On July 21, 2014, two months before the death of Gilles Latulippe, Réal Béland participated in an evening in tribute to the king of Quebec burlesque. “I had chosen a scene from the play Balconville, QC, says the comedian. The actor Germain Houde read the stage directions, and on the stairs I tried very awkwardly, getting stuck in all the props, to perform the desired actions. The success of this track, based on a mixture of homage and mockery, respect and transgression of convention, gave me the idea of a show that I worked on with Stéphane Lefebvre for three years. »
The time has come for this show dedicated to the greatest artists of physical humor of all time. Directed by Luc Senay, comic nature will be presented in fifteen cities in Quebec over the next year. Réal Béland and Didier Lucien, two stage animals for the less unconventional, intend to use all their talents there.
“We use the ingredients of the theater and even the conference, Béland explains, but we are still closer to a comedy show. We play roles, we temporarily take on the classic jobs straight man and comedy, but the real Réal and the real Didier are never far away. Since we worked together for the first time, it was risky, but I feel that I won my bet because we get along really well, the communication is good on stage and off stage. »
“The show, Lucien believes, is the meeting of two guys who deeply love this kind of comedy and who want to share it with the world. They have favorites, skits they want to perform, but they will realize that it is much more difficult to pull off than they thought. We must therefore expect that things do not go as planned, that sand gets in the gears, complications that should add a layer of comedy. “I always need to feel like I’m going to do a bad job,” explains Béland, and this time is no exception to the rule. »
In an unorthodox, non-exhaustive and definitely not chronological conference on the history of this so-called physical or even visual comic, the duo revisits, updates, dissects and explains certain mythical scenes borrowed from masters whose gags of ‘a formidable efficiency have stood the test of time. Let us think of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, Louis de Funès, Laurel and Hardy, but also of Olivier Guimond, Steve Martin, Jim Carey and Les Foubrac.
“Physical comedy has developed a lot,” says Réal Béland. At first it was big, it looked like a clown. Today it has been refined, it has truly won. For me, the best example of that is Pierre Richard. It is high-flying histrionics, elevated to the rank of a work of art. I dare to believe that what we are doing, Didier and I, is close to that. It is definitely a great inspiration. »
Didier Lucien acknowledges that the genre is demanding: “It’s much more difficult than what my theater friends might think,” says the actor. To achieve this truth, this spontaneity in the breaks, so that the audience can believe that what is happening on stage is actually improvised, requires a lot of physical agility and quick thinking. So much so that I sometimes use tools from commedia dell’arte, mime and even the clown here and there. »
Create the occasion
“We never have the opportunity to play these things,” explains Lucien. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It took someone like Réal to imagine such a thing. Sometimes shows contain physical humor, but very rarely is the entire performance devoted to it. I’m enjoying every moment because I’m pretty sure a similar occasion won’t happen again in the near future. “” It had to happen now, adds Béland. In the fifties, it’s fun to get angry. At 70, it’s less fun, it inspires concern, or worse, pity. »
We cannot help but notice that this type of physical comedy seems undervalued by the companies where actors are currently trained. “That’s true,” admits Béland. Perhaps because we are among the last to see these comedians on stage or on screen. It is all the more inexplicable that this sense of humor seems to me to be part of Quebecers’ DNA. »
“I think the time has come,” says Lucien. The material we are looking at is just old enough today to be of interest to the public again. Earlier, I’m not sure people were ready to revisit it. Personally, I am very happy to know that my children will discover this rich material thanks to the show. »
Réal Béland could not make a show about physical comedy without making room for Ti-Gus and Ti-Mousse, the popular duo that his father, Réal Béland, formed with Denyse Émond in the 1950s and 1960s. Never wanted to pay tribute to them because my memory is too beautiful. I would not touch it, out of respect, out of modesty. This time, I think that by messing around, by the tape, we’re paying them a kind of homage, that we’re winking at their process, their precision, their rhythm, the uniqueness of their dynamics. »