No offense to John Oliver, who was absolutely hilarious when I saw him perform his comedy routine at DC Improv. A lot of his jokes poked fun at what it’s like to be a brit (read foreigner) in the United States. A lot of it rang very true. But I’m French, and I think it really takes a French comedian to relate to an audience full of French (and a few Swiss, Senegalese, Algerian, Moroccan, Quebecois…) people to get Gad Elmaleh’s jokes last night. And not just because he performed entirely in French… I do feel bad for the one audience member (her name was Cathy) who didn’t speak a word of French. She probably didn’t think the show was that funny. But everyone else did. Gad’s jokes about eating at restaurants in the United States, where waitresses ask you if you’re still working on your plate (eating is *never* considered work in France) and freeze you to death with air conditioning then serve you water with ice cubes just rang very true. And I’m sure it goes both ways. I *know* Americans joke slash complain about our lack of air conditioning and our serving of luke warm water.
French Comedian Gad Elmaleh Performing at the Birchmere on Sept. 16th, 2013
Gad Elmaleh was able to laugh not at, but with, American, French and Moroccan people. Somehow, he holds a lot of passports (Canada, France and Morocco) and his jokes about going through immigration and customs at US airports made me laugh the hardest. Because I’ve been there. I’ve been “randomly” selected for “random” bag checks every single time I’ve flown on planes and asked lots of intrusive questions by border officers (“what brings you to the United States, m’am?” “well, you know… the fact that I live and pay taxes here…”) He also made fun of the French a lot… our terrible customer service for example sounded even more fun when compared to the over zealous American store employee… he praised the efficiency of New York cab drivers (you raise your hands, a cab stops to pick you know). Anyone who’s ever tried to hail a cab in Paris knows that it doesn’t quite works that way… But the french are nothing if self deprecating, and he made us laugh with not at ourselves while also making us feel like he could relate to our expat experience here. He joked, stopping short of calling us exiles fiscaux like others in our government would, about how we all left France, leaving him, who dreamt as a moroccan kid to move to France to live among the french people, only to find that now all the Frenchies are gone and he’s left with all the moroccans, tunisians and algerians… He joked about how we all got a little flyer announcing Carla Bruni’s upcoming concert in April… in short, he made us laugh, in French… and I’m so happy Gad Elmaleh came back to DC for a couple more shows after his sold out performances last April. He also mentioned how he would call his pal and fellow French comedian Jamel Debbouze and tell him to come perform in Washington. I really hope he does. When French artists go on tour in North America, they typically make three stops: Montreal, New York and Los Angeles. Washington has one of the largest French community in the United States and no one ever comes to see us 😦
ps: no clue who Gad Elmaleh is? You may recognize him from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris where he played Détective Tisserant. You can also rent some of the French films he’s been in on netflix, like “The Valet” or “Priceless.” Finally, you should check out Jerry Seinfeld’s hilarous Comedians in Car Getting Coffee’s “No Lipstick For Nuns” video. Now that’s fun stuff…