PAUL Taylor may not yet be a household name in comedy, but could well be the saving grace for British students studying in France at the moment. Former French student himself – although having spent his own university year abroad in Montreal – Taylor, 29, is taking the internet by storm with his What the Fuck France comedy series on YouTube. His videos have hit impressive viewing numbers (over nine million total), tackling the ways of French life that might be difficult for expats.
Having lived in Paris since 2009 and quit his job at Apple in 2015 to pursue his stand-up comedy full time, Taylor provides a unique insight into both the makings of bilingual comedy – and the experiences of an Englishman in France. He explains the first topic that inspired the videos: “The phenomenon of la bise [customary kiss on each cheek] in France. We made the video and it got one million views in one week.”
A relatable topic clearly resounded with those familiar and unfamiliar with French culture – but what made his comedy stand out? “I speak French like a French person. This adds credibility,” he explains. “If Joe Bloggs from England who didn’t really speak French or didn’t understand the culture were to do the same thing, the French might take offence. If a French guy did the same show in the UK, it would need to be done right in order for Brits not to say “bugger off home you silly frog”
“In France, political humour is most consumed. No one has really succeeded with observational comedy here.”
From la Bise onwards, in both stand up and in his What the Fuck France videos, Taylor seems anything but short of material. From French cinema to driving, to cheese and wine, to the dreaded administration that any French year abroad student will undoubtedly struggle through, no facet of life in France is safe. For his stand-up shows in Paris (Sentier des Halles), with a predominantly French audience, how does he decide what to include?
“There are some subjects that appeal more to some countries than others,” says Taylor. “I find that in France, political humour is the most consumed. No one has really succeeded in a big way with observational comedy here in France.” If he is playing to the masses in terms of subject, what makes his stand-up shows unique?
“There is no other show in France that is bilingual,” he says. “If you’re French and want to see a live show but aren’t sure that your English is good enough, at least you’ll understand half of mine. The same goes for people whose French isn’t amazing.” French year abroad-ers, you have surely heard enough.
Yet in the midst of such relentless questioning and imitation of the French ways of life, Taylor’s comedic observations are undoubtedly warm-hearted. “It’s an amazing country all round. Life is more relaxing, the food is better, you get better benefits at work, the list goes on…” Worth bearing in mind for anybody currently in France and struggling with that all-important cultural assimilation.
Despite any problems that could arise on a year out – with French life as with any unfamiliar culture – immersing yourself and enjoying as many of the differences as possible is key. “Enjoy it!” Taylor advises, “get angry at the paperwork. Get drunk on the wine. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Make the most of your time in France – or anywhere!”
This seems to be the overarching message of Taylor’s humour. Successful Apple store businessman turned bilingual stand-up comic, he is putting the joie de vivre back into travel, languages, and the idea of following dreams.
“Life is short. Do what you really want to do, instead of doing what you think you’re supposed to do.”
And presumably, do it soon… before Brexit means you can’t.