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Vicco von Buelow, German humorist Loriot, at 87

By Melissa Eddy
Associated Press / August 27, 2011

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BERLIN - 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.

Mr. von Buelow died of old age in Ammerland, his hometown, in Bavaria Monday night.

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

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

Born into an aristocratic German family north of Berlin in 1923, Mr. 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 television cartoon series, songs, and more than 50 books.

Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Mr. von Buelow as an “acute observer of daily life,’’ with a “unique ability to lovingly hold a mirror to our faces.’’

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

Mr. 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,’’ Mr. 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.’’

Mr. von Buelow’s 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.

Mr. 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.