German Language Blog

Loriot Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 in Culture

Some days ago, Germany’s most popular humorist, Loriot, died at the age of 87. Therefore, I’d like to dedicate this post to this fabulous person. Loriot worked as a cartoonist, actor, and director. His sketches and cartoons focused on the human inability to communicate.

Loriot was born 12 November 1923 in Brandenburg an der Havel, which is a town in the same-named state of Brandenburg, Germany. His real name was Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow but he was commonly known as Loriot or by his short name Vicco von Bülow.

Vicco von Bülow’s artist name is the French term for Golden Oriole, which is a songbird (sparrow). The Golden Oriole was the heraldic animal of the von Bülow family, which was an old Mecklenburg noble family.

In 1928, Loriot’s parents got divorced. By this time he was four years old. From then on he lived with his mother, younger brother, and grandmother in Berlin for a short time. Unfortunately, his mother died in 1929 and eventually he and his brother moved to their father, in 1933, who had married again one year beforehand. In 1938, The family moved to Stuttgart where Loriot attended the Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium (a secondary school that prepares for College). Because of the war Loriot had to take a so-called Notabitur (lit. emergency higher education entrance qualification).

According to the family tradition, Loriot became an officer and did three years military service at the eastern front. After the war, Loriot worked temporarily as a lumberjack. In 1946, he caught up his Abitur and began to study art and painting at the art college in Hamburg.

In 1954, he published his first book of cartoons “Auf den Hund gekommen” (lit. gone to the dogs). Originally, this idiom means “to get into exterior or bad health conditions” but it is also used denote dog lovers. Following works were, for example, “Unentbehrlicher Ratgeber für das Benehmen in feiner Gesellschaft” (lit. Indispensable guidebook for the behavior in noble society), “Der gute Ton” (means something like: ‘The polite voice’), “Der Weg zum Erfolg” (lit. The way to success), and “Wahre Geschichten, erlogen von Loriot” (lit. True storys, made up by Loriot).

In particular, Loriot become famous because of his numerous sketches, which were shown on TV. Here is a small selection of his sketches with subtitles.

Speech in the Bundestag (The Basic Principles of Parliamentary Work)

I find this sketch hilarious because he caricatures a politician who helds a speech that no one really understands. His statements are choppy and incomplete. That’s what it makes so funny.

Eating in airplane

German accuracy

A sketch with almost no dialouge.

German Yodeling School

Of course, there are no yodeling schools at all.

After Loriot had featured some film as a supporting actor, he created two films “Ödipussi” (1988) and “Pappa ante Portas” (1991) where he was the screenwriter, director, and actor.

He obtained numerous honors and awards for his work, such as the Deutsche Filmpreis, Deutsche Kleinkunstpreis, Goldene Kamera, Karl-Valentin-Orden (medal), Wilhelm-Busch-Preis, Ernst-Lubitsch-Preis, Adolf-Grimme-Preis, Jacob-Grimm-Preis Deutsche Sprache.

Loriot died 22 August 2011 in Ammerland on Lake Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany.

I chose some scenes from his two films Ödipussi and Pappa ante Portas, so that you can get an impression of his kind of humor. All videos are with English subtitles. Enjoy.

Heinrich Lohse is speaking English (Pappa ante Portas)

I hope this short scene will help to understand his kind of humor.

Being sacked 1 (Pappa ante portas)

Being sacked 2 (Pappa ante Portas)

Training the Cleaning Lady (Pappa ante Portas)

Romantic Morning Walk in Park (Ödipussi)

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Renate:

    I just watched the Loriot clips and enjoyed them very much. I had totally forgotten about this particular german humor, very funny and very German.
    Thank you