The first time I met comedian Olivier Giraud was back in 2011. We were both young entrepreneurs. At the time I had assumed he was obviously much older than myself. 🙂 I was a younger business owner running my vacation rental company at that time. In 2011, it had been about 5 or 6 years since I started working for myself. In an effort to provide more insight into life in Paris and to get myself out from behind my computer, I had started a little blog called “Like Home in Paris”. Olivier was one of my first interviewees and I was nervous as heck to be in the presence of a “celebrity”. I put the word celebrity in quotes purely because Oliver would laugh at this moniker. But what else would you call a guy who has met the Queen of England and whose face is plastered on billboards? Add the fact that I was going to do the interview in French, and you can perhaps imagine my stress level.
We met at the small 250 seat theatre where the show took place just before one of his performances. He seemed nice enough but I was trying very desperately not to show that I didn’t know what I was doing. After a series of anxiously posed questions, I asked the most important question of all – the game-changing question. How old are you? When I discovered that Olivier and I are actually the same age, I had a mind-altering moment and thought: Really, I thought, this guy is just like me. The nature of our interview changed from that point on. Aside from that question, I don’t recall anything else that I asked him and I can’t, unfortunately, seem to find a trace of that interview other than the photos that I took that day. Admittedly I was not as good a photographer then as I think I am now.
Fast-forward to December 2018: When Olivier replied (over a year late), to a Facebook message I sent him inquiring about a possible partnership to help celebrate Cook’n With Class Paris’s 10th anniversary, I was delighted. Well, not delighted that he took so long to answer mind you. He was one of those friends on Facebook that you just keep around just in case and luckily I had not purged him. Now it was his turn to talk about partnerships and being the lover of entrepreneurs that I am, I was more than ready to listen. He had a fabulous offer for our Cook’n With Class Paris students and since I know you all love a good deal, I immediately said, yes, let’s talk!
We decided a fresh new interview was needed to kick things off in style and to present you this average guy turned comedian with whom, it turns out, we have plenty in common. So, allow me to introduce you to Olivier Giraud and his one-man show, How to Become a Parisian in One Hour. And please do read on through to find out about the special offer he has in store for you (assuming you come to see us in Paris, that is).
Olivier graciously agreed to conduct the interview in English this time, so the shoe was on the other foot.
How long has the show been running?
“Oh my God,” he says in his best impersonation of a teenage American tourist, “I’ve been playing the show for the past 10 years. It’s going to be 10 years on May 10, 2019.”
Where are you from originally?
“I’m from Bordeaux. My God! Beautiful city. Good wine.”
What made you leave Bordeaux?
“I came to Paris for a hotel & management school. I was at École Ferrandi [one of France’s top hospitality management and culinary schools which is also the school attended by a few of our chef instructors both past and present]. Then I moved to America after that.”
Where did the idea for your show come from?
“When I was working as a restaurant manager in America, all my customers asked me questions about Parisians. Is it true that Parisians always wear scarves? Is it true that Parisians really hate human beings? So [being a guy from Bordeaux and not Paris. But clearly representing all of France] I was giving them the answer. When I came back to Paris, this gave me the idea to create the show in English about how to survive in a Parisian jungle. That’s where the story started.”
I hear you wrote a book. What’s it called? And where can we find it?
“The book exists in both French and English. The title in French is Le guide très pratique du parfait Parisien and in English How to Become a Parisian in one Hour. It is slightly different from the show. I give you even more tips on how to survive in Paris. You can find it on Amazon, on my website, in a few concept stores in Paris, and a few bookstores.”
Have you always know you wanted to be a comedian?
“Of course! No, not exactly. When I was 8, I said to my mother that ‘I will [one day] be a comedian and play my show at Olympia and I will buy you a nice dress’. She thought I was just being funny. That’s cute, she said, but “c’est pas possible.”
Since its small beginnings, your show has now moved to the Theatre des Nouveautés right in the heart of Paris, can we take this as a sign of success and that the show has been well received?
“Yeah. I played the show in a small theatre for 3 years and it was sold out at the end of the three years but I was scared of moving from a 200 seat theatre to a 600 seat theatre. I thought it would be very hard to fill the room but it was full after a few weeks. It was amazing. Surprisingly amazing.”
Did you really meet the Queen?
“Yes, I did! She’s my friend (he chuckles). It was a few years ago, in 2016, I believe. I received a letter from the English embassy inviting me to an event for the Queens birthday. I thought it was a joke. [Apparently] all the English embassies voted for 1 person who represented the best of French/British [cultural] exchange.”
So did she see the show?
“No! But then I met Kate Middleton two years after.”
At the time you started your show, were there any other French men or women putting on shows in English in Paris?
“No, I was the only one. Now there are a few people.”
What is the most Parisian thing you do every day?
“I run all the time. I’m always running after a bus, after the metro. I’m always in a hurry. For me, when you miss a metro, even if the next one is in two minutes, it’s like a failure. [Like many Parisian], it drives me mad.”
Who should come to see your show?
“Everybody. Women, men, expats, even Parisians. It’s for anyone who wants to laugh about Parisians.” I find this to be a true mark of the success of Olivier’s show. I sat in an audience that had people from not only outside of France but also people from greater Paris and the provinces. Everyone laughed and the French participants weren’t even scared about sitting in the front row. Because you know what happens when you sit in the front row of a comedy show, don’t you?
You mean even Parisians will laugh at themselves?
“Yeah, I hear them laughing and saying, ha, I’m like this. They are proud and don’t want to change.”
Have you ever thought about taking the show on the road?
“Not really. I tried once out of Paris but the [ambiance] was not the same. Paris is a good mix of people from all over. A show [outside of Paris] is harder as there are some jokes that they don’t understand.”
Similarly, when I asked him about the idea of another show about surviving France, he responded saying that the French are so different from region to region. It would be difficult, or at least it would take much more than 1 hour.
What makes Paris so special to so many people?
“It’s beautiful. I’ve been living here for 15 years and I am very surprised by the beauty of the city all the time. It’s not always easy when you’re working but there’s something about the way of living here. You have the cafés and terraces that you can’t find elsewhere. The theatres and museums . . . I think it is a beautiful city.”
What is a must activity not to be missed when visiting Paris?
“Cook’n with Class,” he says and we both laugh. And of course, I add, seeing his show. “[Visitor should try] going to a local bistro, not a touristy restaurant. That’s the real Paris. Of course, there are the museums but a typical Parisian thing to do is taking a long lunch and taking your time.” Apparently, the only place they do take their time. “I don’t have any activity to suggest really besides taking your time to take in the city. I could pass hours sitting and observing people.” I guess that’s where he picks up inspiration for his show.
We ended our interview by heading off to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Montmartre, La Rallonge owned by Geoffroy Maillard Michelin star chef of another Montmartre gem, La Table d’Eugène. It was actually a new discovery for Olivier. Happy to see I have a few tricks up my sleeves still.
Having now seen How to become a Parisian in one hour twice, I can’t recommend it enough. Olivier has found a way to connect with his audience with a unique and humorous show. While he doesn’t recommend the show for children under 16, it is open to everyone who wants a good laugh at the expense of the Parisians (and sometimes themselves). So don’t walk but run and see, How to become a Parisian in one hour. You won’t regret it.
So now let’s talk about that special offer that Olivier contacted us about. For our Cook’n With Class Paris students, when you grab one of the show’s flyers at the school, you’ll save 50% off the ticket price for the show. Be sure to ask one of our chefs about it next time you are in class.
See you in Paris!