ED2014 Comedy ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Week1 Edition

Marcel Lucont & Yacine Belhousse: Act To Act

By | Published on Saturday 9 August 2014

Marcel & Yacine

Paris-based stand-up Yacine Belhousse, who supported Eddie Izzard on a recent French tour, is in Edinburgh this month to perform an all-English show for the very first time. Though, of course, he’s not the only French comedian to make Edinburgh his summer home, oh no. A certain Marcel Lucont has been long flying the flag for La France in these parts for quite some time. So we asked Lucont to interview his fellow countryman as he headed towards the Festival City.

ML: Bienvenue Yacine. It must be as disappointing for you as it is for me that this interview must be conducted in a lesser language. What are your least favourite English words? For me, ‘hierarchical’ is up there. An old French word made even more difficult to pronounce in order for them to feel superior, appropriately enough.

YB: My least favourite English word is ‘papier mâché’, because when I say it properly with the French accent no-one understands . In French we say “PAAH- Pye-mash-ey”, but you already know that because you’re a compatriot. I love saying ‘thistle’ because it is hard for me to say it properly with my accent and I love challenges. My favourite is “flabbergasted”. I learned that from ‘Downtown Abbey’. What is your favourite French word?

ML: I do enjoy ‘pamplemousse’. I imagine to the deaf it may seem like a come-on. Certainly it is better than the English effort of ‘grapefruit’. We know it is a fruit, we know it is not a grape. Why name a thing by something it is, and something it is not? Anyway, will you be playing shows elsewhere in Britain after the Edinburgh Fringe? I can gladly give you a list of towns to avoid.

YB: Thank you very much! Which city is the English equivalent of Maubeuge?

ML: Ah, Maubeuge… Well, for another city whose architectural reshaping seems considerably worse than the Nazis’ own efforts, may I recommend Coventry?

YB: I am already very happy to perform at the Fringe and would be really proud to tour Britain too. But a question for you. I think that you have succeeded in the UK because you are very humble. But the French public campaign for your return each year; petitions go around. How about you answer their prayers and return to honour us with a show?

ML: Sure, I shall return in time. I go where I feel I am required, often where the culture is woefully lacking. Perhaps I will have time after my trip to Australia next year. But now another question for you. What is your opinion of deep-fried food?

YB: I strongly defend all the local food producers. Many small brands struggle in the market and I would like to see the European government make strong decisions to help the small companies of this variety of food. Or not.

ML: Perhaps I will ask you this again in three weeks time. Have you prepared methods – verbal or physical – for dealing with the often uncouth heckles of the British crowds?

YB: Heckling is based on a short sentence shouted loudly at the comedian in order to confuse or destabilise him. Right? My secret weapon is that I don’t understand English. So I am not destabilised. Though most of the English speaking audiences I have performed in front of have been so patient and so kind with me I feel very lucky and grateful.

ML: May I recommend ‘Late N Live’ to improve your English and Scottish colloquialisms? Perhaps bring a recording device, you may not fully take them in at the time. When dumbing down your show for the British audience, what was the part of it you regretted jettisoning the most?

YB: I have a sketch about people from French Quebec and I can’t talk about that because it is a language thing. You know, Quebec-French and France-French expressions.

ML: You must be truly disappointed that our show times clash, you 9.30pm and me 10pm. Will you be cutting one of yours short by 30 minutes to see mine, or will you simply catch it on the UK tour, September to December 2014?

YB: I have a better idea. I will follow you in every town where you go and I will perform a show, 30 mins before your show time in memory of Edinburgh. We’ll be MAV – Meilleur Amis à Vie.

ML: Your style is that of surrealism, of the myriad bizarre things British ‘culture’ has to offer. What is the strangest you have seen so far?

YB: The dragon statues in London. This is a little bit frightening, because most of the sculptures that I have seen in Paris are statues of naked people carrying fruits.

ML: Edinburgh is a notoriously tough festival, and you have no doubt heard tales of newcomers having to deal with the dilemma of just one audience member showing up to a show one night. In this instance, do you:
a) Continue the show with aplomb?
b) Continue the show begrudgingly, muttering occasionally that this friendless cretin should technically be paying far more money for what is essentially a private show?
c) Suggest an alternative French show at 10pm which, although undoubtedly sold out, may have one spare seat left due to illness and/or death.

YB: I think I will invite this person to dinner and do my show around a good meal.

ML: In a world increasingly troubled by civil war, mass inequality, overpopulation, religious intolerance, chronic global solipsism and rapid erosion of civil liberties, is laughter truly the best medicine?

YB: Yep. Sure. But no. I didn’t understand the question.

ML: No? OK, what is your favourite soup?

YB: I thought you’d never ask… My favourite kind of soup is slightly lukewarm. What is your favourite kind of rain? I’m starting to get used to drizzle.

ML: Of course, drizzle. A weather condition so commonplace in Britain they even put it in cakes. I am surprised it is not a kind of soup. But now you are accustomed, Edinburgh is the city for you. They have more words for it here than Eskimos for snow. While sheltering from it a man once attempted to tell me all of its names. After about 7 minutes of this I chose the drizzle instead. Anyway, that is that. May I be the first to say to you “merde”.

YB: Thank you! That is the French equivalent of ‘break a leg’ to wish you luck and success. Saying “shit” is an Old French tradition! In the Moliere period, when they were performing a theatrical play, the more successful the show the more horses in front of the venue, and so the more shit also. So “merde” my friend! And to do it the right way you have to answer “je prends” – “ I take it”.

‘Yacine Belhousse: Made In France’ was performed at the Pleasance Courtyard and ‘Marcel Lucont Is’ at the Pleasance Dome at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: www.marcellucont.com | www.yacinebelhousse.fr