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He bestowed cheerfulness on the Germans, far removed from any dirty talk

What some Germans find funny makes others stop laughing for good.

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He bestowed cheerfulness on the Germans, far removed from any dirty talk

What some Germans find funny makes others stop laughing for good. Even the best rhetorician cannot argue away the rich tradition of dirty talk and thigh-slapping in this country. And when the conversation turns to subtleties like Thomas Mann's irony, it is of such brutality that it's impossible to simply enjoy it a little. Taking the absurdities of existence as a basis for a cheerfulness that doesn't have to humiliate anyone for a punchline is something that the people of Central Europe still seem to have difficulties with.

But before the next German here attests to the lack of humor in Germans and thus reveals himself as someone who actually believes that humor can be defined, i.e. before this most embarrassing of all embarrassments takes place in public, it is probably better to quickly turn to someone who made generations of Germans smile beyond all platitudes. We are talking – how could it be otherwise – of Vicco von Bülow, better known by his stage name Loriot.

On October 13, 1956, the first cartoon from the series "Der Gute Ton" was published in the magazine "Quick". It was his first real success. Before that, having escaped the war as a lieutenant in the tanks and equipped with a completed art degree, he had initiated the series “On the Dog” for “Stern”. As a result, he flew out in the highest possible arc.

The cartoons were based on a role reversal of dog and human. The four-legged friends told bulbous-nosed creatures in Stresemann trousers what to do and what not to do. Among other things, there was a marriage bed with a dog on the left, a dog on the right and a Loriot man in the middle. The dog lady says: "Either the human goes or I."

Also legendary is the circus tent full of four-legged friends, in which a Loriot figure with a bowler hat on his head does a handstand in the arena and at the same time blows into a horn, so that a dog has no choice but to say appreciatively: "One of the smartest people I've ever met I've seen." This infuriated the readers of the magazine so much that something broke out over the artist that today would probably be described as a shitstorm: "Outrageous! Dirty man as the crown of creation like that!” was one of the friendlier letters to the editor.

Mind you, all of this happened only a short time after that same crown of creation in the form of German men had set the world on fire and instigated a genocide that killed millions upon millions. “Stern” editor-in-chief Henri Nannen – after 1939 he himself had worked quite ambitiously on the “Destroy everything that works” project – had no choice: he had to take the cartoons out of the magazine. A central source of income had dried up for Vicco von Bülow.

"The Good Tone" was less radical. As the name suggests, the series begins where the bourgeoisie gets its arrogance. It started with table manners – in one picture a man is standing at a table at a large, formal dinner in just a jacket and underpants. Below is the text: "A stain on your pants is not a broken leg. Lay the trousers flat on the table. Dab lukewarm water. Fold in a small plate. Butter stains come out with tar. Note: Shame betrays insecurity.”

This is how it went on: Whether it was the dance floor or declarations of love – it was always the playful break with etiquette that made the ridiculousness of the stiff ceremonial visible, but somehow the world remained intact. The success of these cartoons was probably due to the fact that they matched the nature of their creator. Although he was born in 1923 and was therefore actually extremely malleable as a young man during the years of National Socialism, the brown rulers did not succeed in turning Vicco von Bülow into a loud man.

In photos from the war, even the martial uniform on him looks strangely civilian, perhaps because he never shed his full of hints smile. When "The Great Loriot Book" was published in 1967, the humorist allowed readers minimal insight into his biography. There, too, Vicco von Bülow paints a picture of himself as a man who knows his own shortcomings and therefore lives at peace with himself.

In one passage, an aunt with a penchant for the artistic asks young Vicco: "Would you like to be a pianist?" dedicated to cables under the road surface. Sewerage or plastering would also be an option. I can no longer remember any further exchange of ideas with Aunt Olga.”

Whoever writes such prose must not hope for a roar of laughter. But if the reader does not gently pull up the corners of his mouth, then he must either be a very rough guy or be in the deepest depression. Be honest: Loriot as a sewer worker? How does that work? In later years, Vicco von Bülow stated that the secret of his success was to see where something went wrong because people misjudged themselves. Only everyone does that in his subject, and others than him end up with the words: "But it's only me, your Ottilein, Holladahiti!"

The popularity that Loriot enjoyed from the end of the 1970s at the latest can be measured by the many television skits with his partner Evelyn Hamann, the popularity of his comic dog Wum, the two box office successes “Ödipussi” and "Pappa ante portas". Vicco von Bülow provided the Federal Republic with punch lines – a country that, at least officially, has renounced all warlike tendencies. The fact that he made it to Olympus proves how many standing phrases he created. "Hildegard, don't say anything now." - "The duck stays in." - "My name is Lohse, I shop here."

How did he feel about being celebrated so much by the people he mocked? Master never dwelled on that. Just as little as about the intellectuals who explained to him with a raised index finger that all his characters were based on the needs of a slightly uptight man around 50. And then there was the audience who, sipping red wine, informed those around them about it, for them as humor experts of international standing nothing is acceptable under Monty Python, Loriot is provincial theater. But then any comment was superfluous anyway.

Vicco von Bülow's last years were quieter. But he never seemed bitter in public appearances, there was always this smile. Since it went out in 2011, a piece of lightness has been missing in a country that struggles with so many things. However, Loriot's spirit has stood the test of time. Appearing rather quietly, looking at one's own shortcomings like somewhat eccentric friends and retaining a remnant of pensiveness despite all the monstrosity that defines everyday life - who hasn't secretly dreamed of that at some point?

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