Professors Ischias By Bie
Prof. Dr. Joseph Ischias (1983)

Wim de Bie is most famous in the Netherlands and Flanders, Belgium, as one part of the Dutch satirical duo Van Kooten & De Bie. He and his creative partner Kees van Kooten worked together for nearly 34 years, 24 of which were spent on their own collective TV shows. Van Kooten and De Bie penetrated Dutch culture in various ways, through TV, radio, books, records, musical singles, calendars, down to certain phrases and expressions which have become part of the Dutch language. Beloved both by intellectuals, critics as well as general audiences they also had a tremendous impact on Dutch-language comedy. De Bie also enjoyed a solo career as a novelist, TV host and blogger. In all the years they were active Van Kooten and De Bie only made a minor contribution to the world of comics. It was De Bie who took the task upon him, even though the few comics he made were in fact a statement against the genre. Yet for obscurity's sake they are well worth mentioning.

Just like Kees Van Kooten (1941), Wim de Bie was born in  The Hague, although in his case two years earlier, in 1939. They began their collaboration at the local Dalton high school, where they performed in a cabaret show. This led to their professional debut in 1964 for the radio show 'Uitlaat', which aimed at a demographic of youngsters. They played the comedic characters 'De Klisjeemannetjes', which were two men playing billiards, while they use stock phrases in their speech. Van Kooten and De Bie were among the first Dutch entertainers to skip theatre and start working directly for radio and television. In 1969 they made their TV debut, working as actors and writers for the satirical sketch shows 'Hadimassa' (1967-1972), broadcast by the VARA, and 'Het Gat van Nederland' (1972-1974), broadcast by the VPRO. The latter network gave them their own TV show in 1974, titled 'Het Simplisties Verbond' ('The Simplistic Association'). Their show would air for more than 24 years, albeit under several different titles. However, the general public referred to all of them as 'Van Kooten en De Bie', because they were both the main hosts and actors.

The format too was basically always the same. Koot and Bie played themselves in the studio, while showing "documentary reports" or "live interviews, shot on location". The people in this footage were all characters played by themselves. Among the countless unforgettable characters they created were the scoundrels Jacobse & Van Es, the middle-aged youngsters Koos Koets & Robbie Kerkhof, the elderly brothers Arie & Gé Temmes and a filthy pervert named "De Vieze Man" ("The Filthy Man").

Vieze Man & Walter de Rochebrune
Photo-comic starring "De Vieze Man" and Walter de Rochebrune from the 1983 calendar

Among De Bie's most notable characters were the hermit Walter De Rochebrune, the tramp Dirk, the grouchy German language teacher Mr. O den Beste and the shy mister Foppe. The latter appealed the most to him and De Bie has consequently written several books starring this withdrawn character. All these versatile creations provided a veritable mirror of Dutch society. Some sketches were directly inspired by current news events, others were more timeless. But all were masterful satire, which appealed to viewers of all layers of society.

Van Kooten en De Bie received many awards over the decades and were praised unanimously in the press. Even today archive footage of their sketches still generate high TV ratings. Their personal YouTube channel is among the most popular in the Low Countries. In terms of intellectual status they can be considered the Dutch equivalent of Monty Python, even though their comedy was more realistic and conventional. Many Dutch and Flemish satirists have been influenced by them. But the general public loves them equally much. In 2004 they ended at the 30th place in the election of "De Grootste Nederlander" ("The Greatest Dutchman"). The surest sign of their enduring legacy is the fact that they introduced many untranslatable catchphrases and neologisms in the Dutch language, which found their way to the official dictionary. Because of this achievement they were made honorary members of the Genootschap Onze Taal (Our Language Society) in 2007.


Bie's 1981 comic strip

The comedians also conquered other media. They recorded seven comedy records and a handful novelty songs, of which the carnival song parody 'Stoont Als Een Garnaal' ('Stoned As A Shrimp', 1975) is the most famous. The songs were usually performed and sang by De Bie, since he had a better singing voice. The duo also published books, as well as an annual calendar, 'De Bescheurkalender'. This tear-off calendar contained jokes for every day of the year. The gentlemen managed to come up with a new edition every year between 1972 and 1986. Most of the covers of these books, records, calendars and DVDs were designed by Piet Schreuders. In one of Koot and Bie's calendars editions, De Bie made a humble attempt at drawing comics. Far from being a skilled draughtsman he had no intention or pretense to actually become a professional artist. He merely wanted to satirize the comics industry.

In the calendar edition of 1981 "Bie" wrote to "Koot" that he had developed a comics character, who could continue its adventures for 35 calendars to come. He also wrote that he had grown up reading text comics like 'Kapitein Rob' (by Pieter Kuhn), 'Tekko Taks' (by Henk Kabos) and 'Ketelbinkie' (by Wim Meuldijk), but didn't feel much affection towards popular comic series like Hergé's 'Tintin' and Morris' 'Lucky Luke'. What followed was a series of 11 daily panels with merely text balloons, in which the main character didn't dare to show itself. These panels were all signed "IEB". De Bie's drawing skills reappeared in the 1983 editon of the calendar, in which he brought the column of media sociologist 'Prof. Dr. Joseph Ischias' in comics format (this time signed "Weedebee"). These episodes were made in the same naïve and non-pretentious style as writer Remco Campert's late 1970s cartoons.

Prof Dr. Joseph Ischias by Bie
Prof. Dr. Joseph Ischias (1983)

Another showcase of De Bie's disdain of comics could be seen in a 1984 episode of their TV show. Here, De Bie played comics artist Hubert Jegemans, a.k.a. Hujé. "Hujé" was portrayed as the author of works like 'Carnaval der Ontzielden' ('Carnival of the Soulless', actually a title of an 'Archie Cash' book by Malik) and 'De Blanke Neger' ('The White Negro', actually a 'Blondin et Cirage' title by Jijé), who defends the racism, violence and sex in his work. As the interview progresses the perverted artist with the Belgian accent starts drooling over his sick fantasies. Despite being a one-time character, he also appeared in the Van Kooten & De Bie compilation photo book 'Ons Kent Ons' (1993).

Wim de Bie as Hujé
Wim de Bie as comic artist Hujé (7 March 1984)

After collaborating with Van Kooten for 34 years, De Bie pursued a solo career on VPRO television, and in a couple of programs with Annet Malherbe. However, his unique chemistry with Kees van Kooten was sorely missed. De Bie did have a feel for new technology though, and was one of the first in the Netherlands to maintain a weblog, called Bieslog, from 2001 to 2008. He served as the National Mental Coach in 2010 and still gives his view on current affairs through his Twitter account.

Wim de Bie attended Gallery Lambiek in March 2012 to present the book 'Colonel Baxter's Dutch Safari' to British cartoonist Glen Baxter, whom he greatly admires.

Bie and Glen Baxter
Glen Baxter and Wim de Bie at Gallery Lambiek on 23 March 2012

www.kootenbie.nl

Wim de Bie in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

Series and books by Wim de Bie in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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