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Culture

They’re Not Laughing, They’re Suing

A teacher in Cologne and a teenage beauty pageant winner have taken popular TV comedian Stefan Raab to court. They became the unwilling butts of his stunts, and want damages.

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Stefan Raab in another stunt, this time at the Eurovision Song Contest

Image hearing your doorbell ring at one o’clock in the morning and someone yelling "Get up, get up!". You groggily stumble to the door in your night gown or pyjamas, open it and are blinded by a spotlight while someone shoves a microphone in your face.

You’d better smile, because the camera is rolling and you’re going to be on national television in a few days - with the lead role in this nocturnal wake-up call. " Bimmel Bingo" is the latest in Raab’s arsenal of stunts that keep getting more outrageous as he fights to keep the ratings of his tv total comedy show up.

When the " Bimmel Bingo" team woke up a teacher in Cologne one night, she didn’t see the joke at all. The woman, whose name has not been released, has taken comedian Raab to court, saying he used her picture without her permission. She claims he also damaged her reputation, since her students saw her, night gown and all, on TV. Not only does she feel like the unwilling butt of Raab’s joke, but also the laughingstock of her students and Raab’s four million viewers.

And to add salt to the wound, he made money off of it. She sued.

It’s all about Art

This past week, the judge heard arguments in the case.

The plaintiff’s complaints were quite straightforward: invasion of privacy, unauthorized use of an image, pain and suffering. She wants € 2,500 ($ 2,270) in damages for her role in " Bimmel Bingo".

Raab’s attorneys are playing tough and have mounted a defense, saying they used the plaintiff’s image "in the interest of art" – a valid argument, they claim, since the satirical tv total falls under the definition of "art" according to Article 5 of Germany’s constitution.

In addition, the defense has elevated the stunt to performance art and has drawn comparisons between it and the late German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. His works, like a suit made of felt or a cube of fat placed in a corner of a room, often raised eyebrows and caused misunderstanding.

The judge seemed surprised and somewhat irritated at the "art" defense. When she pointed out that Raab also had economic reasons for waking people out of a sound sleep and putting them on television, the defense had a ready answer:

"Beuys wanted his works to fetch high prices too."

The judgement will be handed down in June.

Legal Troubles Continue

TV-Total Star Stefan Raab, Porträtfoto

Stefan Raab

Even if Raab (photo) gets out of this one, another one of his comedy victims is heading to the courthouse.

When 17-year-old Lisa Loch won the Miss Rhein-Ruhr beauty pageant, she never thought it would be the beginning of what her attorneys are calling a living nightmare. She gave a post-contest interview to a television network, starting off with the seemingly innocuous statement, "Hello, I’m Lisa Loch." Stefan Raab saw the video clip and thought he’d struck gold.

"Loch" means "hole" in German, and Raab decided to let his prurient imagination run wild. Lisa became the nationwide dupe—the victim of televised locker room jokes at her expense.

She wasn’t laughing either. She and her attorneys are not only demanding the jokes cease, they're suing for € 300 000 ($ 272,000) in damages.

The last laugh in these cases might just be on Stefan Raab.

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