He is a chameleon comedian, who has worked on radio, television, stage and cinema and who quickly understood that the best way to renew himself, to escape boredom, was to multiply the playgrounds. therefore Jérôme Commandeur, 46, in Le Flambeau, Jonathan Cohen’s series, under the enlarged features of the host of Koh-Lanta, Denis Brogniart; here he is, after the Olympia in Paris, on tour with his hit show, Tout en calme. In the meantime, he shot his second film, Irréductible, with a great cast: Christian Clavier, Pascale Arbillot, Gérard Darmon, Valérie Lemercier, Gérard Depardieu, Nicole Calfan… A comedy about the adventures of a civil servant harassed by his boss who sends him to the worst places in the world to force him to resign.
Noticed by Dany Boon, who produced his first show at the Olympia and featured him in several of his films (Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis in 2008, Nothing to Declare in 2011 and Supercondriaque in 2014), Jérôme Commandeur does not Is not mistaken by following his path, in comedies with friends with Les Tuche, by Olivier Baroux, Barbecue (and soon Plancha), Un tour chez ma fille by Éric Lavaine or even in the skin of Abraracourcix in Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Empire, by Guillaume Canet (released February 1, 2023). In the meantime, we went to ask him for his recipes for laughter.
Le Point: Irréductible is based on a hit Italian comedy, Quo Vado? How did you update it?
Jérôme Commandeur: I kept the story of the hero harassed by his head of department who does everything to make him resign by sending him to the worst places in the world. But I wanted to take him to the themes that agitate France in 2022. What is it to be French? So, I updated the hero’s story with references to migrants, global warming, male-female relationships, female liberation, diversity, the blended family and the fear of downgrading.
A socio-political inventory that you transform into a comic playground. Not easy ?
It’s my character, Vincent, who provokes the laughter and asks the question: how do you find yourself in a world in full turmoil, turned upside down? It’s nice to order shoes from the other side of the world and receive them at home. But who am I talking to? Who are my referrers? In Irréductible, I wanted there to be both the form, first of all a comedy, and the substance, on themes that affect us. We had to work on this ridge line. I tried to be both wacky and believable, to drive away boredom, to avoid caricature.
Isn’t it irreducible also a satire of the civil servant, conformist and cushy spirit, through the hero, a simple and sympathetic guy, who resists the harassment of his superior to make him resign?
Yes, it’s part of the game among comedians, from Pierre Dac to Coluche. It’s both a wink and a tip of the hat. I tease civil servants like everyone else, but it’s badly needed. They are the ones who exfiltrate people from Ukraine, who repair pylons after storms, who clear snow from the roads. My character of Vincent is a civil servant who loves his job passionately and has no intention of quitting.
On the other hand, the railway union delegate played by Christian Clavier is not spared… What a laugh, right?
He is very good in the role of the devious trade unionist who has the art of turning situations and taking advantage of the system. It’s a counterpoint, just like a sequence that I really like, Gérard Depardieu’s declaration of love for France, which evokes smells, black coffee, dung on the roads…
I wouldn’t say nostalgic. You know, we often caricature artists like boobies above ground, but we know France well because we spend our lives in the provinces, in the TGV during the tours, on the motorway service areas. We talk to a lot of people, night watchmen, we play in large halls as well as in small ones in hidden corners.
At times, we have the impression that your character is in survival mode when he is taken prisoner by Indians who summon him to take stock of his life, to justify his actions. An anti-hero, basically, right?
A friend summed up the movie very well: the story of a guy who goes around the world because he doesn’t want to give up his office. And that’s exactly it. In comedy, you have to push the hero into a bath and make him come out wrung out and changed. We all have fears, apprehensions, somewhat plan-plan habits, preconceptions that need to be shaken up. But the moment comes when you are shaken and told no. So you have to look deep inside yourself for the best if you want to get out of it.
Can we still laugh at everything today without worrying too much about the court of social networks and such?
When I’m asked the question, I like to return the famous phrase attributed to Pierre Desproges: “We can laugh at everything, but not with anyone. I turn it upside down: not everyone can laugh at everything. Alain Chabat and Valérie Lemercier, who for me are geniuses, have made a lot of things happen in their careers. When you see Chabat on Burger Quiz, in front of millions of viewers, having fun with his “Jew or Arab?” Or both,” everyone laughs because he knows how to do it. So, you may need to have a bit of a bottle, know how to avoid pitfalls, pitfalls, not go into things head on.
And laugh at almost everything with Blanche Gardin, Gaspard Proust, Haroun who rock a lot on stage…
They, yes, they are between 35 and 40 years old, extremely talented and very successful. I would add: we can laugh at all three little points… on stage, in the room. As storytellers did five centuries ago in village squares. It happens like that on tour, but on television it’s different, more complicated because you go under the scrutiny of social networks.
Are the stage, the live performance still your fuel, your home base?
The stage is my source of inspiration, an organic pleasure, an impulse in front of the public that must be seduced. There is a real contact, direct, immediate. The cinema is a little more intellectual pleasure because you do something whose results you will only see much later.
What did Dany Boon teach you that got you started in this business?
A lot of course, because he is a generous man, serene, reassuring and faithful in friendship. We phone each other often. I would say he taught me to get to the bottom of things. I remember he was always telling me, “You know, when you finish writing a sketch, you really have to feel like you’ve run your finger through an empty drawer without leaving a trace of dust on it.” In a sketch or in a film, you really have to have the feeling of having explored everything. This is advice that has always stuck with me.
Comedy is the favorite genre of the French who acclaim films like What have we done to God again, Retirement home or Les Tuche. However, cinema attendance has been falling for several months. What do you think ?
After the confinement, we thought that everything was going to go back to the way it was before, but the public has become more demanding. The motto of producers and distributors is: let’s make a splash. That is to say a great show, stronger stories. Yes but how ? With marketing? If we want event films, we must above all work, surprise, make the pen run more, as they say.
There isn’t, but there are two pitfalls to avoid: I’m bored or I don’t believe it. Something has to happen, otherwise the viewer will yawn. Without forgetting the rhythm, a scenario and chiseled dialogues. You have to work tirelessly and meditate on the sentence of filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, taken up by Jean Gabin: “To make a film, first, a good story, second, a good story, third, a good story. The rest, the success and all that eludes us.
“Irréductible,” in theaters June 29.