Loriot Passes Away at 87 Germany Mourns the Death of its Best Comedian

Loriot, Germany's best-loved comedian, has died at the age of 87. With his understated observational humor, he taught Germans to laugh at themselves, and his cartoons, TV sketches and films remain funny, decades after they first appeared.
Vicco von Bülow, aka Loriot, in one of his films.

Vicco von Bülow, aka Loriot, in one of his films.

Foto: ddp images

Germany is mourning its greatest comedian, Vicco von Bülow, better known as Loriot, whose death at the age of 87 was announced on Tuesday.

His TV sketches, books, films and cartoons, one featuring two naked middle-aged gentlemen quarrelling in a bathtub, made him a household name in Germany from the 1960s onwards.

His brand of understated, observational humor gently poked fun at Teutonic idiosyncrasies, with sketches including one set in a yodelling class, and one in which a boy gets a "build-your-own-nuclear-reactor" kit for Christmas which promptly goes into meltdown once assembled.

In one, he plays a middle-aged man declaring his love to his girlfriend Hildegard in an Italian restaurant, unaware that he has a little piece of spaghetti on his face that he inadvertently shifts around with his nervous gestures, to her mounting shock and disgust.

Generations of German Comics

He made fun of the small-mindedness, the fussiness and the excessive formality of the German post-war middle classes. Those traits may now seem a tad dated -- though not completely unrecognizable. But the humor with which he exposed them remains fresh and funny to this day, and ensured Loriot enduring popularity.

In 2007, aged 83, he was voted as Germany's best comedian, which says as much about Loriot's unique talent as it does about the generations of German comics that have followed him.

German President Christian Wulff praised him as a "clever observer of human weaknesses." In a statement, he said: "Through Loriot, we learned to laugh about the simplest difficulties of life. We admired his ideas, his inexhaustible imagination and his courtly, elegant calm."

Courtliness was part of Bülow's trademark. He was born on Nov. 12, 1923 to an aristocratic Prussian family, and derived his stage name, Loriot, from his family's heraldric animal, a Golden Oriole, which is called Loriot in French. His talent for drawing and mimicry became evident at school and he worked as an extra in theater productions and films.

A More Relaxed View

Von Bülow was called up to the army in 1941 and served on the eastern front. After the war, he studied painting and began working as a cartoonist for newspapers.

Norbert Lammert, the president of the German parliament, said: "Vicco von Bülow put his stamp on cultural life in Germany for decades and, as Loriot, helped Germans to gain a more relaxed view of their mentality and habits."

In one sketch from the 1970s, as funny now as it was then, Loriot plays an elderly gentleman who goes to a marriage counsellor with his wife. Asked what his favorite color is, he says: "Gray. But not just gray, more green-gray, going into brown, a kind of brown-gray with green, a brown-green-gray," until the counsellor tells him to shut up. When she orders him to kiss his wife, he refuses, opting instead to kiss a kissing machine, which he does with a little too much passion.

Loriot retired from TV work in 2006 . He and his wife Rose-Marie lived on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, surrounded by an unknown number of pug dogs, without whom, he once said, life would be meaningless.

"Loriot's death was absolutely unnecessary," wrote SPIEGEL correspondent Stefan Kuzmany. "He had long since become immortal. And will remain it."

cro -- with wire reports
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