With Bisoubye X, the British-Irish comedian performs his latest bilingual French-English show. In this interview he says goodbye, praises our complaining side, but condemns our side that doesn’t care about the rules.
You’re English, but you speak French very well – or almost. Why a bilingual program?
Seven years ago, when I started my first show, I had the idea of doing it entirely in English or entirely in French. As the writing progressed and what I did on the smaller stages in Paris, I realized that certain jokes or anecdotes worked when you understood both a little bit. I told myself that I should try to see what a bilingual program would be like.
Since you’re trilingual, why not add Spanish?
(Laughs). There are moments in the show where I tell some of the events that happened in Spain. But bilingualism already narrows the audience a bit, and if I were to add Spanish, there would be twelve people in the room.
Your latest show is called “Bisoubye X”. You say goodbye to something. Was it inspired by Brexit?
(Laughs) We said goodbye to Europe. We bid farewell to the Queen. I gave up alcohol last year, so goodbye. I also say goodbye to the concept of bilingual programs. This is the last one. I will conduct programs in English from now on.
Are you truly saddened by the Queen’s death?
It was different. I talk a little bit about this on the show. It’s a feeling I don’t understand. Before this, like the majority of Englishmen, I cared little for the Queen. But there was something deeper, like an existential crisis was coming. Explaining to the French is complicated because you killed your royal family. It’s part of your culture. So I struggled to express this emotion to my French friends.
In your show you talk about your daughter not being obsessed with English. Is this really true? Is bilingualism an option?
Yes. That’s why I work hard to make her speak English. I have seen the benefit of speaking another language in my personal and professional life. But it is a long process. I don’t mind too much, but sometimes she does funny little things to me, adding English words to her French sentences.
You’ve been in France for a while now, and in your opinion, do the French make more of an effort to speak and understand English well?
I’m not sure, but I imagine with social networks, then Netflix and company. We don’t wait a year for our favorite series to come out in French Friends For example, we see it in a subtitled version with the original language. The younger we are exposed to a British or American accent, the more ready our brains are to reproduce that accent. For example, in Portugal, the level of English is 1,000 times better than in France, but there is no dubbing, so they use the English language.
In your television productions, you dispel clichés related to different cultures. Does it continue?
Little. I have had a multicultural life. I traveled a lot when I was young, so I can rely on stereotypes (true or false) about different cultures. There will always be a place for that in my show.
What do you like most about French culture?
That’s the annoying part. We in the UK complain too, but that’s intentional. We keep it to ourselves. You call it “British phlegm”. If you have a problem, report it. I love this feature, we go to the streets to change things. Lamenting with friends at the pub.
What do you miss about British culture?
Respect for rules. In France, on the street, there is a pedestrian crossing, and the driver does not care. Then the French on the trains, it was unbearable. They never put themselves in a reserved position. But it is written on the ticket. You sit down, you booked it because you want the hallway, not the window, but it doesn’t work. The person tells you “Yes, but there is someone in my place”. It’s the little things, but after the fiftieth time, it gets annoying. In England, we respect the rules a little more. In France, there are also rules, but we don’t follow them, it was never allowed. So we tell ourselves it’s okay. Leaving our homes in France, everyone agrees that pedestrians hate cars, cars hate bikes, bikes hate pedestrians, and they hate truck drivers. (Laughs).
Isn’t that true in other countries?
In England, pedestrian crossings are sacred. In the Netherlands, cycle lanes are mandatory. In England, people all agree, “We’re all in trouble together, let’s try to make each other’s lives better”, so we are very kind on the street. In France, especially in Paris, we say to ourselves “Every man for himself”.
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