The Life and Legacy of Paul van Vliet

Paul van Vliet

This article was last updated on April 26, 2023

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The Life and Legacy of Paul van Vliet


Paul van Vliet, one of the founding fathers of the Dutch cabaret world, passed away on Tuesday. He left behind an enormous oeuvre and a legacy that will never be forgotten. Van Vliet was not only an accomplished comedian but an inspiration to many, and his contributions to the theater, as well as his humanitarian work for UNICEF, are invaluable.

Early Life and Career

Van Vliet was born in The Hague in 1935. During his law studies at the University of Leiden, he founded the Leidsch Studenten Cabaret, which toured North and South America in the 1950s and 1960s. His first wife, Liselore Gerritsen, was also part of the group.

Cabaret PePijn

In 1964, after his studies, Van Vliet started his own cabaret company called Cabaret PePijn with his friend and colleague Ferd Hugas. The duo found an empty warehouse in the center of The Hague, which they renovated to create a small theater with 100 seats. Cabaret PePijn quickly became popular, and Van Vliet himself became a household name, even performing for the royal family.

Mentorship and Legacy

Van Vliet disbanded Cabaret PePijn in 1971 but remained involved in the theater as a mentor to young talents. He helped shape the careers of famous Dutch comedians such as Youp van ‘t Hek, Herman Finkers, and Jochem Myjer. In 2015, Van Vliet founded his own academy to continue his mentorship legacy.

Famous Sayings, Awards, and UNICEF Ambassadorship

Van Vliet was known for his many characters, including Major Kees, Benny from The Hague, and De Boer. Several of his famous statements, including the popular one from his song “Girls of Thirteen,” were included in the Dikke Van Dale.

He won numerous awards and prizes, including a Golden Harp, an Edison, and several Culture Prizes. Van Vliet was also a knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion. His work as a UNICEF ambassador led to the creation of the Paul van Vliet Award, given to organizations working for the welfare of children in the Netherlands.

Retirement and Legacy

Van Vliet battled health problems in the early 1990s when doctors discovered a malignant tumor in his kidney. That kidney was removed, and he later battled depression in 2007. After his recovery, he continued to perform until his retirement in 2017. In 2021, he released a book called Homewee to Tomorrow, in which he shares anecdotes about his life and career.

Van Vliet’s legacy is immense, and his contributions to the Dutch cabaret world, the theater, and his humanitarian work will never be forgotten.

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