By Miriam Johnston, November 1 2017 —
France’s most popular comedian, Gad Elmaleh, risked it all to come to North America and to challenge himself to sell his popular French comedy to western audiences. Elmaleh will perform in Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 2 at MacEwan Hall, a venue he has never performed in before and is excited to see.
“I love going to a place I’ve never been before,” Elmaleh says. “I like to be a little scared, to get those butterflies.”
As a child growing up in Morocco, Elmaleh always dreamed of going to America. Translating his French comedy to English was a welcome challenge.
“When I make people laugh in English, I feel like I’m earning these laughs,” he says. “They like me, but they don’t know who I am so its even better.”
Elmaleh’s experience and success in the European comedy industry is so significant that he’s been called “the Jerry Seinfeld of France,” selling out stadiums and shows all over Europe.
“There’s a French expression that says, ‘I don’t want to be sleeping with my trophies,’ ” he says. “I don’t want to take everything for granted and say, ‘Oh, I did this in France.’ I feel like I felt 20 years ago when I just started comedy. I love that this is difficult and I love that I am excited.”
Last summer, Elmaleh performed with Seinfeld in Montreal at the Bell Centre, which he said brought forward a “multicultural audience.”
“My crowd was there and he had his crowd there. It was just a huge following,” he says.
The French comedian says he prefers observational comedy during his sets and that he often walks around the city he’s performing in to prepare for his shows.
“I’m going to be walking around the streets of Calgary, if you’re looking for me,” he laughs. “I just make jokes about life and what I am experiencing. That will always be my brand — my signature.”
Elmaleh says he’s had many young comedians ask him for advice about the craft, to which he responds there’s one thing every comedian needs.
“I tell them that you don’t only have to want to do it, you need to feel it inside,” he says.
As a change from selling out large stadiums, Elmaleh is performing in smaller clubs and venues across North America to step outside of his comfort zone.
“This is a personal project that is challenging me to start over in another language in other countries with a new crowd, new writing and a new way of doing stand-up comedy,” Elmaleh says. “I was not a great student, but I’ve worked really hard on comedy and this is what I do every day.”
Although he currently splits his time between Los Angeles and New York, Elmaleh lived in Montreal for a number of years.
“I’m in Los Angeles and it’s very cold,” he laughs. “I’m ready for Canada.”
Elmaleh’s MacHall show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2. Tickets can be purchased for $45.50 online.