French comedian to stage show for Chinese in Putonghua... a language he's never spoken
Bad timing, jokes that fall flat or an audience that just doesn't get it; such occupational hazards can lead to a slow, painful "stage death" for the stand-up comic.
French comedian Patrick Veisselier, however, has decided to risk all three from next week when he stages his one-man show Patrick Le Chinois (Patrick the Chinese Man), performed entirely in Putonghua, a language he has never spoken before.
Based around the idea of a Frenchman who sets out to become a Chinese man because he believes they have better lives, Veisselier will be hoping his cultural observations and accent can hit the mark for his audience of mostly Chinese expatriates in France.
Veisselier, who wrote the hour-long script himself before having it translated, has spent the past two months working eight hours a day with the help of a tutor to memorise it.
"At the beginning my tutor said to me 'you are really crazy'," said the comic, who has never set foot in China.
"I was only learning two minutes [of the script] a day. But the first 10 minutes were the hardest and now [my tutor] says I have a really good accent, an accent from the south of China," he said.
Veisselier came up with the jokes after reading books about Chinese culture and meeting expatriates in France who told him that French comedy left them cold.
"It's about a Frenchman who thinks that Chinese men always have a good job, a good company etcetera, so he tries to become a Chinese man and that is the source of the comedy," he said.
"I was told that the Chinese hate jokes about vulgarity, politics and sex, so it was quite difficult," he added.
The first of Veisselier's three shows will be staged on Monday at Paris's Palace theatre followed by two more in the French capital in May and June. Veisselier will then take the show to China for four dates scheduled for Shanghai and Beijing in July.