The Inner Sergeant Schultz

The other day I made a reference to people channeling their inner Sergeant Schultz.  The comment met with baffled silence, because the people to whom I made the comment had no idea who Sergeant Schultz was.  It was a sad but instructive moment.

Those old enough to have watched Hogan’s Heroes, of course, would remember the portly, bumbling prison guard who craved sweets and schapps, feared being sent to the Eastern front, and supposedly kept an eye on Colonel Hogan and his fellow prisoners of war who were actively working for the Allied cause even while incarcerated in Stalag 13.  Schultz’s catch phrase, always said with a cheesy German accent after Hogan’s band had blown up a munitions dump or snuck a valued escapee through enemy lines, was:  “I know nothing.  Nothing!”  And his comment usually prompted the equally inept Stalag 13 commandant, Colonel Klink, to squint through his monocle, frown like he had just smelled a fart, and say:  “Schuuultzzzz!”

Hogan’s Heroes has been off the air for decades; it probably isn’t shown in reruns even on the most cut-rate cable channels.  It was a ridiculous show with a ludicrous premise, of course, but Sergeant Schultz was a giant in the pantheon of ’60s sitcom characters.  Now he has vanished into the vast forgotten pool that includes the likes of Corporal Agarn on F Troop and Mr. Haney from Green Acres — and I’ll have to come up with another shorthand way of referring to know-nothingism.

Catch Phrase Fever

It’s hard to believe now that a show like Hogan’s Heroes was ever on the air. Can you imagine making a sitcom out of life in a German prisoner of war camp, where the Nazis were cowards and idiots who were easily duped by the crafty Colonel Hogan and one of the running gags was about sending the Germans to the Eastern Front?  Yet when I was a kid, Hogan’s Heroes was one of the most popular shows on TV, filled with catch phrases that kids used every day in school — whether it was Colonel Burkhalter’s “Dummkoff!” or Klink’s fist-shaking “Hogan!!!!!!” or — most often — Sergeant Schultz’s “I know nothing . . . nothing!”

I was disappointed to see that I couldn’t find a clip of Schultz’s “I know nothing!” on YouTube, but this still shot with the famous line being delivered is the next best thing.