Think the French aren’t funny? These five comedians may change your mind

Think the French aren't funny? Blogger Sacha Aulagnier takes a look at the country's thriving comedy scene in an attempt to bust that myth.

Think the French aren't funny? These five comedians may change your mind
Photo: AFP

Like a lot of things, the French sense of humour is quite culturally specific, it can leave many Anglophones generally baffled and has led to the French being labelled as rather humourless (although they disagree – a recent survey showed that seven out of 10 French people think they are funny.)

But an increasing number of French comics are crossing over – either by performing routines in English or releasing subtitled performances.

See if these five French comedians can convince you that the French are, in fact, pretty funny.

1. Gad Elmaleh

This comedian is probably the most famous humorist in France. Born in Morocco with dual French and Moroccan nationality, he became famous thanks to his stand up comedy shows where he displays his talent for dancing (he is influenced by his dad, a mime artist and Michael Jackson).

In L’autre c’est moi he explained how the French learn English at school with the famous question “ Where is Brian?”. To me, this stand up was his best routine, and many French people make reference to it.

He also performs in America (in English) and Canada and has had regular appearances on late night TV shows in the US. Eagle-eyed film fans may also remember his cameo appearance in Midnight in Paris.

2. Haroun

Not as big a star as Gad Elmaleh, but he is on his way. He became famous online thanks to a very well done video montage in 2016 of spoof interviews, including one with the French far right politician Marine Le Pen and one with Donald Trump.

He loves to tease every religion in France (and prefers not to say his origins in the interviews for this reason.) 

Most of his shows are about the daily living and loves to talk about controversial subjects including weapons, sexual harrassment and the nuclear bomb.

3. Blanche Gardin

Blanche started her career at the Jamel Comedy Club (the TV show created by French humourist Jamel Debbouze to promote new comedians) and has since had an extensive career in stand-up and TV.

She is influenced by the controversial American humorist Louis C.K, whom she has dated.

With a dark view on life, she has referenced in her routines that she ran away from home at the age of 17, and later spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

Much of her work is available on Netflix France.


4. Florence Foresti

Less complex than Blanche Gradin, Florence has a similar sense of humour to Gad Elmaleh. She uses her everyday observations about her life, job, relationships and her kids for her stand-up. Born in Lyon, she became famous on the TV show On a Tout Essayé with the host Laurent Ruquier.

Recent routines have included I Don't Like Men, The Day After the Party and The Aircraft of Barbie and are in Florence Foresti Fait des Sketches. Her routine Foresti Party is available on Netflix France.

5. Keyvan Khojandi

Keyvan Khojandi began his career by writing and starring in the TV show Bref in 2011. The show – about a lonely Parisian's increasingly desperate attempts to find love – was a huge success all over France and is widely known across the country (and all episodes are now available on YouTube). 

I hope you enjoy discovering these French artists and now you like French humour!

Sacha Aulangier blogs in English about life in France and aspects of the French culture and language. His blog – French Iceberg – can be found here.

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How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.