Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poisson d'Avril: The French Sense of Humor

The French have a wonderful sense of humour
writes Stephen Clarke.
Of course they do. Anyone who’s seen the film La Cage aux Folles, about a gay nightclub owner whose son wants to marry the daughter of a right-wing religious politician, or Ridicule, about the need to be good at repartee if you want to attract the attention of Louis XIV at court, will know this. If they can speak French, that is.

It’s not the same as the British sense of humour, that’s for sure. The traditional French idea of an April Fool’s joke is (or rather was, because it’s rarely played these days) to stick a paper fish on someone’s back without them knowing. Yes, très drôle.
The Telegraph writer is being facetious, naturellement, but a variant on this joke — not necessarily played on April 1 — is far funnier; stick a piece of paper on a friend's back as you take leave of him or her and giving his or her name, for instance, "Je suis Isabelle" or "Mon nom, c'est Isabelle."

As Isabelle walks down the sidewalk, she hears her name being called out (by a perfect stranger), and turns in bewilderment, for she cannot see anybody waving to her, let alone anyone trying to get the attention of some other woman named Isabelle. As she continues her walk, she regularly hears "Isabelle!" called out, turns, and sees no one interested in her or in any other similarly-named woman, as the perfect strangers in question immediately return to playing innocent bystanders and doing their own thing.