Before I touched down in Germany for another Christmas and New Year's with my wife's family, I had never heard of Bernard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow.
No, he's not some overlooked 18th-century Prussian symphonist with a new release on Naxos. He happens to be a comedy icon in Germany who adopted the stage name Loriot, and who died last year at age 87, triggering a 6-DVD set of his television programs, live performances and animation. My father-in-law received the set as a Christmas gift and we tore into it with abandon — and shrieks of laughter.
It's easy to see why Germans hail Loriot as a comic genius. He had that Bill Murray smirk of self-confidence, plus an arsenal of side-splitting personae in skits like "The Noodle," where he tries earnestly to propose to his girlfriend, or "The Crooked Picture," where one little adjustment to piece of art turns a living room into a disaster zone. You don't need to understand German to get a good feel for how clever and funny he was.
And for classical music fans there's the video above, Loriot's "Hustensymphonie," a brilliant and slightly twisted spoof of noisy concert halls. (You'll get what "husten" means soon enough.)