Have you ever felt left out of an inside joke? Have you ever nodded along awkwardly during a conversation you didn’t know the cultural reference to? We’ve got your back!  Chances are that if you ever find yourself in a group of French people, references to the following must-see comedy scenes will come up, so we invite you to take a look and have a laugh!

#1 - Astérix et Obélix : Mission Cléopâtre (Alain Chabat, 2002)
Borrow the DVD from the library 

If you are a francophone born in the 80s or the 90s, you probably remember when this movie came out. It was a huge box office success! The story follows Panoramix, Asterix, Obelix and of course Idefix, as they travel from Gaul to Egypt in order to help their architect friend build a palace for Cleopatra. In this scene, the architect’s assistant introduces himself to the curious crowd. Actor Edouard Baer famously went off script during this monologue: impossible to watch Gérard Depardieu (Obelix), Christian Clavier (Asterix) and Claude Rich’s (Panoramix) bored faces at the end of the speech without laughing out loud! When asked “How do you like your job?”, the character drones on and on and on (as some people do) about the meaning of life. 

“You know, I don’t think there are good or bad situations. If I had to sum up my life today with you, I’d say that it consists primarily of meetings, of people who reached out their hand to me, maybe at a moment when I couldn’t do the same for them, when I was alone and stuck… And it is a bit curious to realize that coincidences and meetings forge destinies, because when you have a thirst for things, when you have a thirst for well done things, for beautiful gestures, sometimes you don’t find the partner, I’d say, the mirror which helps you to move forward. Well in fact it’s not my case, since I was able to do that. I thank life, I sing life, I dance life, I’m all about love. And in the end, when people ask me “How do you maintain this humanity?” I simply answer that it is this thirst for love which pushed me today to undertake a career in mechanical construction but tomorrow, who knows, maybe to serve the community, and to give the gift, the gift of myself…” 

#2 - OSS 117, Le Caire nid d’espions (Michel Hazanavicius, 2006)
Borrow the DVD from the library or watch on Kanopy

Cringe alert! This movie is a parody of the spy genre, and it depicts Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, known as agent OSS 117 from the French secret service, as he is sent to Cairo to investigate the disappearance of his fellow spy and friend, Jack Jefferson. The agent is portrayed as idiotic, extremely mysoginistic and racist. However, any true French enjoys irony and a bit of cringe once and a while, and the movie is extremely hilarious. Now that you’ve been warned, you can appreciate the comedic talent of Jean Dujardin (who you might recognize from The Artist) with delectation.


#3 - OSS 117, Rio ne répond plus (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)
Borrow the DVD from the library or watch on Kanopy

This is taken from the second OSS 117 movie. Hubert has been sent to Rio de Janeiro to retrieve a list of French Nazi sympathizers. Once again, to say that the secret agent is widely inappropriate is an understatement. However the irony is so well thought out and so well directed by Hazanavicius that you can’t help but find immense enjoyment in this sequel. We don’t know what’s funnier in this scene : the terrible wordplay, Jean Dujardin’s infectious laugh or the fact that he calls his colleague millions of kilometers away to tell him about the awful joke?

#4 - Le dîner de cons (Francis Veber, 1998) 
Borrow the DVD from the library or watch on Kanopy

It would be hard to find a single French person who doesn’t know this film or this specific scene. The movie is based on a play by Francis Veber - this explains why the genius script is particularly rhythmic and upbeat. Pierre Brochant, a Parisian publisher, attends a weekly "idiots' dinner", where guests (rich Parisian snobs), must bring along an "idiot" every week, whom the other guests can mock. But when Pierre invites François Pignon to his dinner, he’s gotten a little more than he can chew on…

#5 - La Cité de la peur (Alain Berberian, 1994)
Watch on Kanopy

At the Cannes festival, the projectionists of the same bad movie are repeatedly murdered. The movie therefore gains in publicity and popularity, and it is decided that it will be shown to the crowd during the 5th day of the festival. However, there is a delay in finding a projectionist for the movie, so Alain Chabat and Gérard Darmon (who are now both regarded as legends of comedy in France) are forced to go on stage and improvise this incredible musical number to keep the audience entertained…

Stay tuned for part 2!

A dual citizen of France and the USA, Sonia grew up between the Midwest and Brittany. After obtaining her BA in Philosophy and Modern Languages at Oxford University in 2015, she spent several years in Paris, working in classical music and studying voice & opera at the Conservatoire. She moved to Boston in the fall of 2020, where she now performs as a singer. Sonia is thrilled to also be a part of the French Library’s team, where she can put her deep love of French literature to use while working as Librarian.

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