Lost in translation – The comedy of Loriot

Sometimes I wish everybody would speak German, just so that I could share the genius that is Loriot.

Loriot was a comedic actor who was most famous in the 70s and 80s in Germany. His birth name was Vicco von Bülow, of you want to be even more precise Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow and he lived to be 87 years old.

Loriot’s comedy was one of subtleties. One of his most favorite sketches involves a sophisticated man declaring his undying love to the lady of his choosing after a fancy dinner in a restaurant while an errand noodle dangles from his face. His comedic partner, Evelyn Haman can not concentrate on anything he says, because of the culinary distraction.

Another classic is the interview of an old retire who won the lottery. Loriot plays said retire and while he can keep all his answers straight during rehearsal he messes up again and again while the cameras are rolling. In the end he proclaims that his daughter and the pope will open up a boutique in Wuppertal.

In his movies, he shows the all too normal fight people lead against everyday objects. Just watch him unfold and refold a paper map or stutter open an close drawers.

He shows that dapper and correct people are always just two seconds away from utter chaos and destruction. One of the nicest sketches that illustrates this is his ‘Das Bild hängt schief’ (The picture hangs crooked) one. In it he is lead into a room to wait for the host. He finds that a picture on the wall is not entirely even. About two minutes later his efforts to remedy that have lead to the utter destruction of the whole room and his own appearance.

Loriot was also a cartoonist and here he could go even more into absurdist territory. For example look at the sketch where two gentlemen, Herr Docktor Kloebner and Herr Mueller Luedenscheid end up sitting naked in the same bathtub and have a civilized discussion, including the use of the formal you, about who needs to leave said bathtub and who will let the water in.

Loriot’s humor was rooted in the simple misunderstandings in life and the instant potential for absurdity. He thrived on word play and deep sarcasm. His art was that of the quiet laugh; the German Schmunzeln that would grow like a wave into pearls of laughter. He would never start with a thigh slapping guffaw. He would more often than not end with remarkably quotable comedy pieces that will still make people smile even twenty years later. “Ein Klavier! Ein Klavier!

If you ever have the chance to check Loriot out, go ahead and do so. Many of his sketches are on youtube.

I will start you off with ‘Das Bild hängt schief‘.

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About scratchingcat

Writer, mother, friend.
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