By Lupita Peimbert.
Back from the theater, I closely observe Parisians on the Metro train. Long, sad-looking faces. Some passengers appear fatigued. The handsome guy seating in front of me looks depressed, and so the beautiful woman next to him. Further back I see a young man focusing on one single point, eyes wide open. Oh là là, the Parisian demeanor!, just like comedian Olivier Giraud describes during his solo show!
I am amused and laugh discreetly, unlike my laughing outbursts during the How to Become Parisian in One Hour? performance by Giraud at Theatre des Nouveautes in the 9th arrondissement. Olivier makes fun of certain arrogant attitudes shown by some Parisians towards tourists and expats. He equally mocks certain behaviors exhibited by visitors and temporary residents, especially those from the United States, the stereotypical “Oh my Goood!” by smiley Americans.
From French kissing to taking a taxi, getting on the Metro, interacting with waiters at the brasseries, having sex with a local, mispronouncing a French word, and a lot more, How to Become Parisian in one hour? displays cultural nuances and people’s idiosyncrasy for which Parisians have a worldwide reputation –rightfully gained one might say.
Presented with ease, creativity, and comedic talent, Olivier Giraud accomplishes sustained collective laughing more or less for one hour. His highly interactive show is based on his experiences living in Paris and in the United States.
A Bordeaux native, Giraud first studied and lived in Paris, then he moved to Palm Beach, Florida, to work in the restaurant and hospitality industry. “When I moved to the United States I did not know English; I had to learn it and absorb the culture,” Giraud told us after the show. “After a while I noticed that Americans smile a lot but sometimes it is not real. You seem to have a lot of friends but they are not necessarily true friends.”
Parisians, in his opinion, tend to be rude and proud of it. Yet “they are more honest and tell you when they don’t like you, but if you become friends, it would be a true friendship, for life.”
Yet, Giraud isn’t oblivious to certain realities in Paris, an intense city as beautiful as stressful. The nicer a visitor acts, the ruder a Parisian may react. “Don’t say ‘Bonjour’ because some people will be offended. Don’t ask questions nicely to the waiter and expect them be helpful” he says. Rolling your eyes and looking annoyed may work best, he teaches during the show.
At times vulgar and obscene, the Clichés and cursing may not be amusing for some. Some Parisians may feel unfairly criticized and so would some Americans and other foreigners. Nonetheless, I assure you, no one leaves the theatre without having laughed at something said by the comedian. The show is appropriate for general audiences, but best suited for teenagers and adults.
Interesting enough for a city and country proud and protective of the purity of language, the English-language show is well received. The audience usually is composed of both French people, Parisians included, and foreigners.
It wasn’t easy for Giraud to convince producers. “You want your show in English on my stage?” annoyed producers told him, in a typical Parisian tone of voice, gestures, and accompanied by a “puff.”
In 2009, almost ready to give up, Giraud instead formed his company French Arrogance Productions. Théâtre de la Main d’Or gave him a chance, and to the surprise of his critics and those who had ridiculed his idea, the show took off, in English, successfully wining French and foreign audiences, and becoming a valuable option in Parisian entertainment.
London is next, as Olivier performs monthly at Leicester Square Theatre starting on March 28. He would also like to perform in the United States. “San Francisco, Chicago, New York, I would like to perform there,” he told us candidly.
Making people laugh, enjoying the show himself and perhaps unaware of the educational nature of his performance, Olivier delivers one hour of multicultural training filled with fun and aha moments equally for tourists, expats, first-timers, the French from Provence and the true Parisians. People in the audience may realize “it happened to me!” and laugh about it. Clichés and stereotypes are clearly described as such and made fun of, while a counter-behavior is taught, so that one can become a true Parisian.
This is a must see for those visiting Paris this year. Laugh your way through Paris. Instead of becoming prey to difficult people, become a Parisian in one hour!
How to Become Parisian in One Hour! Theatre des Nouveautes, 24 Blvd. Poissonniere, 75009 Paris.
Metro : Grands Boulevards.
2013 Season: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays @ 7PM, Sundays at 6PM.
2015 Season: Shows are at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, and 8:30pm. Days vary from month to month.Check the theater’s listings for specific days and tickets.]