Feb 13 2011

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no escaping… becoming Parisian!

With friends in town who are Francophile but NOT Francophone, where can one take them for a night out? After a little googling, I discovered Olivier Giraud’s one-man show ‘How to become Parisian in one hour’. Even better, the event was at a little theatre about a five-minute walk from my apartment in the twelfth, Theatre de la main d’or, right across the road from Metro Ledru Rollin.

One can learn a lot about a culture from its humour. Think of Little Britain, or The Office (UK) or, in Australia, Kath and Kim, or Summer Heights High. But humour is often the hardest thing to ‘get’ in another language as it’s so idiomatic. So when French humour, directed against the French, is delivered in English, it’s not to be missed.

But first, fast-forward to the end of the show when Olivier Giraud explained that when he had had the original idea—stand-up comedy about the Parisians, delivered in English—theatre managers in Paris thought he was crazy. Finally he persuaded Theatre de la Main d’Or to put it on, and he’s been performing his show to 250 people several times a week for two years!

There is a cosy bar at the theatre and we arrived early and sat and eavesdropped, and were surprised to find that about 90% of the audience seemed to be local Parisians. We wondered if foreigners  were going to be dragged up on stage, and so decided to keep our heads down and pretend we were French.

Sure enough, not far into the show, Olivier asked if there were any non-French in the audience, and various people were only to happy to call out that they were from South America, Scandinavia, Rumania, USA, and so on. No one called out ‘Australia’, and although I wanted to, my son gave me a stern look, so I didn’t dare.

It was just as well, as ‘volunteers’ were called up and taught to ‘dance like a Parisian’, or ‘kiss on both cheeks’ etc, but it was all done quite gently and the volunteers seemed to be extroverted types who were enjoying themselves.

American tourists were certainly lampooned, but so too were French people. One of the main points was that American tourists smile a lot and think everything in Paris is just magnificent, but often don’t bother to learn any French. Olivier taught us to pout and look haughty, shrug and yell ‘putain’ a lot.

There were sections that were definitely NOT for children, about which he did warn us, and one woman who had brought her two children quickly left. But I was there with my son and daughter in law, and am old enough to be a grandmother, and I wasn’t embarrassed!  In fact a lot of the time I laughed till it hurt.

At the end Olivier said he plans to take his show to other countries including the USA, but I’m not sure it would have the same resonance that it has in Paris. If he does go elsewhere, though, I hope he comes to Australia, where I’m certain we have the highest per capita number of Francophiles in the world.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.escapetoparis.com/2011/02/no-escaping%e2%80%a6-becoming-parisian/


  1. Patrick Rech

    This play is indeed really funny!

  2. Paris in Pink

    I like this concept for a show! Will definitely check it out. Merci :)

    Camille @ Paris in Pink

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