Les Guignols de l'info
Les Guignols de l'info (English: News Puppets) is a satirical latex puppet show broadcast on Canal+, a French subscription-based television channel, the show being available without subscription. Hosted by a puppet facsimile of TF1 news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Les Guignols is similar to the 1984–1996 British show Spitting Image. A segment appeared every weeknight on the Canal+ program Nulle part ailleurs, with a weekly recapitulation on Sundays ("La Semaine des Guignols", replay of the week's episodes). While Nulle part ailleurs no longer runs, the Guignols are still running inside the Canal+ TV Show Le Grand Journal.
The show started in 1988 as Les Arènes de l'info (News Arenas). It originally did not follow the news of the day and was not very popular. It was not until 1990–1991 and the first Gulf War that the show began to follow the news. It enjoyed a tremendous growth in popularity and quickly eclipsed its rival, Le Bébête Show.
Impact on popular culture
The Guignols have had a tremendous impact on French popular culture, in many case introducing or popularizing phrases. For instance, à l'insu de mon plein gré ("without the knowledge of my own free will"), repeated by the puppet representing Richard Virenque is now attributed in jest to people who hypocritically deny having willfully committed attributed acts. The impact of political caricature in the Guignols is unclear, but some polls have shown that they influence voters.
The show is known to be able to go further in challenging current popular figures and thought than many other forms of media. Some sketches displayed for example Raymond Barre, a former Prime Minister in a gonzo pornographic scene, President Jacques Chirac and his team in a Pulp Fiction–like destruction race to eliminate their competitors or the then Minister of Interior Department Nicolas Sarkozy as a flip-flopping politician.
The Guignols generally displays a left political outlook (although being tough on whoever is in power). While they generally focus on French politics, they occasionally parody international events, often concerning terrorism, including Osama Bin Laden, the Iraq conflict and Saddam Hussein, and United States foreign policy in general. These spoofs on international events are usually presented in an anti-Bush manner, mocking the fact that grey eminences lead the politic, not the president himself. They also sometimes mock Canal+ and its staff as for their former football club.
The characters in the Guignols are either inspired by real personalities of the political, economic and artistic worlds (generally, by anybody who appears in the news) or else are fictional.
- PPD is a caricature of Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (aka PPDA), a news anchor. He is depicted as a rather cowardly journalist who tries to get on with the mighty and the powerful, but who uses irony and sarcasm to get his point across. He also sports a variety of hairstyles, trying to mask his receding hairline. Despite the end of the news anchor career of Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, PPD isn't retired.
- Commandant Sylvestre, M. Sylvestre and Cardinal Sylvestre are fictional characters based on the American actor Sylvester Stallone (although when Sylvester Stallone himself is represented, or represented as Rambo, he has a different appearance and a different voice). They are a parody of "an ugly American" and of greedy multinationals and the military-industrial complex. They always say "Beuuarhh" instead of "Bonsoir" French pronunciation: [bɔ̃.swaʁ] (Good evening) as a salute. During the first Gulf War, the Guignols had a character called Commandant Sylvestre. Cmdt Sylvestre would explain the war in broad terms ("Here's the good guys, that's us, and here are the ragheads, so we'll kill everybody there...") After the war, Cmdt Sylvestre was reintroduced as Mr Sylvestre, a ubiquitous executive from the military-industrial complex, the corporate world (all mixed into the fictional corporation World Company), and the CIA. Sylvestre is dressed in suit and tie and wears a security badge. He is assisted by clones of himself. His appearance is a blend of Sylvester Stallone and Al Pacino (mainly the lower part of his face). Cardinal Sylvestre, joined with Reverend Sylvestre, Imam Sylvestre, Rabbi Sylvestre and other religious leaders, form the Church Company, twin sister of the World Company specialized in "religious business". Since the beginning of the European economic crisis, Mr. Sylvestre is often an Moody's analyst. Mr. Sylvestre is a caricature of globalization and is very cynical.
- Jacques Chirac French president between 1995 and 2007, is depicted as a beer-guzzling, impulsive, incompetent liar who embezzles public money and yet comes off as charming, charismatic, and well-loved. The Guignols went as far as to introduce Super Menteur (Super-Liar), a super hero, into whom Jacques Chirac changes in times of need (see Clark Kent/Superman). Super Menteur is capable of uttering unbelievable lies without getting caught. Only one person is a better liar, Ultra menteur (Ultra-Liar), portrayed by French retired politician Charles Pasqua who has been convicted in some corruption cases.
- George W. Bush is depicted as a cretin along with his father. He shows a tendency to war and fights terrorism in his bedroom, defending himself with hand grenades (beer cans). His laptop password is "connard" (one of the French words for "dumbass").
- Joey Starr and Doc Gynéco: The rapper Joey Starr, convicted of violence, is portrayed as a brutal individual. He is often coupled with rapper Doc Gynéco to discuss the consumption of cannabis.
- Bernard Tapie is represented as a bully, speaking in a vulgar way.
- Jean Marie Le Pen when he was the French FN (Front National) political party leader (French far-right party). He was represented with a pitbull's head. Since the handover to one of his daughters, Marine Le Pen, his puppet appears rarely, usually as the éminence grise of Marine Le Pen.
- José Maria Aznar Former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar. Represented as a law and science student closer to people, but when one of his ministers as Abel Matutes, Javier Arenas, Isabel Tocino or Rodrigo Rato get mad, it explodes. It is a centrist convinced (parody of that once in power the Popular Party, went to turn it into a conservative party with a moderate party). Due to the end of his political career, he no-longer appears.
- Philippe Lucas, a former trainer of the French Olympic, world and European champion swimmer Laure Manaudou, as a heavily muscled, homophobic guy who criticizes most of French athletes, suspected of physical and mental weakness. He always ends his critics by the reply Et pis c'est tout !, incorrect contraction of Et puis c'est tout (And that's it).
- Bernard Laporte, a former authoritarian rugby scrum half, coach (both club teams and national team), French Secretary of State for Sport and today rugby coach again. He only appears to glorify violence in rugby, described as the valeurs de l'ovalie (values of rugby) with many hyperboles (open fractures, neck cracking, enucleations, coma, crowbar fighting ambush ...).
In recent political history, the Guignols have regularly portrayed:
- Former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as competent and honest but boring. He's depicted as disappointed by France (he passes, time to time, to say "pays de merde", which can be translated roughly as "this country sucks"), since the first round of the French 2002 presidential election when he couldn't qualify;
- a former Minister of Health, Youth Affairs and Sports Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin as an incompetent airhead. She usually answers to questions with a "Ah booooooon?... Vrraaaiiiiment ?" - (um, Okaaaay, reeaaaally?) as she's clueless about her own ministry;
- The former president Nicolas Sarkozy as overly ambitious and populist and short-tempered. He collects Rolex watches and keeps diverting attention to his wife, Carla Bruni, who's "so beautiful cause she's so talented cause she sings so well cause she's so his wife". Like the real politician, he is complexed with his small size and always wear shoes with high soles to seem bigger;
- Former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as dogmatic and repetitive, usually seen wearing his green habit vert (ceremonial dress), as he is a member of the Académie Française. One running gag is that Giscard d'Estaing is dead but too stubborn to admit it.
- Ségolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate for the 2007 presidential election, as constantly following opinion polls and pretending to be a woman of the people.
- François Bayrou, the centrist 2012 candidate for France's presidency who has delusions of grandeur. His huge-eared puppet is childish and whiny.
- Current President François Hollande, elected in 2012 as the Socialist Party candidate, as an overweight politician who lacks charisma.
- Nadine Morano, a very scurrilous and rough politician, who unconditionally supports Nicolas Sarkozy, often alongside David Douillet, a former world champion in judo, Minister of Sports, described in the guignols as a very silly man.
- Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen and his successor to the FN presidency.
- Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who is accused, since the end of 2011, of controlling the whole European Union.
- The XYZ Show is the Kenyan equivalent of the French original.
- Les Guignols d'Afrique is the Cameroonian equivalent of the French original.
- Las noticias del guiñol is a show in Spanish Canal+ inspired by Les Guignols. It focuses on Spanish politics and football.
- Contra Informação is a long-running Portuguese equivalent broadcast on RTP1. It was cancelled on 2010.
- ContraPoder is an updated version of Contra Informação. It was premiered on March 2013 in the cable channels SIC Notícias and SIC Radical.
- ZANews is the South African equivalent of the French original.
Programs of the Guignols family exchange latex moulds, and puppets representing foreign celebrities can be used as "normal people" in countries where the celebrity is not known.
- Le Bébête Show, an earlier show
- Et Dieu créa Laflaque
- Spitting Image
- The Wrong Coast
- The Daily Show
- This Hour Has 22 Minutes
- Bloomberg, Segolene Is Snow White, Nicolas a Dwarf as French Satire Blooms
- Erik Svane: Stallone et les Guignols. Le Monde Télévision, September 23/24, 2001, page 39
- Nouvelle page 1
- Les Guignols de l'Info, les bien nommés, actualité Confidentiels : Le Point
- Canal+ website, includes videos of Les Guignols (in French)