The free humor of Pierre Desproges

The views expressed in opinion pieces are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff.

Posted on June 12, 2022


By Johan Rivalland.

Echoing Philippe Bilger’s welcome article on “freedom of expression and the freedom to laugh at everything”, broadcast on Counterpointsa short tribute to Pierre Desproges, a personality with a unique sense of humor who continues to inspire a number of comedians from time to time.

Chronicles of Ordinary Hate

I remember having watched several times, very young, the famous Minute of Monsieur Cyclopede, broadcast almost daily on television. But I was then probably much too young to be able to grasp much.

It is therefore with a certain curiosity, and after regular references to Pierre Desproges encountered during my readings which had the effect of arousing my attention, that I had the idea of ​​embarking one day on the discovery of the transcription of some of his chronicles, here on the radio, which could only have attracted me for a long time already, in reference to a free spirit as we see very few of them.

I can’t say if this is the best of his collections, but I let myself be guided by the title and the notoriety of this one.

At first glance, I had a little trouble with the harshness of certain remarks and the excessive profanity that I don’t really appreciate. But on the other hand, I was immediately won over by the literary quality of the writing. An inimitable style (although I have the feeling that some today would try to imitate its inspiration).

These chronicles also seemed uneven to me, which could have put me off. But faced with such a style, such freedom of tone and such personality and originality, I kept myself from giving up.

Especially also because I have the feeling that Pierre Desproges is much imitated today by minds that have nothing to do with it.

In fact, the spectacle which is too often presented to us today, by minds that are moreover sympathetic at first sight, at least in appearance, and without wishing to exaggerate and generalize either, is that of particularly egocentric “comedians”, who look at each other’s navel a lot, are highly politicized (always on the same side) and act more like cheap moralists, who believe themselves, as François L’Yvonnet points out, whom we presented here a little more than four years the test Homo comicus, or fun fundamentalism, “agents of good”, always on the same easy and very binary subjects (the right, the church, the racists, the bastards of the rich, the Medef, the politicians, the police), with postures in reality without much risk and which very often amount to imposture. The bobo culture, in a way, with all the character mimetic which characterizes it.

Here, none of that.

We are dealing with a vision of society that is often quite raw in appearance, but in reality with a much greater subtlety than it may seem. And a certain modesty, despite the harshness of the remarks to which I was referring. Which often rings true.

Words that can often seem excessively harsh and sometimes shocking, but which in reality turn out to be much more compassionate and devoid of any real malice.

In any case, without shoddy moralism or ideologized ulterior motives, like our presumed comedians today (with rare exceptions). And on very diverse subjects, touching on the daily life of each of us or on the essence of the human being.

Chronicles quite pleasant to read or rediscover, therefore, and above all full of literary talent as we do not see much today.

Manual of good manners for the use of boors and rude people

Another collection that I had the opportunity to read later, these chronicles in which we find this rather unique humor of Pierre Desproges.

At the same time delirious, inventive, cynical, mastering the art of parody, he is never short of ideas to try to distract us and make us smile, while exercising a keen eye on society and its multiple failings. .

An offbeat and particularly lively humor, always to be taken at least in the second degree and that many regret, as the comedian made an impression before leaving this low world.

A volume that I however found a little less good and less spicy than the Chronicles of Ordinary Hatebut always invigorating, by its originality and the temperament of its author.

Gaspard Proust, a worthy successor?

Not easy to practice humor in troubled times where freedom of expression is more than ever questionable. This requires a certain amount of subtlety, so as not to offend, to be in ambiguity, insult or rudeness, when it is not more a question of behaving like a real lesson giver rather than a comedian worthy of the name.

In a show seen four or five years ago, Gaspard Proust managed, it seems to me, to balance with a certain skill the skilful mixture between freedom of speech, tone and a certain form of modesty or restraint which aims to say things, sometimes very crude or very harsh, without leading to confusion or bordering on aggression.

Placing himself in the posture of the cynic, he spared nothing and no one, while appealing to intelligence, to taking a step back which is essential and to this subtlety to which I was referring, often making him compare to Pierre Desproges.

No one was spared: the old, the sores, the readers of TeleramaJews, Catholics, Muslims, 40-somethings, 30-somethings, François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, his audience, women, but also without seeming to touch it, men, each of us… and in a way his own character, a mixture of cynical and pretentious who would almost even do his show without conviction, in a hurry to get it over with because he would have other things to do but he really needs to to earn a living…

Gently acid humor that allows you to spend a good moment of relaxation. For the rest, you probably know the comedian better than me, because I believe he must be on television from time to time, even if I haven’t really had the opportunity to see him…

Article originally published on January 30, 2018

  • Gaspard Proust, Tapine, Studiocanal DVD, December 2013, 100 minutes.

The free humor of Pierre Desproges