French Figure: Pierre Desproges

Pierre Desproges was a French humourist, famous for his elaborate, eloquent and most of all, cutting jibes criticising anything and everything, best characterised by his satirical observation of the world: “On peut rire de tout, mais pas avec tout le monde” (“You can laugh about anything, but not with anyone”). Desproges admitted himself that he made no significant achievements before the age of thirty. From 1967 to 1970, he worked as a life insurance salesman, opinion pool investigator, a lonely-hearts columnist, horse racing forecaster and a sales manager.

Starting in 1975, he became a journalist for Le petit rapporteur, a satirical television programme hosted by Jacques Martin. Desproges caught the public’s attention with his unconventional interviews with celebrities, including novelists Françoise Sagan or Jean-Edern Hallier. He appeared for the first time on stage at the Olympia theatre during a Thierry Le Luron show. In the 1980s, he appeared on Le tribunal des flagrants délires, a daily comedy show where celebrities were judged in mock trials. Desproges played prosecutor for more than two years, a part for which his irresistible energy, his scathing humour and his literary intellect were ideally suited.

In 1982, he created La minute nécessaire de Monsieur Cyclopède, a series of televised shorts, where he played an omniscient professor. He answered to metaphysical and nonsensical questions, such as “How to make King Louis XVI fireproof?”, proved that Beethoven was not deaf but stupid and explained why the improbable encounter between the Venus de Milo and Saint Exupéry’s ‘Petit Prince’ would have been a disaster. In 1984, he had his first stand-up show at the Théâtre Fontaine and in 1986, his second stand-up, Pierre Desproges se donne en spectacle debuted at the Théâtre Grévin.

Desproges died in 1988 from lung cancer, a disease he had bitterly laughed at time and time again. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.