Do you love life like me? did not play by accident in the Olympia on Tuesday evening, a few minutes before Richardson Zéphir took the stage. The lyrics of Boule Noire’s song perfectly encapsulate the worldview of the comedian, who likes to take the time he needs to live and look around while looking for love.
He has the first name of a famous sportsman and the surname of a flautist, as he says himself from the outset, but Richardson Zéphir, it is obvious, was born to make people laugh. Experienced improviser and winner of the 2016 edition of the now defunct television competition En route vers mon premiere Just for Laughs gala, the Quebecer of not Swedish origin (as he claims at first), but Haitian, was revealed in 2021 in Big Brother Celebrities. The time had come to pick the ripe fruit of the affection that the Quebec public has for him, who fell in love with his hundred-dollar smile and his constant good humor.
Simply titled Zéphir, this new solo (after several shows presented more confidentially at Zoofest) fits perfectly, almost too perfectly, the classic canvas of a first Quebec tour during which a recruit of laughter looks back on his personal journey. Laval childhood and zany anecdotes of youth, first job in a pedal boat rental center, first trip overseas with his improv team; the 44-year-old ties his story to the main milestones of a so-called ordinary existence.
However, it is less thanks to his words than thanks to everything he slips between the different segments of his monologue (mimes, dance movements, imitations) that the jovialist reaps the most laughter. In total control of his voice, which he uses to its full potential, the endearing comic constantly alternates between three accents: first his own (that of a Quebecer of his generation), but also the more archetypal one, of a Montrealer-Haitian, as well as that of the French voice actor of Eddie Murphy (a certain Med Hondo) as heard in films like The Sacred Child of Tibet or A Prince in New York.
This “moron’s voice”, relaying a French gorged with ridiculous slang expressions, will have profoundly shaped his imagination, he confides, and will even have sometimes gotten him into trouble, so much he imitated him in the least appropriate contexts. . But why were the voices of black characters always dubbed like this, as if to strip them of all credibility? he then wonders, in one of his brief asides delicately addressing the issue of racism.
The absurd return of Jesus
Faithful to his past as an improviser, Richardson Zéphir shines with the most singularity when he pushes deliciously eccentric ideas to their extreme logic. In a passage that begins when he says he is afraid to admit to his mother that he no longer goes to mass, the comedian imagines the return to Earth of Jesus, who subscribes to TikTok and struggles to to make its message heard on a planet that has changed a lot since its birth two thousand years ago. The proposal, simple, is the ideal springboard allowing the master joker to give free rein to a kind of good-natured absurdity with poetic accents, the tone that sticks most to his skin.
Visibly nervous during this media premiere, Richardson Zéphir will have offered for about 75 minutes a showcase on all (or almost) of his powers, in the sense that he allows the public to taste a little of everything he can do. The decision to completely set aside the characters (including Blackman and The Police) who made it successful on social networks can only surprise, however. It no doubt bears witness to a regrettable trend in Quebec humour, which places the authenticity of pure stand-up above all else, to the detriment of the strengths of an artist.
If it is certainly not useless to learn a little about who he really is, Zéphir is obviously less a storyteller than a fanciful, who generates laughter thanks to his vocal inflections and his gestures, more than thanks to the images contained in his texts. That he tries so hard to denature himself seems almost as counter-intuitive as if the Michel Courtemanche of the great era had handcuffed himself to a linear story in which he would have told his life story.
To music by Erik Satie, Richardson Zéphir delivers the main lines of his little personal credo at the end of the curtain and begins to dream of a planet on which all chicanery would be abolished, where warships would be replaced by pedal boats. His conviction that humor, when used wisely, can help make the world a better place manages to move people, as he seems to believe in it for real. If, as he regrets, the anger that rages among some Quebec columnists is contagious, his love for life is just as much.