Karl Valentin: Germany’s Charlie Chaplin


Karl Valentin


Hailed as the Charlie Chaplin of Germany, I’d never heard of the genius of Karl Valentin until stumbling across a entertaining story about one of his acts in an article by Richard Wollheim. The scene described is very creative and original in expressing an aphorism in reverse.

It led me to try and find any works which Valentin had an influence and the video below is an example. Very whimsical and smart.

Enjoy both.

The great German philosopher-clown Valentin had an act which
went as follows: In the great tent the lights go down, and, as they do,
a solitary street lamp in the middle of the arena lights up. It casts a
small circle of light around it, and Valentin can be observed walking
round the perimeter of the illuminated area, seeming to look for
something. His eyes are riveted to the ground. A stranger appears.
He observes Valentin; he asks him what he is doing; Valentin says
that he has dropped a coin and is looking for it. The stranger offers
to help him, and, the offer is accepted, the two men walk round and
round the lamp-post in opposite directions, now not just one pair of
eyes, but two pairs, riveted to the ground. After some minutes of vain
search, the stranger stops. He asks Valentin if he is absolutely sure
that he dropped the coin here, pointing to the ground. “Oh no,” says
Valentin, “I dropped it over there,” pointing into the darkness.
“Then why,” says the stranger impatiently, “are we looking here?”
“Because,” says Valentin, “this is where the light is.”

Art, Interpretation, and the Creative Process

Richard Wollheim
New Literary History , Vol. 15, No. 2, Interrelation of Interpretation and Creation (Winter, 1984)
This link below is to Youtube, a short film with English subtitles

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