When I used to live in England, I came across an hilarious video of an English comedian on learning French (it’s a classic for a lot of people – “le chat est sur la chaise, le singe est sur la branche” – see video here.). Not only I loved the sense of humour but I was also impressed by his level of French as I had never really heard any English person who could speak excellent French at the time (I have now met many of them, some are regular FUSAC readers!). That man was Eddie Izzard, an English stand-up comedian, whom I found out spent time in France and was incredibly interested in my native language. He really insisted on speaking at an excellent level and I was fascinated as I wanted to do the same with my English. Eddie Izzard is a man who loves a challenge. Not only he learnt French and started doing some shows in French here and there but he has just finished a whole tour in France in French. For Eddie, humour is universal, only references are not. Therefore, by changing his references and keeping his style, he could easily please the French crowd.
We were lucky enough to go and see him play at Le Casino de Paris. Of course, not all the crowd was French. Everyone was there for different reasons. Some were indeed French but with English friends or in a relationship with an English person, some were English people living in France, some were French people who love English culture and adore Mr Izzard’s surreal sense of humour, directly inspired from Monty Python. It’s the same variety of people who read FUSAC!
The show Force Majeure is about history tackled in a very absurd way, bien sur. Eddie Izzard kept the audience in stitches for an hour and a half. My personal favorite moment was the mention of the death of Julius Caesar and how that led to the creation of the Caesar salad. Hilarious. I also loved all the little side jokes about French language. You could tell that all the expats could relate when he mentioned masculine / feminine and French people could only agree that it’s crazy. Not only everyone laughed but everyone was also impressed as the challenge of doing stand-up in French was a complete success. Of course, he makes tiny mistakes and sometimes a word is mispronounced but no matter how good your language skills are, it’s almost impossible not to make mistakes, let alone manage to make everyone laugh in another language. It’s impossible not to admire how brave he is and it shows that if you want to speak a new language you have to be daring and speak as much as possible and not hide because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Eddie Izzard manages to be himself no matter what the language he speaks and brings his sense of humour to a very large audience. Indeed, the show has been performed in 28 countries, in several languages – from Moscow to the Hollywood Bowl – and now Eddie is heading back home in London for a four week residency at The Palace Theatre in London’s West End. While he was in France, he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us! The interview was made in French!
1) Bonjour Eddie, est-ce que vous connaissez le magazine FUSAC pour les expatriés anglo-saxons à Paris ? Hi
Eddie, do you know FUSAC magazine dedicated to the English speaking community in Paris ?
Non, pas avant, mais maintenant, oui! No I didn’t but now I do!
2) Votre français est incroyable ! Ou et comment avez-vous appris le français ? Qu’est ce qui vous a initalement donné envie d’apprendre cette langue ? Your French is incredible. Where and how did you learn French ? What were your initial reasons for wanting to learn the language?
Pendant 8 ans à l’école et après ça j’ai fait beaucoup d’efforts pour parler avec des Français, dans les restos, les bars, le métro et sur le pont d’Avignon. J’ai voulu apprendre le français pendant mon adolescence parce que j’ai cru que ça serait fun, positif et une belle aventure. Et j’avais raison. I learnt French for 8 years at school and after that, I made a lot of efforts to speak with French people, in restaurants, in bars, on the metro and on le pont d’Avignon. I wanted to learn French when I was a teenager because I thought it would be fun, positive and a beautiful adventure. And I was right.
3) Connaissez-vous d’autres langues ? Do you know other languages ?
Oui, mon niveau d’allemand est à 40 pour cent formidable, mon niveau de français est à 70 pour cent
formidable. Et je viens de commencer à apprendre l’espagnol. Yes, my level of German is 40 per cent amazing, my level of French is 70 per cent amazing. And I’ve just started learning Spanish.
4) Les gens qui apprennent une nouvelle langue manquent souvent de confiance en eux et ont peur de faire des erreurs, quel conseil pourriez vous leur donner ? Most people who learn a new language lack confidence and are afraid of making mistakes. What piece of advice could you give them ?
Faisez des fautes parce que ça peut être mignant. (blague). Mais essayez de parler autant que possible. Make mistakes because it can be cute (joke). But try and speak as much as possible.
5) Avez-vous déjà eu un moment embarrassant d’incompréhension en français ? Have you ever had an
embarrassing misunderstanding in French ?
J’étais sur scène à Lyon et j’ai voulu dire au public que j’avais un but (= focus), mais je ne savais pas le mot
français; donc j’ai utilisé la vieille technique anglaise consistant à dire le mot anglais avec un accent français – et j’ai dit: “J’ai un faukus.” Et après le show mon ami Yacine m’a expliqué qu’en fait le public a entendu: “J’ai un faux cul!” I was on stage in Lyon and I wanted to tell the audience that I had a focus (=but in French), but I did not know the French word so I used the good old English technique of saying the English word with a French accent and I said :”J’ai un faukus / I have a focus (pronounced without the s at the end). And after the show, my friend Yacine explained to me that the audience heard “J’ai un faux cul!” / “I have a fake ass”!!
6) Quel est la différence entre ce spectacle et le spectacle Stripped en français ? What is the difference between your new show and Stripped in French ?
Tous les mots sont différents mais le sens de l’humour n’a pas changé du tout. All the words are different but the sense of humour hasn’t changed at all.
7) Est-ce que votre public en France est différent de celui que vous avez en Angleterre ou aux USA ? Est-ce qu’il est plus ou moins réceptif ? Is the audience in France different from the one in the UK or US ? Do you find it
more or less receptive ?
Si le public comprend mon style d’humour (surréaliste) la réception est exactement la même. If the audience gets my humour syle (surreal) then the reception is exactly the same.
8) Quel est votre ville préférée en France ? What’s your favorite city in France ?
Châlons en Champagne.
9) Quel est votre comique français préféré ? Who is your favorite French comedian ?
10) Qui incarne la France pour vous ? Who incarnates France for you?
11) Quelle est votre expression française préférée ? What is your favorite French expression ?
C’est ouf! It’s crazy ! (C’est ouf means C’est fou in Verlan – a form of French slang that consists of playing around with syllables, kind of along the same lines as pig Latin. Very used by young people!)
12) Quel est votre prochain challenge ? What’s your next challenge ?
C’est d’écrire un show en espagnol et puis de faire une tournée en Espagne, aux Etats-Unis, et en Amérique du Sud. It’s to write a show in Spanish and then make a tour in Spain, in the US and in South America.