Well, actually, the Swiss. And that may be a clue to where the problem comes from. But, before we get into that, let’s introduce the guest of honor: Marina Rollman, a Swiss-born comedian who’s been making a name for herself in Paris in the last couple of years. What helps is that she’s got a regular spot on one of France’s biggest (public) radio stations (this is France we’re talking about). Which is how I got to know about her. Albeit indirectly: friends of mine, who heard her on said radio and knew I spend most of my days checking out US late shows on Youtube, told me I should check her out. Which I did, and here we are.
Yesterday evening, my fiancée and I went to see her standup show. Convincing my fiancée was not too much of a hassle: I just had to tell her that Rollman is a) a woman (arguably evident if you know the name and/or saw the poster), b) a feminist (which you kind of have to be if you wanna survive in this business and/or be a regular on French public radio), c) a good comedian, which only took one listen to some of her radio stuff to realize.
Because she’s really good, you guys, and she’s only 30 (f**********ck…). She’s very smart, very witty, and very quick to portray a scene or situation with perfect wording, the kind that will instantaneously give you a feel for what she’s talking about, and make you laugh. The latter is important. Yesterday, it was also quite evident that, as she is still working on her material, she sometimes improvises a little, tries new stuff, seamlessly integrating that into the rest (unless she points out that a joke is not finished, in which case that gets a laugh, a cheaper one maybe, but I’ll let her have it).
Which brings me back to my initial point: we do indeed have great French-speaking standups nowadays. And that’s not a given, since most of our comedians have a theater background and are much more comfortable in sketch comedy, doing characters and/or dividing their act in separate sequences rather than trying their hand at this sort of artificially natural funny monologue that is a (good) standup show. However, and that’s a big H, it’s not entirely surprising that a Swiss-born, who’s more familiar with US culture (she made a few references that only Stephen Colbert / Seth Meyers geeks like me would typically know about), would have grasped the US-style standup genre before many all-French comedians, who are still coming to terms with the no-character idea.
In short, a) standup is coming to Paris, no matter where it’s coming from, b) go see Marina Rollman’s show, c) it’s in French though.