Humor in politics, like cartoons or sketches, plays an important role in French media, especially around election time, such as now. Sketches are performed by several humorists (such as Nicolas Canteloup or Laurent Gerra, famous imitators) on different radio stations and television shows. Satirical cartoons are published in every newspaper in France. The Canard Enchainé, for example, starts every edition with a joke or play on words and has several mini satirical comics all throughout the paper.
Charlie Hebdo, the famous left wing periodical, is almost entirely dedicated to satire. They don’t go softly with the people or movements they mock, which has made them the target of several vandalisms, boycotts, and even a terrorist attack January 7th 2015, causing 12 death and “66 Million wounded”. Charlie Hebdo became a war cry in the fight for freedom of speech and press in the world. Millions of people made their homage to the victims of the terrorist attack by saying that they are “Charlie”. Even political personalities such as Marine Le Pen, often criticized by this news paper, said when asked by a journalist, “Oui, je suis Charlie” (Yes, I am Charlie).
Ironically enough, the comic magazine was on the verge of disappearing. People thought that it was too aggressive and that it had little actual political analysis. Many readers left the paper for more serious news. But the attack gave them new wind. Their first edition since the attack, which beat record sales, sent out a message of forgiveness and love to the whole world.
Today, although two years have passed, the attacks remain vivid in French memory. The more recent attacks are a cruel reminder that our democracy is at war. In these grave times, the French still use comics and other humoristic media to lift their spirits, by mocking everything and everyone, even the jihadist.
Finally, there’s a famous Yiddish saying, often used in France: Il faut rire pour ne pas pleurer. In english: “One must laugh to not cry.” France has many reasons to cry but has always chosen to laugh.
-P.A. Le Ber