Learn how to become a Parisian in one hour

French comedian Olivier Giraud tells Alison Weeks why his observations on Parisian life are a hit on both sides of the Channel

It is the little show that has taken the French capital by storm. Since first opening in 2009, Olivier Giraud’s How to Become a Parisian in One Hour? has quickly become one of the most popular and enduring comedy shows in town. Based on Giraud’s keen observations about the nature of Parisian people, the one-hour, all-English production, offers tourists a hilarious and practical guide to local behaviour.

Originally from Bordeaux, Giraud came to Paris to pursue a career as a chef. After earning a diploma from Ferrandi, a leading culinary arts school, he crossed the Atlantic to work as a maître d’hôtel in Palm Beach, Florida. During his time abroad, Giraud was struck by the vast differences between the Americans and the French. “I saw how different our two cultures are and I also spoke to a lot of Americans who were worried about travelling to Paris because of these differences or because they thought that French people hated Americans.”

Having dreamt of becoming a comedian, Giraud was inspired to create a show based on the humorous cultural differences. After returning to Paris, he began pursuing his idea in earnest, but was unable to find a backer. “Everyone said that an all-English show could never work in Paris.” Undeterred, Giraud put together his own production company, called French Arrogance Prod in honour of his detractors, and in 2009 his dream finally became a reality. After opening in a small comedy club, the show moved to its current home at the larger Théâtre des Nouveautés in the 9th arrondissement in the heart of the theatre district.

Understandably, the show has been hugely popular with tourists. “It’s one of the only theatre options for non-French speakers in Paris and they see it as a sort of survival guide.” It also offers a rare shared experience for both tourists and locals, as Giraud’s audience isn’t entirely from abroad; Parisians make up a large portion of the crowd. “They like the show because they can really identify with the things I’m talking about – the rude waiters, the way people act on the métro.”

Today Giraud’s audience is growing beyond Paris, as he gives regular performances in Brussels and London and has a new book in the works. His UK shows have been extremely well received, especially among Parisian expatriates in London as “it reminds them why they left Paris.” But in spite of all his jokes, it is clear that Giraud’s heart still lies in Paris. “I really love this city and the French way of life.”

Olivier Giraud appears regularly at the Théâtre des Nouveautés in Paris (tel: (Fr) 1 47 70 52 76, www.theatredesnouveautes.fr).

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