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are about to enter a new calendar, I find it interesting to look at the small and big events that marked the year 2013. There is no doubt that the death and burial of Madiba will be remembered as the international event by excellence. As Mandela’s life proves it, it very often takes years of struggling, suffering injustices and isolation for ordinary citizens to become icons. For the English speaking world eager to better understand French culture and socio-economic issues, I would also like to focus on a character of lesser notoriety and fame than Madiba but all the more so important in France today; and I hope that you will understand why after reading this article. //
In times of political, financial, social, and cultural crisis, comics and humorists have always been praised in France. We all remember Guy Bedos in the seventies who started his career as a comic using humor to criticize the politicians, and personalities whose ideologies he despised. Using humor to fight and challenge racism was the main asset of the man a whole generation of youngsters would have liked to have as their dad. Thanks boss! For your career
and all the laughs and joys, you instilled in our lives. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C0rtLjhkXY>
In the eighties the French comic scene was marked with Michel Colucci, better known under the name of Coluche. Coluche’s humoristic style was mainly based on the depiction of the ordinary French citizen who appeared as a satisfied idiot manipulated by politicians and the ‘system,’ but questioning the society at the same time. The French clown of the eighties also reached a climax in his career when he became more politically and socially involved. He unsuccessfully run for the presidential elections in 1981, and created some few years later the Resto du Coeur organization, to feed the most deprived in the country. Michel Colucci accidently died in 1985 in a motorbike accident. Rumours have since been spread about the interest some politicians might have had in seeing him dead. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vVaWFw54ig>
If the greatness and success of Michel Colucci survived him many years after his death, it is important to underline that his success and influence as a comic within the French society has been surpassed in the last decade by the Franco-Cameroonian comic called Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala. Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala was born some 47 years ago from a Cameroonian father and a mother from the Brittany region in France.
His career as a humorist started in the 1990s with the famous duet he formed with Ely Semoune. In most of the sketches
they performed during these 10 years of collaboration, Dieudonné mostly played the role of the African, while his comic partner of Jewish decent played on his own cultural backgrounds. It was however after their split that Dieudonné started his solo career. He also began to be progressively more involved politically
and finally even became an uncontestable activist. Among the different characters he usually performs on stage, his caricature of Bokassa, the African, was the most famous and appreciated one until he started, of course, his caricature of the Zionist among others. It is important to underline that Dieudonné’s characters are of all ethnic backgrounds; this has become his trademark. It is, however, in December 2003, on a TV talk show that, according to the French “intelligentsia”, he breached the limit of what was politically correct, when in a sketch he mocked and denounced the Zionist policy of the state of Israel. If Dieudonné has since been boycotted by all media because of his numerous strong positions against Zionism and the West’s imperialism, he nevertheless remains the most selling humorist. Mr M’Bala M’bala, unlike most artists of his time, does not invest in expensive commercials to communicate about his shows. In Paris, he performs in the Théartre de la Main d’Or of which he is also a co-owner. Internet is by excellence the communication tool he favours apart from that of word of mouth. On his website, videos, T-shirts and all kind of artifacts can be bought in order to support him in his activism.
I have had the chance to go to all his shows since 2003; and to tell you the truth, never did I find the theatre not fully packed with crowds of all backgrounds. The Black, Blanc, Beurre France is well represented at the Theatre
de la Main d’Or when he performs. The price to come and laugh at his hilarious characters is around 30 euros, which in time of crisis and massive unemployment is relatively expensive; but it does not prevent those eager to laugh and ponder over the world and society that surround them. His audience is mainly composed of people in their thirties and early forties; most of whom work and are not economically and intellectually deprived. Following Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala’s sketches requires a minimum of knowledge and understanding about French social as well as international affairs.
The Molière of the 20th and 21st centuries who surpasses all other humorists is, at the dawn of the year 2014, making the front page of all French newspapers again. He was recently condemned for releasing a song that has as a title Shoah Ananas; a parody of a song by Annie Cordy in the 1970s-1980s that had as
a title Chaud Cacao. The French court judged Dieudonné’s song as an insult to the Jewish holocaust: the Shoah <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-XHADQgCOc>. In the 1980s Annie Cordy’s song from which Shoah Ananas is inspired showed in its video clip a minstrel show with white children painted in black and imitating black children <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x774wn_annie-cordy-chaud-cacao_music>. No one ever complained about it, and it was a huge success. This is what Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala grew up with. I also invite you to look at Michel Leeb, another humorist of eighties to understand how a whole generation was tamed and formatted through what they watched on French TV at the time. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsKt2DpDHRwhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsKt2DpDHRw>
Another artistic creation or trademark of Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala is the quenelle; one of the gestures he frequently performs on stage – it consists in holding one’s arm stretched downward while the other shows delimitation. It has been defined by his detractors as a new Nazi salute. Dieudonné who has registered the gesture as a trademark with the French National Property Institute has been claiming in vain that it is a gesture of insubordination against the system. He has even decided to sue in court those linking it to a Nazi salute. As he is once again very likely to win the case in court, French
interior minister Manuel Valls and President François Holland have decided to take a break in French serious political matters such as unemployment, declining living standard, in order to dedicate themselves to the Dieudonné Case. They are currently pondering and reflecting hard to issue a new law that could ban all Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala’s public meetings and performances. By attracting the attention of those whose duty it is to govern us and improve our living standards, Dieudonné does slide here the biggest quenelle ever. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBNAQMrNPro And I now ask myself: What if the clown, as he often calls himself, became the one at the origin of the down fall of this ineffective government?
Anyway, I leave you with the following link <http://www.rue89.com/2013/12/29/maman-est-haut-coupee-morceaux-sketch-canal-genocide-rwandais-passe-248656> which shows the only kind of sketch officially accepted and authorised in France by the media and politicians.
Enjoy your video!