Saturday, June 07, 2008

Weather Lady Forgets to take the Temperature

Le Grand Journal on Canal + is a great prime-time TV show, one of my favorites. A blend of entertainment and political interview and commentary. I usually like all of the regular panel. The ever-popular Louise Bourgoin, "Miss Meteo" is gorgeous, sexy and witty; her gags are sometimes fun, almost always wacky.

Until yesterday, when she made an utterly tasteless comment.

As often happens on the show, the cast gives thumbnail reviews of selected books that they then distribute to the guests. Last night, after her usual twenty-second lightning-speed weather forecast, Louise was giving a report, suggesting books that might be appropriate to give to various famous people. The premise of her gag was basing her recommendations simply on the book's title, claiming she didn't have time to read. In general, the tone was sarcastic but funny. I don't remember the other titles, but the angle was along the lines of: "Walking Tall, our gift to Nicolas Sarkozy. " Nyuk nyuk.

Then she said, "And this book, Du Plomb dans la tete [Lead in the Head] we offer to John Kennedy."

There was an audible gasp -- perhaps from Michel Denisot or Ariane Massenet. Perhaps it was from me. How rude and tasteless. How juvenile and inane. She tried to segue into the next title, but listeners were stunned.

Louise, I usually love ya, but you blew it. The mercury just went way, way down in my Louise-o-Meter. Being cocky and flip is one thing -- making a bad joke about an assassinated President is another.

Anyway, rumor has it that she's leaving her position at Le Grand Journal to work full time in the movies, and Canal + is looking for a replacement. Maybe that's why she didn't have to worry about getting fired for such crass commentary. Or maybe as an aspiring starlet was she trying to make more of a name for herself by attempting to copycat Sharon Stone? At least Sharon Stone's thoughtless 'karma' remark offending a whole nation was off the cuff.

(The video clip above is not of last night's show. Canal+ is only posting excerpts and has none of Louise's appearance on line.)

Die-hard Bourgoin fans (especially the testosterone-infused variety) can look forward to seeing Louise in a steamy movie this summer called La Fille de Monaco, about a beautiful Miss Meteo who leaves her job to become an actress...


Cimon said...

This is typical "bad taste" French humour. It is a national sport here !

Have you heard about the "petit Gregory" jokes ?

We usually do not consider these jokes offensive, although many people are not really in that type of humour.

David said...

Come on Polly, everybody needs some dark humor once in a while...

Admit it, you'd have found it funny had it been anybody else other than JFK (or another American icon).

Louise is an iconoclast and that's why she rocks...

Evelyn said...

I agree with you, Polly...a very tasteless thing to say. Maybe I'm overly sensitive right now, tho, as this is the 40th anniversary of both the Martin Luther King and the Bobby Kennedy assassinations and remembrances are all over NPR lately. I guess I don't see any dark humor right now when it comes to assassinations. Call me a sentimental American!
PS...I thought Sharon Stone's remark was pretty stupid, too!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Perhaps young mademoiselle Bourgoin understimates her audience.

All I know is that I was bubbling along in the middle of a funny Louise-moment filled with sass and wit, and the next I knew I was lurched back to vivid sad, scary, childhood images of bullets, a dead president, and a nation in mourning.

It wasn't funny.

David said...

That's what I was saying. It was not funny because you're American (and as Evelyn said, maybe Americans are a bit too sensitive when it comes to some topics... I blame years of political correctness for that).

Thing is, that her jokes are not intended for an American audience at all, but for a French one...

That makes a big difference (Americans rarely understand French humor, and French people don't understand American one either).

Polly-Vous Francais said...


A few thoughts.

1. The tendency of political correctness started long after Nov 22 1963. American sensitivity to JFK's death has nothing to do with political correctness.

2. I guess I don't understand your point about the audience. As a Frenchman, are you suggesting that all French people would find her JFK joke funny?

3. In the same vein, since Sharon Stone made her comments in English on the red carpet in Cannes, should Dior not have any problem with her tarnished image in China?

4.Le Grand Journal may intend to have a 100% French audience, but every week they have at least one American guest on the show -- whoever famous is in town. Would she have attempted that joke if an American had been sitting across from her?

It's completely different from making a joke like that in private company, which I would let pass as poor taste. This scripted 'joke' was broadcast to millions of viewers.

David said...

1. I know. I was not particularly alluding to JFK. More to the fact that some types of humors are sort of "forbidden" these days in the US. But maybe it has nothing to do with political correctness, maybe it's just part of the American humor (which I don't understand much...) Concerning JFK, well... Maybe its a traumatic event in the US history, but for French people it means squat at least on the emotional level (on the historical and factual levels, of course it means something).

2. Maybe not all French people would find it funny, but I doubt many people that grew up watching Canal Plus, whose humor has basically been forged by Canal Plus (Un Faux, Les Nuls in the 80's, The Guignols in the 90's (nowadays they're really tame compared to the 90's) and Groland for the past 15 years)), would find this offensive and not funny.
Louise Bourgoin is herself a child of this "humour Canal" and would you be scared if I told you that jokes like hers are kinda a daily occurence between my friends and I (and basically any other French people my generation (born in the 70's)) and that she is even quite tame compared to some of my friends?

3. I have no idea what Sharon Stone's comment you're referring to so I can't comment on that (but I'd be happy if you told me more about it).

4. Would have Louise made the same joke if an American guest had been sitting in front of her. Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe not. But on the other hand, she has a history of almost insulting several guests in the past. (remember the concept of "hurting ones feelings" doesn't really exist in France, hence the "sensitivity" of American people from a French perspective)

And the fact that the joke was scripted and broadcast to millions is kinda irrelevant. French TV has greater freedom of speech than American TV (this is one of the things that always puzzled me in the US, by law this country has the most freedom of speech than anywhere else in the world, but I never saw so much censorship (blurring, beeping, self-censorship, political correctness (which is a form of censorship)) in a Western country than on American TV.

And I think that this is what shocks you the most in the end, that it happened on TV, because it's "unnatural" for Americans to hear such things on TV.

What do you think?

Francine said...

Interesting dicussion. It's a pity that my French husband and I happened to miss this episode, we always watch the Grand Journal. I'm not French or American, and I am somewhat disturbed by this joke, but like David said it's really typically French and Canal humour. I admit I have started to appreciate and even giggle at this type of thing after my initial reaction of shock. It would have been interesting to see my husband's reaction, I'll have to ask him what he thinks.

expat said...

David, Sharon Stone deets here:

Not in the same class as the "plomb à la tete" comment, IMO.

David said...

I see...
Definitely not comparable.
One is a joke, the other one is stupidity... Well, Sharon Stone being an intelligent person, I think we can blame it on alcohol or drugs as this statement was made in Cannes...
A lot of ignorance also comes into play when most Westerners express themselves about the China-Tibet situation, but that's a complete different story.

Chicago Cannonball said...

“Would she have attempted that joke if an American had been sitting across from her?”

Yes, from what I’ve seen of Le Grand Journal. I saw a clip recently in which Samuel L. Jackson was the featured American guest and the hosts were joking about how an Australian journalist addressed Wyclef Jean as Wil.I.Am; the hosts agreed that, hey, anyone could get them confused, don’t they look just the same! Well, Samuel L. Jackson looked visibly annoyed and said, “look, you don’t get that?” He went on to describe how a taxi driver he had in Paris the day before kept telling him how great he did in the role of Ray Charles; the role was played by Jamie Foxx. Perhaps he was being overly sensitive, or they were being ignorant. Maybe it does come down to cultural expectations.

Also, in another episode of the Journal they featured the great-grandson of a famous Native American chief/warrior, and had a white French woman wearing a huge headdress and face painting doing an impression of Native Americans that seemed directly copied from 1940’s-1960’s Hollywood. Very odd way to entertain a “guest”.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I really appreciate everyone's input, and I think I understand a bit better. I still think it was beyond good taste, and lacked dignity which the show is usually able to pull off while still being incredibly funny, informative, provocative, and entertaining.

Maybe it's an age issue as well. But I don't think the target audience of Le Grand Journal is limited to those who were born since its inception.

Hmm. If the show is that outrageous (the episodes I must have missed; maybe I don't watch as often as i think) I wonder if there are any taboos, then. Would they make deportee/Holocaust jokes? 9/11 jokes? I sure hope not.

Let me know.

David said...

Polly as said before I think the main thing is that the targeted audience is not American, the trauma associated with Kennedy's death is only American. It's as simple as that.

To answer your questions, no, there are not many taboos on French TV (especially not on Canal Plus), except that maybe the Holocaust (remember that freedom of speech is limited in France, especially when dealing with the Holocaust).
Concerning 9/11, I'm pretty much sure it has already been made fun of (once again, the trauma is mostly American).

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