Les Guignols de l'info is a popular French News Parody puppet show broadcast on Canal+. Essentially the French version of Spitting Image, it uses latex puppets as caricatures of prominent political figures to satirize national and international politics in sketches but also touches upon other topics such as sports, cinema and French television in general. The name of the show comes from Guignol, a famous French satirical puppet of the early 19th century.Since their beginning in 1988, when the show was known as Les Arènes de l'info, it has been hosted by PPD, a puppet of famous French news anchor Patrick Poivre D'Arvor (or PPDA, as he is better known by the audiences)note PPDA having been fired from his real life job on the channel TF1 in 2008, the authors had also introduced for a time a new anchorman, Harry Roselmack, who worked every Friday as his "apprentice". The show has enjoyed tremendous popularity through the years that continues to this day, and has been credited with introducing younger generations to politics and even of influencing the French public's views on certain politicians.For instance, the show's portrayal of Jacques Chirac during the 1995 Presidential election as a likeable everyman getting backstabbed and betrayed by former friend and rival Édouard Balladur (then Prime Minister) was claimed to have helped him get elected. Though the writers deny any intentions of influencing voters, they make no secret of their left-leaning political tendencies (they don't spare left-wing politicians nevertheless).A Spanish version (Las Noticias del Guiñol) ran on Canal+ Spain and later on Spanish television channel Cuatroº between 1995 and 2008, and it was as influential as its French predecessor.
Les Guignols de l'info provides examples of the following tropes:
François Hollande has started to rival him during his presidency; he is the least popular president in France since the beginning of the Fourth French Republic, but the Guignols flanderize this into having the whole population absolutely loathing him, to the point any book saying bad things about him is almost sure to encounter success.
Any sketch involving Arnold Schwarzenegger has him talk (and usually act) like the Terminator. His hunt for Sarah Connor has been parodied countless times.
Monsieur Sylvestre, based on Sylvester Stallone. Besides occasionnal appearances of John Rambo, this puppet model is used extensively to portray World Company executives (all of them are nicknamed "Bob" or "Jim"), the American military (even more so since 9/11), Lakshmi Mittal (big shareholder in the steel industry), the Pope's Cardinals and an assembly of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who act exactly like the World Company. Let's just say he portrays the New World Order and imperialism.
Arrow Gram: What Ernest-Antoine Seillière calls "receiving an e-mail".
Art Evolution: The puppets have become more and more detailed with time. They are also sometimes updated, either to reflect changes in the actual person's physical appearance, or because the authors decide to give a character who used to have a generic puppet a custom one. One of the most significant recent examples is François Hollande, the current president of the Republic, who was portrayed as a Fat Idiot. The real one went through a diet before the presidential election, so the creators replaced his puppet with a thinner one.
The Artifact: PPD kept being the news anchor long after his real-life counterpart ceased to be on TV.
Authentication by Newspaper: Parodied in an old sketch; the hostage ("played" by the puppet for Christopher Lambert) is recording a video proving he's well, before realizing the facetious hostage-taker has given him a porn magazine instead of a newspaper.
Author Avatar: PPD got subtle shades of this as seasons passed. Made even stranger by the fact that he was (and still is, to some extent) originally supposed to be right-wing, like his real-life counterpart.
Bratty Teenage Daughter: Cécile Duflot, the one Ecologist minister in Hollande's government, is portrayed as such (despite being 38), with Noël Mamère and Dominique Voynet as her beleaguered "parents".
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "Alain Juppé, the candidate of old people (shows Jacques Chirac), inept people (shows François Bayrou), and old inept people (shows Valery Giscard d'Estaing)."
Aimé Jacquet, former head coach of the French national soccer team (World champions in 1998), when he talks about the epically boring French League 1 championship (he was forced to comment it, and was comically Driven to Madness because of it).
Laurent Blanc, another coach of the French team, when he speaks about the team's chances in the upcoming UEFA Euro Championship (he was right all along).
Eva Joly, though she's not rude, rather depressing and fatalist.
Almost every French prime minister since the show really got into politics: Edith Cresson, Édouard Balladur, Michel Rocard, Lionel Jospin, Alain Juppé, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Dominique de Villepin, François Fillon.
Michel Denisot, one of Canal+'s most prominent producers and TV hosts.
Laurent Fabius, former prime minister (before the show was created) and current minister of Foreign and European Affairs.
Nicolas Sarkozy has to go through Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Jacques Chirac's hazing in the Constitutional Council (where he now sits as former presidents usually do).
Canis Latinicus: When Pope Benedict XVI speaks, he often adds the suffix "-us" to his words.
PPD: So what do you plan to do after your retirement? Benedict: Scratchus ballsus in front of televisius. Monsignor Sylvestre: Uhh... He'll spend it in meditation.
Can't Hold His Liquor: François Bayrou. He can get drunk on non-alcoholic beer. Once, trying just one draught of panaché (shanty) put him in an alcoholic coma.
François Léotard: You mean a giant alien like the one in... Alien?
Zinédine Zidane, whenever commenting soccer.
Cargo Ship: invoked Bernadette Chirac and her handbag in one of the most infamous sketches of the show. So infamous that they actually had to broadcast a censored version at the time.
Catch Phrase: Many, and we mean many. Among the most notable:
"You're watching the ancestor of the Internet. Good evening." (PPD's current opening phrase)
"You're watching too much television. Good evening." (PPD's former opening phrase)
"You always believe everything said on television. Good evening." (another of PPD's former opening phrases)
"Travailleurs, travailleuses, le grand Capital vous ment, le grand Capital vous spolie..." ("Male workers, female workers, the Great Capital lies to you, the Great Capital is despoiling you..." — Arlette Laguiller, presidential candidate in six elections for the the far-left Workers' Struggle party)
"Salut bonhomme !" ("Hi fella!" — Bernard Tapie)
"Imbécile !"; "Andouille !" ("Dumbass!"; "Idiot!" — François Mitterrand, former president)
"Eeeeeheeeee..."; "Uuuuhuuuu..."; "Je veux être un président normal !" ("I want to be a normal President!" — François Hollande, current President of the Republic)
"Abracadabrantesque !" ("Ludicrousish" — Jacques Chirac, former president)
"LE MONSIEUR TE DEMANDE..." ("THE GENTLEMAN IS ASKING YOU..." — Jacques Chirac, whenever adressing Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, despite the latter's protests that he isn't deaf)
"Alors, je clique sur le mulot..." *coin* "Comment ça, 'coin'?" ("So, I click with the rodent..." *quack* "Waddya mean, 'quack'?" — Jacques Chirac, whenever trying to use a computer)
"Mééééééééheuuuu ! Je veux être président !" ("Come ooooooon, I want to be president!" — François Bayrou, center-right unsuccessful presidential candidate)
"En effet !" or "Aneffet !" ("Indeed!" — Philippe Douste-Blazy; he rarely says something else)
Sylvester usually says "Beuuuuuuarh" to say "hi", with PPD responding "beuarh to you too".
"Excusez la tenue, je sors de la douche..." ("Pardon the dress, I just got out of the shower..." — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, every time he appears since the Nafissatou Diallo affair, always wearing a leopard bathrobe)
"PAAAAAYYYYS DE MEEEEEEERDE !!!" ("SHITTY COUNTRYYYYYY!!!" — former socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin's leitmotif since he pathetically lost the 2002 presidential election)
"M'enfin c'est pas possible !", "Mais quelle tête de con celui-là !" ("You must be kidding me!", "What a dickhead!" — Abbé Pierre)
"Ceci est une révolution !" ("This is a revolution!" — Steve Jobs, each time he introduced new Apple products)
"BONSOIR IBIZAAAAAAAA !" ("GOOD EVENING IBIZAAAAAA !" — David Guetta)
"Formidable !" (Jack Lang, former socialist minister of culture and education)
"Pas formidable !" (Philippe Gildas, former TV host on Canal+)
"Désolé..." ("Sorry..." — Michel Denisot)
"Vous avez vu ma femme tellement qu'elle est belle tellement qu'elle est mannequin tellement qu'c'est ma femme !" ("You've seen my wife? How she's so beautiful how she's a model how she's my wife!" — Nicolas Sarkozy)
"La prince il dit..." ("Da prince says..." — Leonardo, manager of the PSG soccer club)
"Ah bon ?!" ("For real?!") — Roselyne Bachelot, former right-wing minister and currently host of a TV show.
Character Development: PPD became more and more divergent from his real-life counterpart. So much that in some sketches, when his puppet appears to represent the real PPDA, his voice is much closer to PPDA's real voice, indicating that PPD and PPDA might have become distinct characters.
Jean Sarkozy towards his father. Nicolas is even proud of him because of this.
In one specific segment entitled "Droite City", which is essentially a parody of Sin City, all the major actors of the right wing are seen fighting one another. At the end of the segment, the show pokes fun at the socialist party, having Laurent Fabius backstab François Hollande, saying "Lolo président". This was before the 2007 presidential elections.
Johnny Hallyday; he even had a toy named "the Cuckoo Box" — a box with an egg that springs out when you say "cuckoo".
Jean-Pierre Papin, former soccer player
Les Collaborateurs: After the military operations in Mali started, one guy was interviewed telling us he knew where a bunch of Malians were living (his neighbors) so they'd get deported. PPD angrily tells him they're not interested. The guy looks disheartened for a second, then goes "But if you're interested, I know where there's a Jewish fam—" "No!"
Completely Unnecessary Translator: Every time the Qatar prince shows up, he whispers a few words to his translator, who then repeats it in broken French. Also, every time he shows up, it concludes with:
Laurence Parisot, former head of the MEDEF after Seillière (the current one is Pierre Gattaz). She's a specialist in government-friendly polls and hypocritical "ethical" professional trainings for corporate executives. She now hosts TV reality shows whose purpose is to recruit strong employers wannabes. By "strong", we mean finding the cheapest workers and firing as many "costly" French workers as possible while avoiding compensations.
Lakshmi Mittal, who backed out of a deal to help restart the metallurgy industry in France. Shown to shut the door on a blast furnace occupied by angry workers and turning it on.
Creator Cameo: More than that actually. Alain De Greef is essentially the man behind the show's existence; he got the idea to make a French version of Spitting Image. His puppet was offered by the puppet makers.
Bernadette Chirac was once portayed like this in a spoof of the SPECTRE conference from Thunderball. In this sketch, she plots to annihilate the free will of the French people with the help of the government, Corrupt Corporate Executives, stupid TV hosts and medias moguls. It turns out she is second to Ernest-Antoine Seillière.
Religions are portrayed as World Companies plotting to control the faith of humanity.
Dirty Communists / Eat the Rich: Jean-Luc Mélenchon is presented as a wild-eyed madman whose plans involve sending every rich person to the guillotine and carries the heads of political opponents in a sack. Whenever asked a question he doesn't like, he produces the head of a person who'd asked him the same question earlier.
Georges Tron is now the right-wing equivalent of DSK, and wears a leopard bathrobe just like him. Although his sex scandal (and his alleged foot fetish) became comedy fodder a couple years before the DSK affair, so Tron's recharacterisation is a bit of a Canon Displacement.
Amongst French politicians: François Bayrou; Philippe Douste-Blazy; Roselyne Bachelot; François Léotard; Nadine Morano...
Nadine Morano is portrayed more as a rabid fangirl for Sarkozy since the 2012 presidential campaign due to the fact she's very active and somewhat undiplomatic on Twitter. Her puppet is more uncultured and fanatical than an actual ditz — on the other hand Roselyne Bachelot was this to a T, at least while she was in government (she is now retired from politics and co-hosts a popular talk show on a network owned by Canal+).
François Hollande used to be a Fat Idiot, but the creators toned down his ditziness when he entered the presidential election, giving him some Cowardly Lion traits instead. The real one once commented that, when portrayed as a Guignol, you were either a Ditz or a Jerkass — implying he wasn't too unhappy with which side he ended up. Since his election as President in 2012 and following the very negative popular opinion about him, his marionette is back into the Fat Idiot mode (the fact that he put on some weight didn't help). Then there's the fact that his relationships with the women in his life provide a never-ending source of comedy.
Benjamin Castaldi, TV reality show host
Arthur, another TV show host
Dominique, the son of Jean Tiberi (former mayor of Paris)
Eagle Land: Flavor 2, of course, especially when involving the World Company (and the Sylvestres in all their incarnations), George W Bush, and later Clint Eastwood. Barack Obama is treated more sympathetically, but mostly by having him being aware of the Eagleland-ness of his compatriots. Although this involves him speaking in the French version of ebonics, peppering his speech with "man!" and "brother!" and mostly, if ever, appearing to present context-relevant Top 5's somewhat hammily.
Philippe Séguin went through many Epic Fails. He once wanted to buy an orange juice from a distributor. The distributor gave him an orange, an orange press, a knife and left a message saying, "Do that shit yourself!"
Whatever Michel Denisot tries to do for Canal+, it usually fails miserably with him saying "Désolé..." ("Sorry...").
For a long time, the PSG soccer club's way of playing could only be described as epic fail, (in one case parodyingShaolin Soccer), including the players hurting each other, self-inflicted Groin Attack, a shoe going in the goal instead of the ball, etc.
Everyone Owns A Mac: Since the death of Steve Jobs, everyone is equipped with Apple-made angel wings in Heaven.
Bruno Mégret, once Jean-Marie Le Pen's rival on the far-right.
Brice Hortefeux, when he was "Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Cooperative Development" in the government of François Fillon. He is probably the politest man in the show, and his ideas on immigration were portrayed as being very similar to those of the National Front, if not purely racist.
After Brice Hortefeux left the government, Claude Guéant largely covered this niche.
Pascal Bataille and Laurent Fontaine, hosts of the controversial reality talk show Y a que la vérité qui compte ("Only Truth Matters") on TF1.
You wouldn't believe the amount of swearing and adult themes this show gets away with for such a time slot (around 8.00 PM). Sometimes contains some pretty crude sexual content, and has also shown some graphic violence. Oh, and the show somehow didn't get any age rating or parental warning either.
Although there isn't that much profanity, and what swearing there isn't where the comedy comes from. There are however very serious matter treated in VERY crude ways (and language), one example that comes to mind are the elections for the mayor of Paris in the late 1990s, right wing candidate was depicted as a masochist wearing the gimp suit from Pulp Fiction and constantly asking to be beaten.
Furthermore, the show has extremely dark humor, making fun of tragedies, such as 09/11, the terrorist attacks on the trains at Madrid, or at the London Subway. There tragedies are treated with a light tone that can be extremely offensive to those who suffered from said tragedies.
One gag that aired just after the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami had a German tourist "looking for a child", but being uncharacteristically elusive about the missing child's gender and age. When PPD presses him on the child's name, he explodes and says "I don't give a fuck! It's just for the night..."
Giftedly Bad: David Guetta only knows one musical note and repeats it constantly. It doesn't prevent him from being a successful disc jockey.
God: Yes, there's a puppet for God. And he's apparently right-wing.
A God Am I: Coach Aimé Jacquet replaced God on his throne in a sketch after the victory of the French soccer team in the 1998 FIFA World Cup (France had never won before).
Also former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, after an infamous address in 2005, during the campaign for the referendum on the European Constitution. Trying to speak English, he said: "Win the yes needs the no, to win against the no". For real.
I Ate What?: Following the horsemeat scandal, several skits were devoted to this. One Overly Long Gag had recipes for chocolate pie after fecal matter was found in IKEA pies. ("To make an IKEA pie, you take a pie mold, you take a shit in it, and you're done.")
France itself was presented as this after Nicolas Sarkozy's election, because of his contested methods regarding Law and Order. "60 million candidates locked up in a rightwing country, under the eye of the cameras!"
Cécile Duflot, who seems to be stuck in her rebelious teenager self.
Medium Shift Gag: Sometimes even animation is used. South Parkis parodied in "Droite Park" ("Right-wing Park"), with Nicolas Sarkozy as Kyle, François Bayrou as Stan, Philippe Séguin as Cartman, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as Kenny, and Jacques Chirac as the singer.
Memetic Badass: invoked Zlatan Ibrahimović, a Swedish soccer player of Bosnian and Croatian descent and one of the best attackers these days, to the point of being the key player of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club. He has become a memetic badass in France thanks to the Guignols.
Zlatan Ibrahimović: There is only one championship in France: Zlatan's championship.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, even after things got ugly. Usually with Sexophone music to boot. Every single appearance of his starts with him in a tiger-print bathrobe saying "Pardon the dress, I just got out of the shower."
David Beckham as well, to the point that DSK showed up at one of his appearances, explaining that what with all the excited half-naked young ladies present and Beckham being married, he's sure to score.
Monde Green: Mitt Romney is completly and utterly unable to understand anything, as he keeps mishearing what they say, something which exasperate Sylvester to no end. Sylvester actually rejoiced when Romney lost, since thanks to his defeat he wouldn't have to deal with him anymore.
The Movie: Sort of. A one-hour long film called "La Fiction" was made in 1999 to be broadcast on Canal+. It featured the puppets of the main politicians of the era dealing with a major crisis: France is empty of its population.
My Eyes Are Up Here: After a segment parodying Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah where he answers "Yes" to every question in a monotone, she ends it with "Have you been staring at my tits for the past hour?" "Yes."
A regular happenstance for French philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy, following a pair of such incidents in Real Life. There was even a parody of the movie JFK, with BHL being pied in the face treated like JFK's assassination.
Michel Rocard's puppet received one for following Lévy's ideas in his policy during the Bosnian War.
Racist Grandpa: Jean-Marie Le Pen is shown like this, with the catch that his entire family is also racist. His granddaughter doesn't so much mind the racism as being so old-fashioned about it: when he wants to go out bashing immigrant's heads in with a baseball bat, she convinces him to use an electroshock pistol instead.
Édouard Balladur: Mister President, may I ask you a question? Please be frank: why do French people hate me? François Mitterrand: (takes a deep breath) Because you look full of yourself, pedantic and contemptuous; you constantly show the arrogance of a peacock; you are distant with the people and puffy with pride; you parade at the smallest success and are petrified with fear at the smallest breeze; the polls made you presomptuous, and you so much wanted to be unavoidable that you made yourself unbearable. That's it. Anything else? Balladur: (gets 10 cm smaller) And... and why do you hate me? Mitterrand: Because thanks to you, Chirac was elected. Dumbass.
Always averted in the series proper; no real people or animals appears alongside the puppets. For example, in the 20th anniversary special report, reporter Denis Chalandier (one of the few purely fictional characters) arrives as a human (played by his voice actor, Luq Hamet), but as soon he's in editorial office, he's turned into his puppet self.
However, it has happened for some personalities to meet their puppets in the talk shows framing Les Guignols de l'info itself. Johnny Hallyday got the opportunity to shorten the nose of his. Serge Gainsbourg had his Guignol offering him its own head. The most well-known is probably Stallone meeting Sly at the Cannes Festival.
Rugby Is Slaughter: The French rugby team is depicted as a bunch of musclebound brutes who can bash down brick walls with their foreheads, eat raw meat and whose favorite drink is fresh blood. They still get their ass kicked by the All Blacks, though. Turned Up to Eleven when former coach Bernard Laporte is interviewed. He always goes on speeches about the values of rugby, poetically describing the brutality of the scrums. Sébastien Chabal was portayed as a human beast who must be confined with a straitjacket and a mask like Hannibal Lecter.
Arlette Laguiller. She is ready to make the Revolution anytime! But not too late, she works tomorrow.
Olivier Besancenot too. He'd like to make the Revolution as soon as possible... if only he could find the time, his job as a postman keeps him busy.
Running Gag: Too many to count over the years. Usually overused till they stop being funny, and then start being funny again by subverting/playing with the gag.
Johnny Hallyday and his Cuckoo box in the early years of the show. Culminated with a parody of Alien.
Bernadette Chirac's handbag. And Bernadette Chirac's hairdo.
Every time François Mitterand is moving, it makes a squeaky wheels sound.
PPDA's hair being fake. Probably the oldest and most enduring running gag.
Ever since the rape accusation scandal, DSK appears as a Dirty Old Man in a tiger-print bathrobe and a champagne flute claiming he just got out of the shower.
About half the time he appears, Barack Obama lists the top five reasons for the answer of whatever question he's been asked; it was Thomas Ngijol's stand-up comedy signature style in the show Le Grand Journal on Canal+.
Some recent and highly controversial sketches featured Spanish sport stars such as Rafael Nadal or Alberto Contador as explicitly doped super-humans who kicked The Avengers' ass, among other feats. It caused a sort of diplomatic scandal as Spanish authorities and Spanish sport federations really didn't like these jokes.
"Spanish athletes. They do not win by chance."
Manuel Valls NOT getting married.
Each time the show is moved to the Cannes Film Festival, there is a running gag:
In 2006, the same journalist tried to interview prominent movie stars. The only "persons" he succeeded to approach? Insignificant animated movie characters, King Kong and Christopher Lambert, who is a complete idiot in the show. (In real life, he made very poor choices in his movie career after Highlander and Greystoke.)
In 2011, some movie characters (including the Terminator, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and others) were given a lecture by "the Oysters Guy" from the French movie Little White Lies (Les Petits Mouchoirs).
The very, very serious former Prime Minister François Fillon is either described as Uncle Fester or as Voldemort when he appears on screen to announce bad news.
Far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen is often dressed up like Bécassine, in reference to his Breton roots and the fact that he always talked about a romanticized idea of ancient France that never quite existed that way.
Played with for Nicolas Sarkozy during his last presidential campaign, to parody his sudden shift to "candidate of the people" in his speeches. His puppet self-criticizes his own policies and calls for his own demission as if the President was someone else. One sketch even shows him repeating word for word a reaction of Jean-Luc Mélenchon's puppet!
Took a Level in Jerkass: Lionel Jospin. He started as a naïve and such a Nice Guy during the 1995 French presidential election. When he was the prime minister, he became an honest politician, but completely unable to be friendly with others. And since he lost the 2002 French presidential election, he is completely unsympathetic and is a jerk to everyone. He somewhat got better after the victory of François Hollande in 2012. Except he slightly overestimates his part in said victory, claiming the President's seat is now rightfully his.
Totally Radical: Cécile Duflot is portrayed as a vapid rebellious teenager, with the language to match. It's as grating as it sounds.
Two-Way Tapping: One sequence parodied the "Whassup?" Budweiser commercial by having Osama Bin Laden, Mollah Omar and various other bad guys yelling "Anthraaaaaaax!" on the phone. American agents listening in are getting excited ("30 more seconds and we locate Bin Laden!")... Until George W. Bush picks up the agents' phone and joins in, causing everyone else to hang up.
Prince Al-Thani of Qatar only speaks in a whisper to the PSG's manager, Leonardo, who then repeats for everyone. We never hear his voice anyway... except for rare exceptions. For example, when PPDA was wondering if he knew some french words. His answer? "Louis Vuitton."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Noël Mamère were supposed to campaign for Éva Joly's election in April 2012. They did. Just with snarks, knives in her back and various schemes to get rid of her. For once, this was hardly caricatural.
The same went for Ségolène Royal against the other socialist party members in 2006/2007, as shown in a parody of Kill Bill.
As proof that Sarkozy's campaign was not funded by Liliane Bettencourt, his allies bring tons of papers proving it was funded by... Muammar Gaddafi (another mediatic scandal). PPD sums it up with, "He's got enemies to the left and friends to the right."
Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: On learning that the French finance minister had a secret Swiss bank account, the credit agency suits declared that were going to increase France's credit rating, citing it as proof that they finally understood how politics works.