Learning to Be French Through Comedy !
THE NEW YORK TIMES
PARIS | Do you yearn to master the exotic urban rituals of “la vie Parisienne ?” The young French comic Olivier Giraud offers his services with a one-hour stand-up show on Parisian customs, from pronouncing “Oh-la-la” with the proper intonation to bonding with an imperious waiter.
The 31-year-old Giraud, a former waiter, chef and hotel manager who has lived in Paris and Palm Beach, has plumbed his own life’s experiences to create his one-man show, “How to Become Parisian in One Hour,”
On a bare, dark stage, Giraud first emerges as a classic French cliché — a peasant in red beret and blue overalls who disperses packages of Camembert cheese to startled audience members. He then disappears, only to reemerge as yet another Gallic stereotype, dressed entirely in black with his hair jelled stiff in techno style.
In eight, rapid-fire lessons, Giraud teaches his “students” the finer points of fitting in : strike the proper depressed demeanor on the Paris Metro ; toss hair, L’Óreal style, and giggle hysterically to gain entrance into swank nightclubs ; deliver French air kisses on cheeks with the smacking sound of calling a cat home.
“It’s two in Paris,” Giraud advises spectators on kissing techniques. “Four in the south of France. Why ? Because they have nothing more to do.”
Many small Paris theaters scorned Giraud’s idea of doing the show in English, he said. But he was convinced that there was demand because so many of his English-speaking friends complained there was nothing for them to see at night except touristy shows.
Finally, the intimate Theatre de la Main Dór, which specializes in edgier fare, gave him a chance. After the first shows debuted in May the comic discovered a shocking fact : Parisians themselves were coming to learn and laugh at themselves in English.
“I wasn’t expecting the Parisians at all,” Giraud said. “Really, I thought it was going to be full of people from America or England. It’s very funny to see the mix.”
Audience interaction is a big part of the show and Giraud keeps fine-tuning the lessons. One item he plans to add : how to drive like a Frenchman.
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