Loriot at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
January 2, 2016 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Beloved (if not legendary) German comedian Loriot is not well known outside of Germany, mostly because his particular kind of comedy and commentary does not translate well. But here are two pieces that transcend wordplay and language/culture barriers: Loriot Conducts The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (from the 1970s with then Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in the audience), and then for the 100th Anniversary of the BPO, The "Hustensymphonie", a performance of a piece by Grieg "with live broadcast/recording effects".

Both videos do have some German being spoken at the beginning, but if you wait the music and comedy will start.
posted by hippybear (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Loriot is deeply German stuff; "Jodelschule" may be funny in places for English speakers, though -- here's a video with subtitles to help. His funniest bit, with the vacuum cleaner that doubles as a hairdryer, loses everything in translation, alas: "Es saugt und bläst der Heinzelmann, wo Mutti sonst nur blasen kann."
posted by ariel_caliban at 2:32 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, what actually constitutes German humor in contrast with English or American? In other words, what exactly are they finding funny about those pieces that the rest of us might miss?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:17 PM on January 2, 2016


So, Loriot works a lot with German formality of culture and language and his humor contrasts those with the actual things going on on-screen. He also uses wordplay a lot to shift meanings in ways that are not easily translatable.

I don't think there's anything specifically different with the German humor I've encountered (including not only Loriot but also Hape Kerkeling... And the mini comics of Werner (I was there nearly 30 years ago; I'm sure much has happened since then)). Much of it is specific to their culture, but then Chris Rock is pretty specific to the US black experience and how well does that translate to German? No clue.

I will say, the German-translations I have of Garfield comics are both unfunny and don't use the original Jim Davis artwork, so they are maybe a reverse example of how comedy doesn't translate.

I can't imagine what Monty Python had to go through to figure out how to do their German episodes.
posted by hippybear at 3:30 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine what Monty Python had to go through to figure out how to do their German episodes.

Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!
posted by briank at 3:33 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I thought the article in the Guardian does a pretty good job of explaining the cultural barriers that might prevent Britons from finding Loriot humorous -- though, as a German-American, I don't think there's a huge gulf between Pythonesque humor and some of the stuff you'd see in the Fatherland. The biggest difference is that the Pythons' absurdity has an element of silliness that's just not present in German humor.

Broadly speaking, I'd say the four major sources of German humor are physicality, absurdity, political satire and language. I don't think that any of these translate very well.

I'm American-enough that I don't personally find the Hustensymphonie very funny; the entire bit can pretty much be inferred from the name.
posted by Slothrup at 3:36 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jodelschule is pretty high up on my list of "how come the actors aren't collapsing in giggles, how many takes did they need to film that?" clips.

The Salamo Bratfett one (with subtitles) is another classic where the language breaks down: "...brat fettlos mit Salamo ohne... ...brat ohne Fett mit Salamo Bratfett ohne... ...mo la Sa mit ohne fett Fett brat Brat..." (and that's far from the only thing going wrong in that clip.)

The yodeling homemaker is played by Loriot regular Evelyn Hamann, btw, who's consistently great (no subtitles in that clip, but in case it's not obvious she plays a presenter struggling with English-language sounds that don't exist in German while summarizing the first seven episodes of a British drama about the Hesketh-Fortescues of North Cothelstone Hall, and loses control of both languages after a while...)
posted by effbot at 3:41 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


A particularly excellent example of German humor is the dubbed version of the movie Top Secret, which uses regional dialects across the various characters to both deepen the characterizations and to mock the various regions and dialects. It's the kind of humorous depth that was not present in the original version at all.
posted by hippybear at 3:43 PM on January 2, 2016


(istm Hustensymphonie would probably work better in Swedish, where "host-" as a prefix means cough- and "höst" means autumn. But I'm probably missing the German pun in that one...)
posted by effbot at 3:45 PM on January 2, 2016


I will say, the German-translations I have of Garfield comics are both unfunny and don't use the original Jim Davis artwork, so they are maybe a reverse example of how comedy doesn't translate.

Bad example. Garfield isn't funny in the original english, with the original artwork.
posted by el io at 4:24 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also funny: The picture was crooked. Das Bild hängt schief.
Premise: guy waits for a business meeting and hijinks ensue
posted by chillmost at 4:52 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bad example. Garfield isn't funny in the original english, with the original artwork

yet, the idea of Garfield in German with different art work is hysterical, genius even.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:53 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


A particularly excellent example of German humor is the dubbed version of the movie Top Secret, which uses regional dialects across the various characters to both deepen the characterizations and to mock the various regions and dialects.

how is "please to look in my rucksack" translated to German?
posted by ennui.bz at 4:56 PM on January 2, 2016


This is definitely deeply German. It's about as German as Mr. Bean is British, and I'm glad to see a clip or two that might actually need no translation... I have high hopes for the plane/Rilke skit for one thing. Clearly I'm being too optimistic.

I'm impressed though how much the Guardian Article captures of Loriot... The tension between physical comedy and stilted (but somehow playful) language; the ability to be painfully formal and profoundly silly at the same time. Somehow pulling it off without being mean in any way... Yeah, Stephen Fry does come to mind ; also John Cleese's Character in A Fish Called Wanda, I guess. But yeah, different.

And honestly, the phrase "German humo(u)r" tends to make me feel slightly defensive... Not that I don't see the point, but I've certainly met people who think that having the same color passport as Graham Chapman means they're surely funnier than anybody they might meet from any number of humor impaired places... Grrr. OK, stay with me. I'm back.

Here's my point: Some of the funniest people I've ever met are German. Absolutely none of the funniest comedians are. German *comedy* sucks. I have no good explanation for this.

I mean, Loriot was great, but for one thing he was a rare exception, and for another, I can come up with 20 funnier people in 10 seconds. And yeah, I could say that German comedy tends to not go for the laughs as much, and that at it's best, it thrives on being surreal and subversive more than on being ha-ha funny. And that would be true, but it really doesn't explain the overall picture.

Alright, now I'm depressed. And what the fuck am I supposed to do with this rubber chicken.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 5:03 PM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


But.. the fly noises are being created by one of the orchestra, if the premise is that the rest of the orchestra believe he is conducting then are they not wondering why one of their own is making fly noises?

I come from a German family, my parents speak German, I don't get this one at all.
posted by Cosine at 5:34 PM on January 2, 2016


Mr Bean isn't British humour as much as it's meta-Brit humour. Other cultures find it much funnier than we do, in my experience.
posted by Devonian at 7:02 PM on January 2, 2016




>And yeah, I could say that German comedy tends to not go for the laughs as much, and that at it's best, it thrives on being surreal and subversive more than on being ha-ha funny. And that would be true, but it really doesn't explain the overall picture.

Spot on. I find the humor lies in the juxtaposition of the surreal with the high degree of organization in German culture.

If you think of the structure not as limiting the possibilities for humor, but as offering formats for it, then to me you can start to understand it. For instance, starting with a comedic idea, what's the funniest thing you can race downhill? I can imagine an American standup bit being about individual loss of control. The British, on the other hand, actually have Cheese Rolling, where they make fools of themselves with very silly and physical humor. The Germans took this idea and turned it into an olympic style well-organized world championship of Wok racing down a real bobsled course.
posted by cotterpin at 12:54 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Brits often assume that Germans have no sense of humour. In truth, writes comedian Stewart Lee, it's a language problem. The peculiarities of German sentence construction simply rule out the lazy set-ups that British comics rely on.

Of course the problem is that other people are too lazy to appreciate German humor.
posted by clockzero at 1:07 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course the problem is that other people are too lazy to appreciate German humor.

That's not at all what "lazy" was referring to in context, so you're at least too lazy to read an article about how different languages are different :-)
posted by effbot at 2:58 AM on January 3, 2016


thank you for correcting the imperfect aspects of my humor joke
posted by clockzero at 9:43 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


So now I have to find Otto Waalkes videos that work without subtitles to convince you guys that us Krauts know a good laugh when we see one?
posted by progosk at 12:56 PM on January 3, 2016



I will say, the German-translations I have of Garfield comics are both unfunny and don't use the original Jim Davis artwork, so they are maybe a reverse example of how comedy doesn't translate.


Is this true? It seems absolutely insane that they would do that. And I can't find any information online. As far as I've found they use the original artwork and were translated pretty literally.
posted by mmoncur at 3:10 PM on January 3, 2016


I'll dig out the Garfield book I have and you can tell me if Garfield looks like Garfield or not. Even nearly 30 years ago, I looked at the art and immediately said "Jim Davis did not draw that".

I may not get to this today, but I will try to get to it soon.
posted by hippybear at 3:52 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hippybear, did it look anything like this?
posted by brokkr at 3:43 AM on January 4, 2016


I know that is just the earliest version of Garfield, but for some reason it's looking somewhat German to me now.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2016


« Older I love you madly   |   Dead ding dong is the witch. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments