Discover more from The Remarkable Fools Letter
humility, humour and ugly americans
on the pleasure of trolling parisians
un petite kish, et du cafe avec… milk?
The man behind the counter rolled his eyes muttering something about “Moe Dit” followed with a much more hatefully, almost ominously grumbled, “American”.
Boy, these Parisians sure are stupid. They can’t tell an american from a Canadian.
Yep, I am american, I replied, and if it weren’t for us, you’d be speaking German right now you pissant.
All of a sudden, his English improved. Needless to say I had to find another Cafe. Finding another cafe in Paris? Talk about mission impossible.
Parisians on the whole seemed to be an arrogant, humourless people - ESPECIALLY the men. Given that I was there to study a style comedy rooted in humility with a Parisian man, my choices as a remarkable fool seemed to check out.
In reality? I love Paris. I also love playing the villain. That’s a big part of being both charming and unlikable. The Bouffon,1 delights in offending and caustically, viciously pointing out the hypocrisy of society. They do this with charm and humour so they don’t get murdered.
My teacher Philippe is famous for introducing Bouffon and clown play to the soulless, callisthenic performance and acting styles taught by legendary modernist acting teacher Jacques Lecoque. Though I was there to study clowning, Paris offered daily opportunities to be a bouffon in public.
In class, we were challenged with impossible, ridiculous and hilarious tasks. I feel like I am living one of them now. Here is the ‘exercise’ as Philippe described it:
You are a group of five. You must perform Macbeth2 while packing for a vacation. The taxi is downstairs waiting to take you to the airport. You are late for your flight. There is an invasion of tickle ants and the furniture seems to be moving without you knowing it. Also? You are in the process of baking a cake.
The goal was to do this while connecting with the audience. Most of the people failed miserably. The urgency of the situation took over and their humanity left them. In describing me Philippe said, zis blonde one, zis ‘Canadian’? ‘E’s not so Canadian. All the charm of a concentration camp. And his view? From a guard tower.
This was his way of saying that I was being pushy, more focused on the task and less on the connection with the rest of the world.
It’s easy when we’re overwhelmed to become horrible, miserable, pushy and out of touch. We were mocked and derided for it. This is a suitable place for mockery. The more pushy, the more insistent, the more out of touch, the less human. So what to do?
First. Breathe. Make contact with someone.
When you see their perplexed look?
When you notice their puzzled, pulled back energy?
Shake your head.
Laugh at yourself
Acknowledge that you and your life is going off the rails.
Because even when you become so overwhelmed that life becomes unmanageable, your breathe, connection and ability to mock yourself is the most remarkably foolish way to rescue your humanity.
It all comes down to this: When in Paris, don’t sew Canadian flags to your rucksack. Sew on an American one. Behave like an ass. You’ll fit right in.
Not Buff-oon, but more like boo-fon. It’s an important distinction
It’s taboo to say Macbeth in a theatre. Philippe said it every day. I do every time I’m in a theatre as well. Clowns don’t have much respect for actors. They’re too phony.