Subtle social criticism
Swiss Performing Arts Award 2021
Manuel Stahlberger was born in 1974 in St. Gallen, where he now works as a cabaret artist, musician and cartoonist. From 1998 to 2005 he drew the monthly “Herr Mäder” cartoon for the culture magazine “Saiten” in eastern Switzerland; the collected drawings were subsequently published in two books. Between 1994 and 2002 he was one half of the duo “Mölä & Stahli” with Moritz Wittensölner and, from 2003 to 2011, the second member of “Stahlbergerheuss” with Stefan Heuss. His band “Stahlberger”, which came together in 2009, includes four other musicians from eastern Switzerland. He has received awards including the Prix Walo in the Comedy/Cabaret category for “Mölä & Stahli” in 2001 and the Salzburger Stier as a solo artist in 2009; he was nominated for the Schweizer Kleinkunstpreis in the 2016 Swiss Theatre Awards and, most recently, was awarded the first HSG Culture Prize in 2021 by his home city.
Manuel Stahlberger has produced three solo programmes to date: “Innerorts” (2011), “Neues aus dem Kopf” (2015) and “Eigener Schatten” (2020). He has also released various albums, most recently “Dini zwei Wänd” (2019) and, with Bit-Tuner, “i däre Show” (2020). Manuel Stahlberger is not like other artists in the humour category: his solo cabaret programmes are more about absurdity and nuance. In his current programme, “Eigener Schatten” he reflects on the world of show and appearance, and attempts to move out from the shadows and into the limelight. 2016 saw him in the media spotlight as a sidekick in the SRF late-night show “Deville”. In 2012 he put together a collection of his drawings, fake cantonal flags and pictograms along with an extensive collection of post office queue numbers in the book “Zeug” (published by Der gesunde Menschenversand).
Manuel Stahlberger has a keen eye for the seemingly uninteresting. He turns the spotlight on the brooders, the doubters and the lost. As he describes the small and the personal, he also paints a tableau of Swiss averageness. His poetic songs and stories are often drenched in melancholy and rarely come to a point; but in his solo performances they come up against the absurd worlds of his drawings, creating a unique world of carefree earnestness, laconic humour and absurd tomfoolery. The jury was impressed by Manuel Stahlberger’s distinctive approach and work, and believes he brings indispensable colour to the Swiss cabaret scene.
Markus Joss, jury member