Valentin’s comical style can be traced back to ancient Greek comedy or commedia dell’arte, a type of Italian improvised comedy, but he was mostly influenced by the life of the Bavarian commoners. Growing up in a town with low standard of living, Valentin lived among the lower classes, from whom he drew creative inspirations. He started his career in cabarets and beer halls performing witty songs and slapsticks, which were popular folk entertainment at that time. With his peculiar body language and comic talent, Valentin quickly launched himself onto the grand stages in Germany’s theatre scene, and had chemistry with different schools prior to World War II.
Valentin’s works are short and refined in language, with black humour centred around linguistic dexterity and wordplay. He was also good at deconstructing words and language to extract its subtext. He often started a comedy from a simple verbal misunderstanding, which he would snowball in a typical approach to weave a uniquely absurd sketch, thus earning him the epithet of “linguistic anarchist”.
By Tang Ching Kin
Hong Kong theatre critic
This article is excerpted and translated from Chinese
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