German humorist "Loriot" dies at 87

August 23, 2011 - 1:05 PM
Germany Obit Loriot

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2003 Vicco von Buelow is framed by two of his potato-nosed cartoon figures in Munich. German humorist Vicco von Buelow, often cited by Germans as proof of their sense of humor and known to the nation simply by his nom de plume,

BERLIN (AP) — German humorist Vicco von Buelow, often cited by Germans as proof of their sense of humor and known to the nation simply by his nom de plume, "Loriot," has died. He was 87.

Von Buelow died of old age in his hometown of Ammerland in Bavaria on Monday night, his publisher, Zurich-based Diogenes Verlag AG, said Tuesday.

He was lauded by the nation's Die Zeit weekly as a German cultural figure on a par with classical writers Friedrich Schiller or Wolfgang Goethe.

"Loriot wants to be funny. And, compared to many others who also want that, he actually succeeds, enormously, again and again," Patrick Sueskind, author of the novel "Perfume," said of von Buelow.

Born into an aristocratic German family north of Berlin in 1923, von Buelow started out drawing cartoons in the 1950s for the national magazine Stern.

Two decades later, he adopted the name "Loriot," French for oriole, from the bird pictured on his family's coat of arms. He created a cartoon dog called "Wum," whose popularity sparked a career that went on to include several TV cartoon series, songs and more than 50 books.

Chancellor Angela Merkel praised von Buelow as an "acute observer of daily life" whose "unique ability to lovingly hold a mirror to our faces will be missed."

"His works will continue to make young and old laugh — and enlighten them on the essence of being German," Merkel said.

Von Buelow's drawings were known for their satirical view of daily life, depicted by potato-nosed caricatures of middle-class Germans.

"Comedy requires a certain hero's fall," Von Buelow said in an 2003 interview with the Austrian weekly Falter. "When a person makes a serious attempt at something and fails, you have comedy."

Von Buelow's enormous popularity is reflected in a number of colloquial phrases that have seeped into everyday speech, including the expression of surprise or confusion "Ach, was!" or "yodel diploma," to describe a worthless educational degree.

"'Loriot' taught us to laugh at the most complicated, and the simplest, difficulties in life," German President Christian Wulff said.

Von Buelow was decorated with several of Germany's most important literary awards and in 1998 received the German "Great Cross of Merit with Star," one of the country's highest decorations.

A well-known German film director, Dieter Wedel, best summed up Germans' adoration of von Buelow when he quipped, "The Germans don't have any sense of humor — the Germans have Loriot!"

His publisher said the burial will be private.