At secondary school in Recklinghausen, Hape Kerkeling and some fellow students formed a band ("Gesundfutter", meaning "health fodder") and brought out a record ("Hawaii").
The real breakthrough came in 1984/85 when, still aged only 19, Kerkeling got a role in the "Känguru" television comedy show (the German word for "kangaroo" deliberately spelt without an "h" at the end although this broke the spelling rules at that time). The best-known character in this show was the little boy "Hannilein", played by Kerkeling, an irritating child with red hair in a pudding-basin style, dungarees and sitting on giant-sized chairs, who commented on the world of adults.
Later came guest appearances and sketches on the Radio Bremen show "Extratour". Then in 1989 Kerkeling started up his own comedy TV show, "Total Normal" ("Totally Normal") along with pianist Achim Hagemann. This show, which criticised the media, had a totally new format and was awarded several television prizes such as the Goldene Kamera, the Adolf-Grimme-Preis and the Bayerischer Fernsehpreis.
On the show, Kerkeling wrote television history on April 25 1991 when he dressed up as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on a state visit to Berlin and almost managed to get into Schloss Bellevue to meet the President of Germany for dinner. The satirical song from this show, "Das ganze Leben ist ein Quiz" ("All life is a quiz") made it into the German pop charts.
On December 10 1991 in German television talkshow, the filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim revealed that Kerkeling, among others, was gay. Kerkeling's comment on the ensuing fuss (mostly in the gutter press) was that while anyone of a more sensitive nature than him would probably have climbed into the bath with a hairdryer, he could not see the point: they would be dragging another poor soul through the dirt the next day anyway.
In 1992, Kerkeling's first film came out: "Kein Pardon", which he directed and starred in, as well as helping to write the script.
In 1992, Kerkeling turned down an offer by the big public broadcasting company ZDF to work on the prime-time show "Wetten, dass..?" and instead, without his previous partner Hagemann, moved to the independent television sector with the show "Cheese". This was similar in concept to "Total Normal" and viewing figures were relatively high; still this is considered as his first flop.
In the second half of the 90s, Kerkeling worked once more for ARD, presenting the show "Warmumsherz" ("Heartwarming"), and filmed several popular television films ("Willi und die Windzors", 1996; "Die Oma ist tot", 1997). "Club Las Piranjas" (1995), a send-up of club holidays, went on to become a cult film.
In 1999 Kerkeling returned to success with his Sat.1 show "Darüber lacht die Welt" ("What makes the world laugh"). He also presented the yearly fundraising gala for the German AIDS fund Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. In 2003 he was awarded the Deutscher Fernsehpreis (German Television Prize) in the category "Best Entertainment Presenter".
In January 2004 Kerkeling made another film entitled "Samba in Mettmann", which is set in North Rhine Westphalia. In May 2004 and a year later in May 2005 he presented the "Großer Deutsch-Test" (a national test show for German grammar and spelling) and in October 2004 the "Großer Deutschlandtest" (a test about people's knowledge of Germany). In April and May 2006 he presented the live TV show "Let's Dance", a German version of "Celebrity Come Dancing"/"Dancing with the Stars", with Nazan Eckes.
In 2001 Kerkeling went on a pilgrimage, following the Way of St James for 650 kilometres (403 miles) to Santiago de Compostela. In June 2006 his book Ich bin dann mal weg ("I'm off for a bit, then"), his diary of this pilgrimage, was top of the Spiegel magazine non-fiction bestseller list.
Hape Kerkeling lives with his life partner and co-author Angelo Colagrossi in Düsseldorf. Colagrossi wrote a large number of texts and sketches for "Total Normal" and other shows, and co-directed the films "Kein Pardon", "Willi und die Windzors", "Die Oma ist tot" and "Samba in Mettmann".
Since Spring 2005, Kerkeling has presented the show "Hape trifft!" (which is ambiguous in the German language and may be translated as "Hape hits the spot!" or "Hape meets!") show, produced by Günther Jauch's production team i&u TV on RTL.
Schlämmer speaks to interviewees in an overfamiliar manner, using "du" for "you" rather than the polite "Sie", and addressing them as "Schätzelein" ("sweetheart"). He seems to think he is a sex symbol, attempting to kiss female interviewees despite his loose false teeth. To impress women, he boasts that he earns three thousand (euro) net a month.
On the ARD's Harald Schmidt show, Kerkeling explained his methods. Before a Schlämmer interview, he said, he pours a few drops of strong liquor over his coat, to give the interviewee the impression he or she is being interviewed by a real reporter, but with an alcohol problem, prompting a real response.
The single "Schätzelein" came out at the start of 2006, including the songs "Schätzelein" and "Meine letzte Zigarette"("My last cigarette").
In May 2006, Schlämmer appeared on "Wer wird Millionär" (the German "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?") as a celebrity candidate, and became the first person to persuade Günther Jauch, the presenter of "Wer wird Millionär", into the contestant's seat. The two made 500,000 euro for a good cause (German AIDS Foundation).
In 2007, a computer game "Weisse Bescheid?!", based on Horst Schlämmer, was released.