There's a long tradition of getting laughs by ridiculing the Nazis, from Charlie Chaplin's film "The Great Dictator" to the musical "The Producers." But a new cartoon has taken the web by sturm by comparing Adolf Hitler with ironic hipsters.
The creators of the strip, JC and APK, live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Bangalore, India. Berlin's English-language magazine Exberliner spoke with them both about the challenges and pitfalls that come with trying to base humour on the Nazi dictator.
Who are you? What's with the pseudonyms?
We are a couple of friends from university who just happened upon an idea we thought was funny. We only use initials cause APK consistently makes typos and JC never picks up on it. We just didn't want to embarrass our parents by misspelling our names.
Some people take offence to your obviously satirical cartoons. Does the publication of Hipster Hitler in Exberliner worry you at all?
Not at all. We think that Exberliner has the perfectly balanced tone to present our comics in print to the German public. Its readers understand that the term ‘hipster' is hardly a flattering one and that we are clearly not glorifying or celebrating Hitler but, instead, mocking him.
Critics argue that your subject matter is utterly inappropriate for parody. What's your response to them?
We definitely don't make the Holocaust the subject matter of any strip. However, as far as the Third Reich is concerned, neither of us see that as inappropriate for parody. We see the process of laughing at a cruel and horrible man like Hitler as more of a cathartic process.
The internet is a platform that offers far greater freedom of speech than elsewhere. And yet, Facebook pulled your comic from their pages.
We wrote an email to the Facebook team and lo and behold, two days later it was back up. We think that the word ‘Hitler' definitely startles people at first, and Facebook probably reacted to that initial shock.
Did you receive an explanation from Facebook?
For the uninitiated, can you give us a quick run-down of what constitutes a hipster?
A hipster is someone who belongs to a particular subclass of (usually young) people who fetishise the authentic and the vintage, are largely against the mainstream and who generally disparage the lesser tastes of the general populous. They are very condescending and conform to nonconformism. Also, they, like everyone, hate hipsters.
The strip draws parallels between hipsters and Germany's dictator. What similarities do you see?
There is a surprising number of coalescent factors of Hitler's life and the hipster subculture, including Hitler's status as a failed artist, his vegetarianism, his laziness and his support for animal rights.
Your website mentions that the cartoon was born out of a Skype discussion. How did this undoubtedly bizarre conversation unfold?
After graduating we found ourselves in different countries. We were catching up on Skype one day when we started playing around with the site godaddy.com, seeing what URLs were available and more or less typing in the most ridiculous insults to one another that we could. At some point, one of us said “Ironic Hitler” and playing off this, the other said “Hipster Hitler.” It had an immediate ring to it, and we had always tossed around the idea of doing a comic together. Thus, Hipster Hitler was born.
And what was the first comic about?
The first comic wasn't really a comic at all, but rather just an image of Hipster Hitler wearing a t-shirt that said, “Three Reichs and You're Out.”
Describe your collaborative process.
Even though JC is called the ‘writer' of the comic, almost every script was a collaboration between us both. The art, however, is all APK's. JC cannot draw to save his life.
JC, does your location in Williamsburg, the hippest part of Brooklyn, provide you with constant inspiration?
Absolutely. It's hard to find a place that is more of a hipster mecca than Williamsburg. Bedford Avenue especially is a teeming hive of hipster activity.
Do you see a lot of HHs around?
There is only one true HH, though other hipsters may even go as far as to emulate his trademark moustache.
APK, what about in Bangalore?
It's not that big of a subculture in India. In fact, most of APK's friends and families respond with “I don't get it” when she explains what one is.
What about Berlin? Do you know Berlin?
JC has been to Berlin and was especially fascinated by its rich cultural history and delicious sausages.
Hipster Hitler is always wearing t-shirts with provocative slogans. Do you have personal favourites? Which has sold the most?
The t-shirt that has sold the most is “I ♥ Juice,” followed by “Save the Panzer,” which is JC and APK's favourite.
What could possibly bring your strip to an end?