There comes a moment for us all, our work being done, our chores accomplished and living nook tidied, when we have no choice but to pull up a chair opposite cold, dour Reality and evaluate the content of our lives. It is the easiest thing in the world, in that moment, to either lock one’s self into an iron stoicism or simply despair at the futility of it all. My respect has always gone, however, to those who see a third way out of the grim facts of existence, who fully recognize the insistent press of entropy and yet manage, through a pure genius for goofiness, to make life a little more radiant for the rest of us. When I think about my favorite bits of humanity, unabashed goofs spring to mind far more often than po-faced anguish-mongers. And the crown prince of the ridiculous is, without a doubt, 80s German pop music sensation, Falco.
If that name rings a bell at all, it is because you are over 30 and remember this, the video to Rock Me Amadeus, which features Falco in an elegant tuxedo rapping in German about Mozart while walking through a crowd of punk aristocrats and motorcycle gangs. It connects, through two centuries of European history, the madcap genius of Mozart with the living silliness of the 1980s in a way that you can’t help but be enchanted by if you have an enchantable bone in your body (the video proper begins at 0:27):
Wonderful. Really, though, the wackiness here is understated in the general canon of Falco videos. Take my personal favorite, Wiener Blut, which features Falco, dressed alternately as Napoleon Bonaparte and a fish-tie wearing corrupt politician, mixing in with an incongruous selection of overweight German tourists, mafiosos, Flashdancing female police officers, and I’m not quite sure what all else:
Or The Sound of Musik, Falco’s ode to the development of music itself, which begins with Falco as Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria rising up from a silk-strewn floor and then explodes into a just joyful celebration of our love for sound. Every moment of it is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely beautiful. You can’t watch it and not think, “You know, humanity’s all right.”
Falco is entirely aware of our capacity for darkness, and some of the more over-done aspects of even his most effervescent videos key into those dark zones. Lest we forget, his second big hit, Jeanny, is a song explicitly about child kidnapping, and the video is about as dark as you can get:
But it’s the existence of videos like that which makes Amadeus and Wiener Blut so much more delightful. They sizzle with an awareness of our great capacity for self-harm and the determination to overcome all of that in a great orgiastic celebration of our common bond. Be you a grotesque tourist, a biker, or a man with a gauge for a head, there is a place for you at Falco’s table of humanity. If, as humanists, we could tap into this vein a bit more and into our valuable but rather mopey instincts for phrase parsing a bit less, it might do us, and those people proximal to us, a decided good.