The Linguist

The Linguist 53,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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The Linguist 13 FEATURES eyes of his friends I'm odd, so having that record that I can speak French is great,' he adds: the video is on YouTube. I suggest that being an embarrassment to his sons is his fatherly duty. 'But if I'm an embarrassment, I want to be an embarrassment in the right language,' he counters. Samuel, it transpires, was instrumental in getting the French gig to the stage. 'I translated it with my wife, who is very correct – what they call on the internet a "grammar nazi". But if I'm talking about being an Englishman who is not very good at French, it's too perfect,' Moore explains. 'It sounds pretentious, but I'm working with two languages – not just French but also the language of comedy, a sort of performance language.' They found it easier to get their 12-year-old involved, and the French version emerged as Samuel and Natalie argued over grammar and vocabulary. It turned out that they had prepared double the material he needed. 'When the red light came on to show that I had two minutes left, I had to start editing in my head on stage, in French, while trying to say something else in French,' he says. Yet watching the video, you can't tell. I suspect he's downplaying his knowledge of the language a little. 'My whole confidence goes when I talk French. I stutter,' he confides. Under the circumstances, the French set seems an inordinately brave move. 'There was a safety net because I was doing the gig in London, so the audience was French but they were Anglophones,' he says. 'They understand the cultural references.' Even so, he was terrified about heckling and built a 'get out' ticket into his routine. On a childhood holiday to France, his dad had made him learn French, but just one phrase: 'Je suis anglais, je ne comprends pas.' Once he'd done a gag about that, if anyone heckled, he could just repeat that phrase. Despite his father's (some would say typically English) approach to dealing with a foreign language overseas, he insisted that a teenage Ian took German O-level – for which he got a 'U'. Nevertheless, when I ask him about an old joke in which he describes ordering a pizza in Germany, he launches into German: 'Ich möchte ein Pizza mit der Kessel, das Fahrrad und ein kleine Jugendherberge' ('I'd like a pizza with a kettle, a bicycle and a small youth hostel'). By contrast, his own boys are bilingual. 'They don't even consider it as two languages, they just speak one way with one person and one way with another,' he says. 'It's astonishing to watch and daunting. I look at them and think "I can't do that".' For them, it was 'a case of sink or swim' and the French set gave Moore that same sense of urgency to learn the language. He is keen to keep the momentum going. 'I've no ambitions to be a stand-up in France' – modesty and self-doubt forbid it – but 'I'm going to write a longer set,' he promises. Having made people laugh in French, he has realised that, with hard work and dedication, learning another language is a real possibility. 'It sounds pretentious but I'm working with two languages – not just French but also the language of comedy' 'If you do something that has a bit of success, someone else is going to try to do the same,' says Laure Panerai, organiser of the Comedy Store's French nights. She is annoyed by the claims of a new, rival event that it is the first French comedy night in London. The fact that there is a demand for more French stand-up than the handful of nights Panerai has been putting on since 2009 is, however, a good thing. She herself had the idea after seeing a successful London show by the popular actor and comedian Gad Elmaleh (pictured). 'There is a French community here but, as a French person, it's quite difficult to follow English stand-up comedy because, even if you speak good English, they are very fast when they speak on stage and there are lots of references that you don't get,' she explains. The first gig was at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. 'I was nervous because it's a big venue,' she says; 2,000 seats to be precise. Success there led to a meeting with Don Ward, owner of the Comedy Store in Leicester Square. 'He said yes, but he gave me the worst date, the night no one else wants,' says Panerai. It was a Monday in August. 'But I understood that I had to grab this chance.' Sourcing comedians hasn't been easy. A tight budget means Panerai looks for promising newcomers. 'It's very hard to make a profit,' she admits. However, the main problem is that there is no tradition of stand- up in France. 'There is a lack of comedians. Think how many good comedians you have in Britain – people who can fill up the O2,' she says. 'We don't have this.' Panerai is now planning a week-long comedy festival for 10-17 November, with two stand-up nights, film at the Institut Français and comedic theatre. For updates, see the Facebook page 'Mort de rire à Londres'. The next Comedy Store night will be on 9 June. The show must go on Vol/53 No/1 G AD E LMALEH PHOTOGRAPHED BY S TUDIO H ARCOURT P ARIS , 2007 VIA W IKIPEDIA (CC BY 3.0)

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