Laughter in France

Laughter in France

Laughter is the best medicine.
Reflections on laughter in France, the land of La Vache qui rit!

laughter in France
Première-affiche-par-B.Rabier,-1924,-Maison-de-la-Vache-qui-Rit.-©-MVQR

The city of Bordeaux seems to be the center of laughter in France

One might say Bordeaux likes to laugh more than elsewhere in France. The city is host to the Festival Les Fous Rires de Bordeaux 14-21 March 2020 http://lesfousriresdebordeaux.fr/ and just concluded the exhibition “Rire!” at their science and nature Muséum. But Bordeaux doesn’t own the market there are many other spots are also holding festivals in 2020, for some funny reason most are in March!

A collection of quotes about gallic humor

This article, originally published in Loofe: Light and Lively Observations On France Extraordinaire, offers a collection of quotes about gallic humor by various authors followed by another cluster, this one of memorable zingers from noted French humorists.

One of the answers to the question “What makes a Frenchman laugh?” is his fellow-countrymen. The French find themselves even more funny than foreigners do. But France is composed of a large number of small republics at war with each other, using laughter of different kinds as weaponry. The foreigner first begins to feel at home in France when he can identify with one of the temperaments that give these small republics their cohesion, and with one of the battles that they get so much fun out of waging.

Theodore Zeldin “The French”

One of the failings of the French society today is the tyranny of the little snickering laughter (la tyrannie du ricanement).

Frédéric Beigbeder “L’homme qui pleure de rire”

Very few French people have the ability to burst out laughing… A French person laughing typically resembles a person smiling while having a short outbreak of hiccups… Consequently, many foreigners view the French as cold. But the truth is, they are simply well trained.

Olivier Magny “What the French”

There are ways to express your joy in life; However don’t guffaw, don’t burst out laughing, don’t laugh loudly in society, in a restaurant, in the street.

Ghislaine Andreani “Guide du Nouveau Savoir -Vivre”

(…) il se mit à rire à gorge déployée comme si nous avions été seuls dans un salon.

Marcel Proust “À la recherche du temps perdu – Le temps retrouvé”, 1927

Spoonerisms (les contrepèteries) in France are considered one of the Beaux-Arts.

Joël Martin “Manuel de Contrepet”

Reminder : A spoonerism is a lapsus linguae in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase. These are named after the Oxford ordained minister William Archibald Spooner, who reputedly did this. An example is saying «A well-boiled icicle» instead of «a well-oiled bicycle». While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue, and getting one’s words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words. Now that you understand spoonerisms move on to French contrepèteries. (Warning many are rather saucy.) A couple of examples to get the ball rolling: Glissons dans la piscine… Avez-vous entendu parler de la chronique des mille-pattes? And a well-known one from Rabelais — Elle est folle de la messe.

If the pun is so present, it’s because it is related to the sound of our language. French is extremely rich in terms of homophones.

Laurent Gaulet

The French aren’t known for being hilarious. When I told Parisians I was interested in French humor, they’d say ‘French what?’ (humour is hard to pronounce; try saying eww-moour). Then they’d ask, ‘Does that exist?’ They were joking, of course.

Pamela Druckerman
laughter in France

How to sound like funny François or hillarious Héloïse?

Learn a few of these well-known quips from famous French humorists and sprinkle them generously into your tricolor conversations. Eww-moour guaranteed.

  • Pierre Dac 1893 – 1975
    • Souffrant d’insomnie, j’échangerais un matelas de plumes contre un sommeil de plomb.
    • C’est fatigant de voir les autres se reposer.
  • Coluche 1944-1986:
    • Je suis capable du meilleur et du pire. Mais, dans le pire, c’est moi le meilleur.
    • La victoire est brillante, l’échec est mat!
  • Athée pieds. Voilà ma religion. Elie Semoun
  • Leonardo Di caprio c’est l’anagramme de Blanche Gardin…. Ah non, pas du tout. Par contre «Carpe Diem» c’est l’anagramme de «ça déprime» Blanche Gardin
  • Moi je suis jamais pompette je suis toujours bourrée! Florence Foresti
  • J’adore vieillir. Pour rien au monde, je ne voudrais revenir en arrière. C’est tellement mieux, on est moins con… Muriel Robin
  • En banlieue, soit tu a la force soit tu as la tchache. Jamel Debbouze
  • Internet. On ne sait pas ce qu’on y cherche mais on trouve tout ce qu’on ne cherche pas. Anne Roumanoff
  • L’imaginaire met des robes longues à nos idées courtes. Sim 1926 – 2009
  • Laurent Baffie, 500 questions que personne ne se pose
    • Une éphémère peut-elle procrastiner ?
    • Y a-t-il des ours bipolaires?
    • Doit-on donner du pain perdu à un enfant trouvé?
  • Qui prête à rire n’est jamais sûr d’être remboursé. Raymond Devos 1922 – 2006

Laughter in France on the Champs-Elysées

Be sure to take a stroll on the Champs-Elysées in April, May or June 2020 to encounter another star of laughter in France Le Chat! This fat, ironic, snarky cat who is a comic will become a set of 20 monumental (3 meters tall) sculptures in the exhibition Le Chat Démabule. I think it will be a bit like the Botero exhibit in 1992 and the Chats Botero-esque in their form. His “father” Philippe Geluck is a household name in France and puts out a new album of mostly single panels comics at least once a year. Le Chat comics are hysterical word play that’ll give your French a test and a weird, sometimes catty, view of the world. The latest album is “La Rumba du chat”.

Y a de la rumba dans l’air… En ces temps où la danse revient en force, Le Chat a mis toutes les siennes dans un vingt-deuxième album au rythme endiablé. Fidèle à lui-même et au sommet de sa force comique, le félin préféré du public s’en donne à cœur joie : dessins insolents, humour absurde, gravures détournées et planches à l’inexorable logique s’enchaînent, provoquant l’hilarité générale. Une fois de plus, Geluck se surpasse et nous enchante, nous interroge et nous surprend par l’extraordinaire renouvellement de ses trouvailles. Bravo Geluck et merci Le Chat. Editions Casterman

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