Yvon Deschamps - Style

Style

Yvon Deschamps' monologues were known for their unrelenting irony, and often buried a message that was completely opposite to what the stage character was saying literally. For Deschamps' first monologue, Les unions, qu'ossa donne?, he created an exploited worker who incarnated the Québécois self-image of a historic past as water-carriers and hewers of wood, and who remained resolutely blind to his exploitation at the hands of his "good" boss.

In the beginning, Yvon Deschamps' never-named "character" was distinguished by his spectacular naïvete, which served as a vehicle for Deschamps to tackle delicate subjects such as racism. In Nigger Black, for instance, the character recalled boyhood surprise upon learning that "Nègres" were no more nor less than human beings like him, neither better nor worse:

Us, we had some on our street; they lived in the same houses we did, went to the same schools. Hey, even some of us had some, there were French-Canadian "nègres". One of 'em was in my class, his name was Robert. Hey, that was the first time I'd seen a "nègre" named Robert!

But, very quickly, Deschamps felt the need to go further outside the usual boundaries. His character began to be more self-assured, his remarks more pointed:

In 1972, I decided to write differently and to stage my theatrical shows. It was all about evoking different emotions in the audiences. Discomfort, too. I yelled at my musicians. I pretended to forget things for five minutes. I once even had the sprinklers go off during a show. Until the beginning of the 1980s, I figured I had to go as far as possible in my live shows. My audiences had seen everything. They left the show with their heads between their legs.

In L'intolérance, Deschamps tried something riskier: going beyond what his audience could possibly accept. The monologue started quietly, after a long introduction and a song (On va s'en sortir, We'll Manage), with the character warning the public against the dangers of intolerance, which had caused wars, massacres, genocides and other human follies—all that, punctuated with a diatribe against "faggots". Deschamps' character cited as an example the Biafra genocide, where intolerance had resulted in "millions of little niggers dying of hunger", adding that it didn't bother him too much since, after all, these were only "niggers". At the same time, Deschamps would hasten to add, intolerance had also killed "real people" -- the "almost Whites", which were the "Light Greys", by which he meant Jews.

Six million Jews died because Hitler, he did some of that intolerance. He was nuts, a goddamn maniac, you know? Yeah, that guy, Hitler, he said that the Jews didn't smell right or dress right, and they had those braids, and they stunk and they didn't wash and they bought everything...
I happen to know they're like that, but you can't kill them for that! Jews, you just make sure you don't have any around you have to deal with, that's all.

The monologue continued to unwind, and the character would explain how he had kicked a Jewish family out of their neighbourhood as a teenager, punctuated by exclamations of "damn dirty Jews". He would push and push until a member of the audience showed some sign of disgust. The character would at that point turn to the audience member and accuse him of showing the same intolerance he'd been warning the public about for the last twenty minutes. Deschamps' character would add that an army should really be mounted against the intolerants, ending the monologue with the sounds of a regiment marching, fading into a reprise of the opening song, On va s'en sortir.

Deschamps always admitted being a little bit frightened when he performed this monologue.

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