There is a lot to admire about the French. Like their kissing, fries and toast. Also their envious taste when it comes to fine foods and fashion. But I never thought I’d be bowled over by a French sense of humour. Well, that was until I found Gad.
Gad Elmaleh is arguably one of France’s most famous comedians. With almost two million followers on Instagram and a record-breaking seven weeks sold-out at Paris’ Olympia theatre, he obviously has a following in the country of the beret, the baguette and the interesting way of dealing with cheese that has gone slightly mouldy…
He has also provided quite a bit of tabloid fodder in his personal life, most recently after the break-up of his relationship with Charlotte Casiraghi (daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and granddaughter of Grace Kelly).
Now you can follow his semi-autobiographical journey into the real world of fame (ie American success) with all the stumbling blocks and barriers that come with it.
Before you dive into Huge in France (Netlix), take the time to get to know this Moroccan-born joker in one of the episodes of Jerry Seinfield’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Netflix), or over here if you find your subscription lapsed or your password missing. After that you can also check out his Netflix special American Dream.
It’s not as if you won’t enjoy Huge In France without this bit of background, but it provides details that make the way Gad portrays himself and his journey to America much funnier and more poignant.
Although he plays himself, Huge In France sees Gad dive into the darker perceptions of fame and famous people. The self-deprecating style reminds one of Matt Le Blanc who had no qualms about being the worst version of himself in Episodes. It might be originating from a place of truth, but it’s exaggerated and played in the most comedic of ways, creating a cringe-to-giggle ratio of almost one to one.
Huge in France starts with Gad deciding to give up his French fame (but not necessarily his fortune) to move to Los Angeles in an attempt to reconnect with this son, Luca (or Luke, as he is now known).
Armed with nothing but a quirky accent and his own perceived charm, Gad tries to find his feet in a country where nobody knows him, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care.
In a time where celebrities are overly concerned with their public perception and the image their adoring fans have of them, it’s great to see somebody willing to play a twisted, satirical version of themselves. There’s always a sense of empathy present, but not for long.
The cluelessness is both uncomfortable and sad, but only until he whips out his iPhone for the umpteenth time to prove that he is as famous as he says he is…
And that’s just the beginning. Throw in a strange little sidekick who serves as driver and guide to the very foreign world that Gad finds himself in, an ex who is something between a love guru and a life coach, and a son whose greatest goal in life is pec-implants, and it becomes clear – Gad is in for quite a tough time.
With all of this in place, Huge in France could easily just have been a silly comedy about the antics of an out-of-place performer in the dark pit that is Hollywood.
Enter Matthew Del Negro. Del Negro plays the part of Jason, Gad’s ex-partner’s new beau and new father figure to his son. Initially, the character seems to only be fodder for some jokes and gags at the expense of bodybuilders and fitness freaks aspiring the hit the cover of Men’s Health. But then his particular story arc kicks in and it becomes something totally different.
In this era where “truth” is always trying to find its way into entertainment, it’s a breathtaking experience to see a character that seems to be a fringe figure in somebody else’s journey almost become the one we actually root for.
Gad’s clueless approach to cementing his son’s love, his ex’s affection and the adulation of the American public at large is perfectly balanced by the realism of Jason’s struggles with the Hollywood fame machine.
Spend some time with Gad. The anti-hero-esque version of this funny Frenchman is fun to watch, almost impossible not to root for and sometimes as infuriating clueless as any “influencer” with a very weak grip on reality.
He might be huge in France, but he’s even larger in his own mind. You’ll cringe, you’ll laugh and you’ll probably even cry a little bit. Comedy is, after all, just an equation: Tragedy + Time = Comedy. And Gad’s time is now.