Johann Nestroy (1801-1862)

For one dares, for the other just right

Johann Nestroy

II tell you, they were hard times back then! Social conditions were a nightmare, and all the censorship and the spies kept the people inside their own four walls. “Biedermeier” they’d call those stuffy, small-minded years later on.

But luckily people still went to the theatre

mainly because of me, the great Johann Nestroy! I was good: “An acid rain of infernal humour”, as one of my many enthusiastic critics wrote. They flocked to me in droves: to the Theater an der Wien, to the Josefstadt theater and to the Leopoldstadt theater.

 “Nestroy was the first German-speaking satirist, where language bothers itself with things.” The Austrian writer Karl Kraus (1874-1936) on the actor, singer and playwright Johann Nestroy.

The last one honours me the most: the square in front of the hotel is named after me, and a little bit further, at Praterstrasse 17, you can admire me up on a pedestal. But let’s go back for a moment: I was the star of Viennese popular theatre, as they’d say today. And I acted and sang myself nearly every evening in my plays as well – and the big roles at that. Yes, I was a real allrounder.


I wrote more than 80 plays

among them “Der Talisman”, “Das Mädl aus der Vorstadt” and “Einen Jux will er sich machen” – and played 880 roles on the stage. You can imagine, that wasn’t always easy! I learnt to live with the censorship: now and then they locked me up, but it was just part of my job to get in trouble with the authorities – and it was good publicity

 Johann Nestroy statue

Entrance Theater an der Wien

 Stage of a theater

But the number of plays people wanted from me, that was something else again – but luckily theatre was an international business back in those days, and plays and ideas travelled all round Europe. I’d just set the whole thing in Vienna, add a dash of my caustic humour and voilá: the next Nestroy play is getting standing ovations! Infringement of copyright? Now you just stop right there, you petty nitpicker! I’ve torn people like you to shreds on stage faster than you can say “Lumpazivagabundus”!

And by the way, they’re still showing my plays!

Text: Verena Brandtner, Fotos: Christine Wurnig