Michael Pammesberger on the “Ampel-Rudi”, criticism of the “beloved Chancellor”, Christmas with Corona balls and his home office existence in the “commodity pants”.
COURIER: Dear colleague! In lockdown, I won’t reach you in the editorial office, but by phone in Burgenland. Indiscreet question: Are you dressed differently than usual?
Michael Pammesberger: Of course. I’m in my dresser pants, in the typical rural neglect that always sets in when you’re in the country for the third day.
That means we’re talking about leather pants-style jogging pants?
Rural, moral, discreet – but with a certain basic chic. I am used to working from home because I worked outside the editorial office in the pre-Corona period.
But of course you have followed all the press conferences since March?
No I have not. But I want to make current and up-to-date drawings, comment on daily events, and that’s why I have to be careful. Of course, contact with clever people who deal with politics, namely journalists, brings something to me.
How do you do it now in lockdown?
I don’t always have to rely on it, because after 30 years as a political commentator you have a certain amount of experience and can read things out of the news.
What is your number one source of information?
Not only because I have a family connection to it, but simply because it is the most detailed daily information material, it is the journals of Ö1 – and of course I look at all the newspapers.
And for the US election campaign Fox News?
Fox News was okay in the immediate election coverage. In between I zapped between CNN, BBC and Fox News and unfortunately I tipped in a bit.
You got up at night and gave yourself the count that took days?
I stayed up late and was still hoping we would have a result soon. In the end it still didn’t come, but it’s exciting.
Will it be unexciting when Trump leaves the scene and Biden takes the stage?
Not at all. Trump, of course, has a character that was very suitable for the joke makers. In his seriousness he was a joke. He also provided a lot of material, but sometimes I thought he crossed the magical line and did the satire himself. I don’t appreciate that, because I am in favor of the division of labor: legislative, executive and charitable.
Can you think of a Trump moment when he crossed the magical line?
Actually, he always crossed this line because he was always the political commentator of his actions. He’s done less than constantly evaluating what he’s doing. But assessments have to be made by the others: the political commentators and this also includes cartoonists.
What is the common sense that the government is constantly appealing to?
I’ve never seen common sense in Austria. It has been shown that we cannot get very far with common sense. We have to make regulations and laws because it doesn’t work.
So common sense is invisible?
It’s not that you can’t see it, it’s just not there.
Who is there anyway is – and that with a regularity and permanence, is the turquoise-green government. You sometimes call the politicians employees. Who of those in power now gets an employee bonus from you?
I like to draw all the characters who are now in the foreground. The Chancellor is there, the virological quartet, Rudi Anschober, Karl Nehammer … The more often you draw someone, the better you can do it.
You don’t want to name anyone explicitly?
I can’t choose. I keep saying it: it’s the KURIER readers’ fault, those who vote for politicians. And I have to take those who are there.
Your new book is called “Corona-related”. Rudolf Anschober, our Minister of Health, wrote the foreword, and not just because of the corona. As the?
Basically, I keep my distance from my employees. I only come into contact with politicians through drawings. It’s a little different with Rudi Anschober. We saved the Lambacher Au and many other things 30 years ago – but ultimately we didn’t save it. I knew him, at that time he wasn’t a member of the state council. And since he’s so much in the foreground now and is Mister Corona, I asked him to write a foreword to show what it’s like on the other side. What it’s like to be the one drawn and not the draftsman.
You also call the one drawn “Ampel-Rudi” …
The “Ampel-Rudi”, the “curve Rudi” – without a piece of paper in my hand with a curve diagram on it, I can no longer imagine it. Maybe that will change again, maybe he will soon become the “Syringe Rudi”.
Another accessory that you like to attribute to a politician?
Some things just get stuck. I remember the Vienna election campaign: The mayor had himself photographed as a garbage collector during the election campaign. It got so deeply into my brain that I couldn’t even imagine it without an orange MA 48 outfit.
Or Herbert Kickl with a horse?
Right. Then comes the point where you ask yourself: When is it annoying? And then you have to come up with something else.
Will the punch donut of the red and pink government in Vienna find its way into your caricatures?
The punch donut is already occupied: pink on the outside, brown on the inside. That doesn’t fit in that case. The pink-red is great and will definitely find its way into my drawings as a color. I am not a heavy color user, but in that case I like to use the color.
Speaking of drawing. The day after the terrorist attack, a Pammesberger appeared from the crime scenes who looked more like a drawing than a caricature. How did that happen?
It would have been cowardly to retreat as the topic prevailed that day. I found it fitting that the places that have been mentioned so often are given a different connotation – a break that I have tried to depict. Basically, I think that you can make caricatures on any topic. You can make drawings on serious or dry topics like pension reforms.
What does the pension reform look like?
Don’t remind me! I drew hundreds of drawings on pension reform or tax reform.
Because earlier we were talking about your decades of experience: Has anything changed in the subject?
When I look back, my style and the way I draw has changed. I think you can’t stand still. You have to expand your repertoire and find your style. In terms of content, I don’t see anything that has changed.
Has the behavior of your observers changed, i.e. those people who write to you?
A little something has changed, although sometimes I think that these are also things that are put forward. If you get angry about a drawing because the beloved chancellor or opposition leader is insulted, you look for mistakes. Something has shifted due to social media, because some people keep finding new bans for cartoonists. Political correctness often hits me more than a kind of organization. There are now people who believe that caricature is something bad anyway – quasi professional body shaming: If we lock up all cartoonists, then everything is peaceful. Of course you have to counter that.
Do you answer people who criticize you like that?
I am very humble there, I go inside and ask myself if the person is right. But mostly he doesn’t. Satire is aggressive. Satire is offensive at times. If you are afraid to offend, then you must not become a satirist or cartoonist.
How do we celebrate Christmas this year – figuratively speaking: with a mask under the Christmas tree?
Maybe it will even be the way it should be: quieter, less of a social event than a family celebration in a smaller circle. A bit of a consumption lockdown. It’s going to be the first Corona Christmas. Some pranksters will hang corona balls on the Christmas tree and give toilet paper – I’m not one of them.
To person: Michael Pammesberger
The Bad Ischler (born 1965) studies law, works as a lawyer, before changing his subject and becoming a caricaturist through a drawing competition. In 1991 he started with the “Oberösterreichische Nachrichten”, and in 1997 he switched to KURIER. Michael Pammesberger has two sons and is married to the ORF journalist Gabi Waldner.
The book: “Corona-related”: The new book by Michael Pammesberger, Ueberreuterverlag, 148 pages, 22 euros