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Elie Semoun

Elie Semoun: “I need to talk about serious things”

By Manon Variol

Elie Semoun is first and foremost a comedian. Mostly known for Cyprien - his ugly character looking for a blond woman with large breasts in his Petites Annonces - he clowns on stage and on screen. But Elie Semoun is also politically aware and will not hesitate to deal with sensitive topics to make the audience laugh. For the first time in London, he will play his latest show, A Partager, 22 and 23 June at the Hippodrome Casino.

“I wonder: “will this make them laugh?”

Elie Semoun
Elie Semoun is an accomplished artist

Sometimes in he role of Kevina, a hysterical teenager, or playing Gustave Latouche, the teacher of the famous Belgian comic character Ducobu, Elie Semoun makes the French laugh with funny and pathetic protagonists. For many years, he dealt with superficial topics such as love and body issues. His Petites Annonces with the comedian Franck Dubosc made him one of the most famous French comedians. But the time for making a fool of himself with ridiculous costumes is over. At least, for the moment.

In his latest one-man show A Partager, Elie Semoun does not only deal with daily routine. “It is important for me to cover new and different topics, such as jihadism, paedophilia, disability or the National Front”, he explains. “I feel like the other comedians all talk about the same things...” But these touchy issues are difficult to approach without risking criticism… Before performing the show, Elie Semoun sometimes has doubts about his sketches. “I wonder: “will this make them laugh?”, he confesses. For example, one of my characters is a trainee jihadist who has read all the recommended books : Martyr at the beach, Martyr takes the plane… "

I cannot help but talk about these topics

With the different terrorist attacks and wars throughout the world, 2015 has been a year of high tension for French citizens. Elie Semoun uses this to handle dark humour expertly. “I thought it could be inappropriate, but I cannot act as if it does not exist.”  But A Partager has been a great success, liberating the audience through laughter.

Challenging taboos, Elie Semoun dares to deal with topics causing fierce debate on the social media. In 2012, his close friend Dieudonné, with whom he performed several times, was convicted of anti-semitism. In seeking to provoke, he went too far, talking about the Shoah and insulting Jews. Elie Semoun, who is Jewish, commented on the case in a sketch on TV: “When we started with Dieudonné, we were the symbol of anti-racism, to the point where I had forgotten that I was black and that he was a Jew!

There are lines not to be crossed. But this does not scare Elie Semoun. “Some say I am brave to do this, but I cannot help but talk about these topics” he explains. “There are also superficial themes in my show, but I need to talk about serious things. Humour is just like cooking: you need precise dosage, every word has its place.

Elie Semoun's show in London
Elie Semoun's show in London on 22 and 23 June at the Hippodrome Casino

What I like in people is their weaknesses

When he creates new characters, he does not just seek to provoke. “What I like in people is their weaknesses, I try to know what is behind the mask. I always wonder about their complexes, how they live, love, etc.” 

In A Partager, the audience discovers a disabled man pretending to be  a womaniser on the Internet, a paedophile coming back from Thailand and delighted by “human relationships”, or a teenager sending sexy pictures instead of selfies. But Elie Semoun also talks about himself, his son and celibacy. “This show is personal and dark, and this is what I love about it.

Elie Semoun is an accomplished artist: performing on stage, cinema and TV, but also singing and bringing to life animated characters - such as Sid, in Ice Age. But what he prefers is his one-man show. “I can be myself on stage”, he says with a smile. “But I miss cinema. I have not been in a film for a long time now. And I would love one day to write a scenario and film what I live on stage!

He plays for the first time in London

Elie Semoun will perform for the first time in London on 22 and 23 June, at the Hippodrome Casino theatre. If he is excited, he is also a little bit nervous. “I do not know what to expect and how the audience will react. I do not know the opinion of the French people living in London about France. But I am going to make fun of them, for sure!” 

As the show is named A Partager (“To be shared"), Elie Semoun shared an extract of his sketch in French about the trainee jihadist:


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