A Büttenrede is a Carnival speech similar to the concept of stand-up comedy. The speech is almost always written in rhymes and is several verses long, and presented from a Bütt, or a barrel-shaped stage.
The speaker is known as the Büttenredner. The Büttenredner delivers the entire speech from memory. The speech is sometimes presented by a duo of speakers. The Büttenredner may or may not be in costume. A huge crowd gathers around to listen to the speech, and it is also broadcast on television.
The Büttenrede is a special feature of Rhineland Carnival. However, in recent times, it is gaining popularity in other parts of Germany, for example, Berlin.
The Büttenrede usually assumes a satirical or critical look at society, politics, and the general state of the country and the world. It contains a generous dose of humor and jokes, and is often punctuated by songs. However, it is also scathing, insulting, and ironic, which always draws giggles from the audience. The wine barrel form from which the speech is delivered is blamed for the bitterness in the speaker’s speech. To understand a Büttenrede, a very good grasp on the German language as well as awareness of the recent affairs of Germany and the world are absolutely necessary.
The tradition of the Büttenrede can be traced back to the medieval times and the concept of Rügerecht, which gave the common man the right to criticize rulers without fear during Lent.
Several men and women have earned fame by penning down memorable and brilliant carnival speeches. Peter Kuhn is an internationally famous, award-winning Büttenredner and has been delighting the audience with his brilliant speeches for years. Maria Heinrich Hoster (1835-1890) from Cologne was a legendary Büttenredner and his speeches are still today considered as classic.