Traumatised by attacks, Parisians seek comic relief

2015-11-23 22:51
Candles and a small statue of the Eiffel Tower placed at a memorial along a police cordon set-up close to the Bataclan concert hall. (Miguel Medina, AFP)

Candles and a small statue of the Eiffel Tower placed at a memorial along a police cordon set-up close to the Bataclan concert hall. (Miguel Medina, AFP)

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Paris - Laughter is the best medicine for many Parisians seeking solace after the November 13 terror attacks that shattered so many lives.

Social media is rife with schoolyard mockery and black humour, and comedians have quickly got back to work after the attacks that killed 130 people and wounded some 350.

When Islamic State jihadists denounced Paris as a "capital of abominations and perversions", popular blogger Maitre Eolas retorted in a tweet to his 194 000 followers: "Flattery gets you nowhere."

Jawad "I didn't know they were terrorists" Bendaoud - the man who lent his apartment to several jihadists, but insists he had no idea what they were planning - has come in for special mockery online.

Bendaoud, who remains in police custody, has become a full-on internet meme, with web-users in their droves captioning his picture with fake quotes presenting him as a hapless dimwit.

"They asked me if I could make Molotov cocktails and I said no, I'm not a bartender," reads one such tweet.

A mischievous account parodying Bendaoud, @LogeurDuDaesh ("ISIS Landlord") has garnered more than 50 000 followers on Twitter as the city tries to cheer itself up.

Around 20 000 people signed up online for a "pyjama party" at Bendaoud's now-notorious flat in the rundown Saint-Denis area north of Paris. The apartment was gutted in a ferocious police raid last Wednesday.

Elsewhere on the web, the jihadists' choice of car has come in for a little wry mockery.

"The guy rents the last car of his life, and he picks a Polo," read an incredulous tweet by @IamLepoy.

'Soldiers of humour' 

Comedians moved quickly into their healing role, adapting their schtick to the sensitivities of a traumatised nation.

"We are the foot soldiers of humour," veteran comedian Anne Roumanoff told AFP. "We try to give a little happiness to people, to get their minds off things during this difficult period."

She resumed her stand-up gig - a show that runs four times a week and is titled Aimons-Nous Les Uns Les Autres (Let's Love One Another) - six days after the attacks, having cancelled only two performances.

Roumanoff, 50, was onstage on November 13, entertaining hundreds of fans at L'Alhambra, a theatre within walking distance of the carnage targeting trendy bars, restaurants and the Bataclan concert venue.

She and her audience remained holed up in the theatre as the massacres unfolded until they received the all-clear to leave.

Roumanoff said she didn't feel "the least bit capable" of performing the next two nights.

But when she returned to the stage last Thursday, she was struck by the boisterous laughter she was able to draw from the crowd at L'Alhambra.

"People know why they're there, they're proud to be there," she said, in a nod to Twitter campaigns urging Parisians to defy the attackers by stepping out and enjoying their city as usual.

Still, Roumanoff has felt the need to self-edit.

"I make fun of the French intelligence services in one of my sketches, which I cut out because it would have been indecent to joke about that," she said.

At the Deux Anes (Two Donkeys) theatre in Pigalle, some adjustments were also necessary to its biting political satire.

The show skipped a routine about a thwarted attack in August on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, for instance.

"We took out anything that could seem inappropriate with regard to the [November 13] victims," the theatre's director Jacques Mailhot told AFP.

But opening the very day after the attacks was a delicate move, he said.

"We explained to the spectators that we would not give in [to fear] and that their presence was our best encouragement," Mailhot said.

"I think we play a therapeutic role through our comedy."

Read more on:    twitter  |  france  |  paris under attack

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