Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pierre Desproges

I'm reading a book by a famous French humorist, the late Pierre Desproges, called Chroniques de la Haine Ordinaire (The Chronicles of Common Hatred).

If I were to make a comedy film, it would be heavily influenced by Desproges' sense of humour which I think is very similar to mine: deadpan, sarcastic, a bit noir and a bit vulgar, and most importantly, jaded. I think the best jokes aren't the ones that need to be told by shouting or making funny faces. And I, too, tend to hate people I don't know.

I hate being one of those oh-so-sophisticated Malays who always look down on Malay humour, Raja Lawak, recent Malay comedy films etc. But I am one of them, because I fail to see how those things are funny. Yet, the funniest movies I've seen are P. Ramlee movies which involve 100% Malay humour. In his films, the humour is sharp, not just infantile. It's clever, not just insulting your intelligence with easy jokes. It's always several-layered, not simply to be taken at face value. It's pregnant, not empty and void of morals. Most importantly, it's mostly verbal, and not just slapstick or gestural. Slapstick jokes are easy to get, but they're easier to forget. Verbal jokes are harder to create, but the good ones will stand the test of time. Is it any wonder that after so many years, P. Ramlee movies are still heavily quoted in the Malay society?

Which brings me back to Pierre Desproges' book. It reminds me a lot of the jokes I love in P. Ramlee movies. He loves playing with irony, and whenever he points out the hypocrisy in the French society, it's always subtle but spot on. The last funny book I read was The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox (what was I thinking?) so the bar is pretty low. Very low. Which is probably why I'm really enjoying reading Desproges.

It's a shame that they don't publish Desproges books in English because this book deserves to be introduced to a wider audience. Then again, a lot of the jokes are impossible to translate so even if it did make it into the English-readers market, I doubt it would be as successful.

Rest in peace, Pierre. We need more people like you.

1 comment:

WP said...

I've got to check out this guy's work! :)