Stand-up comedy acts seem to be the Next Big Thing in Paris, but although I speak French, the one thing I have found does not translate is humour.
Foreigners abroad will easily understand the tumbleweed moment after a joke, followed by the lengthy explanation (tedious for both parties), whilst everyone else is rolling around on the floor in hysterics, wiping spluttered coffee from shirts. It should be a law: DO NOT EXPLAIN JOKES. Especially not to foreigners who are still unlikely to ‘get it’ afterwards.
So it was with a certain skepticism that I arrived at Le Gaité, Montparnasse, having been offered two tickets by a friend of a friend to watch a French stand-up comedian . In all honesty, I foresaw an excruciating hour and a half of forced laughter and sore cheekbones, kept in the dark by the invisible fortress of foreignness that surrounds me at all times. I was uncomfortable, to say the least, and this was only intensified by being welcomed in by a cloaked woman with a cat on a lead…on her shoulder*.
I silently ate my unspoken words. Jean-Luc Lemoine, a well-known critic and radio presenter, seems to have a sense of humour that wobbles from one side of the channel to the other. He did not stick entirely to French cultural anecdotes, but spoke generally; topics that I was relieved not only to understand but to find funny. The hour and a half whisked by, and I actually had a really good time, having forgotten how good it feels just to laugh and laugh.
I’d really like to recommend people to go and see this spectacle. If not Jean-Luc, you don’t have to search too hard to find more one-man-shows popping up in all the smaller theatres in Paris. While it might be a struggle at times, humour also gives a huge insight into culture: telling history, habits, stereotypes and opinions…as well as giving an outline of what is considered ok to laugh about. Believe me, there are huge differences.
*I have to add here that this woman was actually the (family) friend of the (boy)friend…and the owner of the theatre. I only hope my “YOUR ANIMAL IS NEITHER A DOG NOR A BIRD“ instinctive thought was not transferred to my facial expression….which is doubtful.