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German actor and comedian Hape Kerkeling reigned for over two decades as one of his homeland's most popular funnymen. Born Hans Peter Kerkeling in Recklinghausen on December 9, 1964, he spent his teen years playing in the band Gesundfutter before moving into comedy, first earning attention via appearances on German radio outlets WDR and BR. In 1984, he was cast in the television sketch comedy series Känguru, and in the role of the irritating child Hannilein emerged as the show's breakout talent. After a stint with the Radio Bremen series Extratour, Kerkeling was awarded his own television series, the media satire Total Normal. Winner of honors including the Goldene Kamera, the Adolf-Grimme-Preis, and the Bayerischer Fernsehpreis, the show even launched a pop music hit when its theme "Das Ganze Leben Ist ein Quiz" crossed over into the German charts. In late 1991 Kerkeling found himself at the center of a media firestorm when he was unceremoniously outed by filmmaker and gay rights activist Rosa von Praunheim. The scandal did little to impact the box office success of his first feature film vehicle, 1992's Kein Pardon, which he also wrote and directed. Kerkeling's next television series, Cheese, was his first critical and commercial failure, and he quickly moved on to the show Warmumsherz, additionally headlining a string of telefilms including Club Las Piranjas, Willi und die Windzors, and Die Oma Ist Tot. In 1999 Kerkeling was named host of the smash Darüber Lacht die Welt, in 2003 winning the Deutscher Fernsehpreis for Best Entertainment Presenter. The 2004 feature Samba in Mettmann preceded a pair of interactive television specials, Großer Deutschlandtest and Großer Deutsch-Test. In 2006, Kerkeling also hosted Let's Dance, the German spinoff of the Dancing with the Stars reality franchise, and in addition published the bestseller Ich Bin Dann Mal Weg, a diary of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. ~ Jason Ankeny