talented man, otherwise he wouldn't be in politics. The answers don't have to be funny either. We do the gags.
WORLD: Do you see the behavior as an indicator that he is not suitable for Chancellor?
Van der Horst: When people become Chancellor, they won't talk to us anyway. But whether he is suitable for chancellor? He just threw out this line about social tourism. This is of course a slip-up that you as chancellor can't afford to do.
WORLD: This year you have again implemented some special editions of the "heute-show". In the USA, for example, late-night talker Jimmy Kimmel has summer representation. After all, the classic summer slump hardly exists anymore. When will you represent Oliver Welke as moderator?
Van der Horst: [laughs] I don't see that. Oliver Welke is not only the moderator, but also the author of the format. He is so closely linked to it that it will be very difficult for anyone who is to take over at some point.
WORLD: In Gregor Gysi's conversation format "Miss-Understand Me Correctly" Welke said about his younger colleagues: "They are not so ambitious that I have to check the brake hoses when I get into my car." Is that true or should it he prefers to check regularly?
Van der Horst: No, he really doesn't have to worry about that. I would never cut his brake hoses. I have no ambition to succeed him. In fact, I've never really thought about it seriously. There are simply formats that are so clearly linked to the moderator that it is actually inconceivable that someone else would do it. He is this format. And especially nowadays there are many formats whose moderators moderate it away. I think that's really bad. When I moderate a show, I do it with passion and I want to stand for the format with my face.
WORLD: Do you have the type Kerner/Plaume in mind when “moderating away”?
Van der Horst: I won't name any names, I'm not crazy!
WORLD: How difficult is it to get the opportunity to be responsible for a show on television?
Van der Horst: Unfortunately, it's very difficult. I've had countless conversations with production companies and broadcasters about my own ideas. And unfortunately it is a discouraged industry that likes to adapt successful formats from abroad. But far too little energy is invested in bringing forward their own formats and matching faces. Raab was one of the few who simply had great ideas and implemented them. That's missing.
WORLD: Have TV makers secretly come to terms with the fact that there is no longer a need for a generation change because young people are lost to the medium anyway?
Van der Horst: Sometimes you get the feeling. I believe there will always be linear television. So I don't see it at all as if television is dead.
WORLD: Tele 5 has recently offered you a platform. What advantages does the transmitter offer?
Van der Horst: It is actually an advantage that Tele 5 is not a huge broadcaster like RTL or ZDF. You have a lot more chance to try things that aren't as heavily formatted and serious. During the production of "Der Filmtalker" I felt like I did back then, in a positive sense, when the private broadcasters came to Germany and suddenly so much was possible. All of a sudden there was "All Nothing Or?!" with Hugo Egon Balder and Hella von Sinnen. I was totally blown away because it was a whole new way of doing television. And you can look forward to similarly anarchic television with “Der Filmtalker”.
WORLD: What characterizes the anarchy of "Der Filmtalker"?
Van der Horst: When it comes to film in particular, everyone has their point of view, which prompts discussions. Then guests can get up, freak out and insult one another. That's what I love about film talks.
WORLD: Which films influenced you the most?
Van der Horst: The film that influenced me the most is probably E.T. - The alien". I was about seven years old and "E.T." opened up a new dimension for me. I really was madly in love with this beast. It triggered an explosion of emotions in me that I had never experienced before.
WORLD: Do you try to repeat the feeling of this cultural awakening experience with every other film?
Van der Horst: That's a good word for it. Yes, I'm definitely looking for it, but logically you're much more enthusiastic when you're a kid. It gets harder and harder over time because you've seen too much. Then there are moments like this again. “Midsommar” was such a film.
WORLD: You generally have a preference for the horror genre.
Van der Horst: When it comes to horror, it's hard to shock me. It's always been like that. For many years I was looking for the ultimate horror film that would totally shock me and teach me to fear.
WORLD: Which one came closest?
Van der Horst: Even if it doesn't sound very original, the remake of The Ring was one of the scariest movies. There was a psychological level where the horror was created in the mind. Incidentally, this also applies to “Blair Watch Project”, which is approved for ages twelve and up, which is actually a joke. I found it incredibly creepy.
WORLD: The director Jordan Peele once said: "Horror is the dark double of comedy." Do you see yourself as a comedian and self-declared horror fan?
Van der Horst: I think he's great - and he's also a comedian. It's actually a lot closer than you think. In comedy, you want the audience to laugh. And with a horror film, ideally, the audience screams. Both genres have to be very pointed because they want to provoke extreme reactions.