Christelle Paré: “Francophone Comedy in Quebec: Tradition or Invasion”

The Province of Quebec is an interesting ground for research in humor and comedy. Historically, it has a long tradition in telling hilarious stories. Nowadays, it hosts not only the biggest comedy festival on the planet (Juste pout rire–Just for Laughs), but also four others on its territory. It harbours the only francophone comedy school in the world (École nationale de l’humour), recognizes players in this field annually with an awards gala, and is more lucrative than any other performing arts in the province.

Humor is simply everywhere: arts, business, marketing, news media, health care, etc. Since 1983, some observers of the francophone comedy industry have been consistently asking if there is too much comedy in Quebec society? On the other hand, the actors of this industry claim that hey are not being taken seriously as an active form of culture, they condemn the “elite” attitude towards them, even if they represent a productive economic force, and blame the provincial government for not supporting them as it supports other performing arts.

Using David Hesmondlaigh’s approach of the cultural industries (2007), our communication will take a look at the ideological role played by humor in the province of Quebec. We will explore the actors’ discourse (comedians and journalists) about this cultural field, based on several interviews conducted during our thesis research, a press corpus of articles published between 2008 and 2012, and different types of documents (conference papers, books, documentaries, etc.). We will try to take the pulse of a society that loves to laugh.

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