Do You Know Meier?
Meier spelled with an I? You don’t? Well, in that case, I would like most humbly to permit myself to draw your attention to this man. He is presently performing at the Café Bümplitz, which is on I cannot remember exactly what street. There, amidst foul and inappropriate tobacco smoke, rough talk and clanking beer glass lids, he performs night after night, until perhaps someday a wise manager will come pick him up, which I actually do not doubt for a moment will happen in the near future. This man, this Meier, this fellow is a genius. Not only can he make you laugh like twenty people in their added-up lives haven’t laughed, til you burst, what am I saying, til you roll up in a ball, what, til you die, oh fool, not to be able to stone-chisel a better simile out of your writer’s head, not only that, but rather that, am I muddled, yes, that’s right, but rather that the entirely natural excitation of a tragic shudder is nothing impossible to him, but an all too easy thing. Am I actually finished with my sentence or not? If not, then it’s just the thing to continue.
Meier also sings satirical songs with a fabulous devil-may-care attitude, and the language he uses is probably the most incontestable there is. For he lets it fall, so to speak, piece by piece, so that it might occur to someone listening to go up to the man and gather up the things at his feet. The sound of this voice, I have studied it only too carefully, gives approximately the same impression in terms of tone as the movement of a snail makes on the eye, it sounds so marvelously slow, so lazy, so brown, so very crawly, so slimy, so mushy, and so very IfIdon’tcometodayI’llcometomorrow. A pleasure, quite simply. I can recommend it with the best conscience.
This Meier, one should know, if one doesn’t know already, plays a stagehand, his signature role, a character with dreadful pants, a high hat, a stuck-on nose, a box under the arm, holes in the elbows, a cigar in the mouth, a yap instead of just plain cheek, and a bundle of bad jokes on his clumsy tongue. This character is a delight. For myself I’ve seen him now almost, wait a minute, fifty times I believe and am far from tired of it. One just never tires of seeing excellence.
A small stage, dazzlingly lit, a table on it, a chair next to it; this is supposed to represent the office of a director. The director herself, a slim, youthful woman, announces that she now has everything necessary to start a cycle of performances, just that she’s still missing one of those stagehands, but she has already had ads inserted in the papers and is eager to see who will answer.
Enters who, like a spirit flown from the underworld? Meier. Aye, the devil, of course, we expected it, but you see, the wonderful thing is, one still finds oneself surprised to the highest degree by the innovation with which Meier with an I is able to trouser-leg up the steps, so that one in fact has to suppose he must have done something it would be improper to discuss in polite company.
He announces himself to the startled woman, who has certainly read Oscar Wilde, with an awkwardness befitting only him, asks questions, does something silly, asks again, starts to take off, turns back, leaves again, only to come right back—with ever more impudence, ever more indecency in being, word, manner, gesture, tone, and posture. But in all that he has the astounding talent of saying something smutty at the right time, and how does he say it? Well, that you just have to hear for yourself. Every night twenty or thirty hear it, Saturdays and Sundays eighty, a hundred, a hundred and fifteen, or one more.
I have already said that Meier can also appear tragic. In order to pull this off, he simply changes his voice and throws up his hands, a method that has helped but every time. Thereupon he is a madman, a King Clear; not Lear, but Clear, because during this production everyone does what is contained in the verse: And they all went swiftly home. I alone am in the habit of staying in my seat. That is when I find out what it is to have a fright, when suddenly the voice of a person becomes a house as tall as a tower, as Meier’s does, from whose open windows and doors some unknown monster is bellowing. How I shook with fear, every time, and how glad I was when Meier with a horrible oho or ha or nah turned back into Meier with an I.
translated from the German by Millay Hyatt