How to Become Parisian in One Hour ?, a rare English-language theatrical event in the City of Light, was cooked up by a Frenchman who was once a restaurant manager at a Florida resort. His dream of writing and starring in a show has become a Paris reality.

It’s a long way from managing a restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida, to having a successful one-man comedy show — in English — in Paris, but Olivier Giraud has made that journey.

Giraud’s show, How to Become Parisian in One Hour ?, has been playing in Paris for two and a half years and, the comedian says, has been seen by about 80,000 people — many of them Parisians. It plays at an Off-Broadway-like 235-seat venue, the Théâtre de la Main d’Or, down a cobblestone passageway in the 11th arrondissement, near the Bastille. He performs five times a week, and the success has been such that negotiations are under way to move the show early next year to a larger, 600-seat theatre.

« I lived in America for five years, » Giraud, who is 33 and looks quintessentially French, says before the show, sitting in a café just around the corner from the theatre. He speaks English with a heavy, but completely understandable, French accent. « I managed the restaurant L’Escalier at the Breakers resort. I had many American guests, and some Parisians, and I would laugh about all the differences between the French and the Americans, and I thought that when the Americans went to Paris it must be a nightmare. From the time I was very young I had dreamed about being a comic, so I decided to write a show about how Americans have to act in Paris to have a good vacation — how to act like a Parisian.“

He knew immediately that the way to convey those lessons would be through humor. « It’s the best way to attract more people — get them to laugh a lot. Even the French like to laugh about themselves. So I thought I would try it. » And in order to get American tourists to come for the « lessons, » he says, « I thought I would try it in English. »

PLAYBILL | By Mervyn Rothstein | October 23, 2011

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