People of color played an important role in establishing the French stand-up scene, which is much younger than in the United States or Britain. Between 2006 and 2015, “Jamel Comedy Club” was broadcast on French television, hosted by Jamel Debbouze, one of the best comedians in the country. Of Moroccan descent himself, Debbouze largely featured people of color in his show. This gave “a voice to ethnic minorities they didn’t have on TV shows,” said comedian Paul Taylor, who performs in a mix of English and French.
Taylor said there are only four clubs in France following the English-language stand-up tradition, with a lineup of several comedians per night. In general, solo shows are a favorite in France, reflecting the country’s strong theatrical tradition. Besides Paname, the three other clubs have only opened in the last three years: Madame Sarfati, Fridge and Barbès Comedy Club.
The Drôle Comedy Club in “Standing Up” was a purpose-built set, in case Paris closed due to the coronavirus. The actors rehearsed their sets at the Barbès Comedy Club, which opened for clandestine evenings during the second closing of Paris, with about 10 comedians performing in front of about 30 spectators. Little did the audience know that the actors of “Standing Up” weren’t cartoon characters, or that they were rehearsing for a television show.
When it came time to film the stand-up sets of the characters in Drôle, the audience was made up of non-actors, with one camera focused on the performing comedian and another on the audience’s reactions. “There’s nothing worse than fake smiles and fake reactions,” Herrero said.
Renowned French comedians – Jason Brokerss, Fanny Ruwet and Shirley Souagnon – wrote the characters’ sets. Just like ‘Call My Agent!’ the show features cameos, in this case from other French comics, including Hakim Jemili and Panayotis Pascot, who perform snippets of sets in each episode. Unlike the appearances of internationally known actors in ‘Call My Agent!’ Herrero doesn’t expect the French public, let alone Netflix viewers from other countries, to recognize these artists.