Toon Hermans is a melancholic Dutch cabaret artist who makes audiences roar with laughter as he privately ponders the depths of human existence.

Hermans is widedly regarded in the Dutch cabaret world as a consummate one-man entertainer who is a master of intelligent one-liners and humorous ballads.

``Toon is the greatest of us all. He can cast a spell with nothing at all,'' fellow showman Paul van Vliet said.

But he also has a deeply philosophical side, which intensified after the 1990 death of his wife of 40 years, Rietje. He was fascinated by the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, the contemplations of German philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer and the lyric verse of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

``Sadness has made me wealthier than pleasure,'' Hermans said in a 1997 interview. ``Suffering is not senseless.''

In 1993, Hermans once had to leave a stage in mid-performance because he couldn't hold back the tears.

Born Antoine Gerard Theodore Hermans, the entertainer began his career drawing commercial ads and designing storefront displays. After winning a clown competition and starting his own theater review, he moved to Amsterdam in 1942 to perform in the companies of Dutch directors Carl Tobi and Floris Meslier.

By the late 1950s, he was drawing huge audiences with his one-man show, a format virtually unknown in the Netherlands at the time.

Hermans continues performing and vows he will never quit.

``I will never take leave,'' he told Amsterdam's De Telegraaf newspaper on his 80th birthday. ``At a certain point, life will do it for me.''
Toon Hermans passed away on April 22nd, 2000.

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