A conversation with a friend of mine who managed to learn English to a good enough level to perform stand-up comedy.
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Pierre Gaspard is a French actor and comedian who performs comedy in English. His English is really good. In this episode I invited Pierre to my flat for a cup of tea and some biscuits, and to talk to him about learning English, doing comedy and life in Canada, France and the UK. I also teach Pierre how to speak using a few British accents – including Manchester, Cockney and a kind of Scottish accent.
***There is SOME RUDE LANGUAGE in this episode, so watch out if you’re offended easily, or if you’re a teacher and you’re using this in the classroom.***
There is not a full transcript of this episode but below I have written a lot of phrases and sentences that we used. You can read them, and use them to study or understand some of the things we said. If you have any questions, please send me an email. You can also see a couple of videos below, which relate to our conversation.
Pierre’s show is called “No Shame” and you can see him perform it every Saturday evening from 7PM at Cafe Paname in Paris. All the details are here at his website http://www.pierregaspard.com
Here are the questions I asked Pierre, and some phrases and sentences we used during this conversation.
I’m joined now by a very attractive looking gentleman. He looks… if you can imagine Bruce Wayne… what’s his name? (Christian Bale) Imagine Christian Bale in all his amazing Hollywood glory, well that’s basically what I’ve got sitting in front of me.
He has a look-a-like living in Paris.
As far as I know Pierre originally comes from Marseille, and I think he has spent some time in the USA, but we’re going to find out now because we’re going to start talking to him.
Are you looking forward to that?
-I am absolutely
-I guess I have some face features that kind of resembles him but I look more like, err, I don’t know, E from Entourage or something. Henry from the New York Comedy Night told me that, and I usually tell him that he looks like David Beckham.
Has George Clooney ever done a British accent in a film?
-No, I don’t think so. It wouldn’t be believable. It would be like Brad Pitt doing an English…
He (Brad Pitt) did a kind of Irish gypsy accent in “Snatch”, which was very good.
-And he did a German accent in “7 Years in Tibet” I think. That was pretty bad.
He’s meant to be a cockney but he gets it all horribly wrong (Don Cheadle’s cockney accent in the film “Ocean’s 11”)
-He shouldn’t (erase all the YouTube videos) because that adds a comical side of it. It doesn’t make sense at all that this guy would be playing a British cockney accent guy.
How are you Pierre?
I’m just leaving the cookies there, just to tempt you.
It won’t be the first time that I’ve spoken with my mouth full on this podcast. Usually it’s chocolate.
Are you one of these people who finds that very annoying… to slurp your tea?
-In Iran, if you don’t make noise while you drink your tea… I think so… it’s insulting. It’s like burping when you’re eating couscous or whatever.
-I don’t know if my grandparents were racist or whatever but they always told me that, like in Algeria because they used to live there, that at the end of the meal if you burp it means that you had a good meal and that’s a good sign. But that might have been just some racist bullshit. Like, yeah, these ‘primates’ they just burp all the time…
We hear rumours about other cultures, like ‘yeah in China everyone likes to eat frog-eyes’ but we don’t really know if it’s true.
Tell us about slurping your tea, is that normal or is that rude?
I’ve heard that there’s a kind of genetic thing, that some people can’t drink tea without slurping it for some sort of genetic reason. Like, you know the way that some people can roll their tongue? and other people can’t? Some people, physically, can’t drink tea without burining their lips unless they slurp.
So you perform stand up comedy in English, but English is not your first language, is that right?
-Yes that’s right
That leads me to my next question… Your English is very good… How did you manage that?
-I was never able to speak German.
What, it just didn’t click? You just didn’t take to it. But you took to English. For some reason it just appealed to you, right?
-I think it’s way simpler to, err, master the basis of English. You can have 100 words and be an executive at a big American firm.
Or a president!
-Or a president, exactly. I dunno, German was not as appealing. You bathe in English language all the time in France, in every occidental country.
-To answer your question, I was good at English at school.
I can hear an American hint in your accent. I wasn’t sure if that was Canadian or American. For me I find it difficult to identify if someone is Canadian or American. I mean, some things give it away, like the way the Canadians pronounce the, sort of, ‘O’ sounds sometimes. Like, famously the way they sau the word ‘about’. Some people say they say ‘aboot’ or some people say they say ‘aboat’…
-I never heard anyone say ‘aboot’ except on the South Park episode with the Canadians. I never heard any Canadians say ‘aboot’.
-Maybe the Canadians will not be aware of their own accent.
I meet more American people in Paris than I do in London. I think maybe when they’re in London they keep their voice down.
-To the British average people, Americans are so vulgar I think.
I think this is what Americans are afraid of, although to an extent British people are quite snobbish about Americans and I don’t like that, I think that’s really unfair. …They sense that British people are a bit condescending or a bit judgemental about American English or something. I think Americans sometimes have a view of the English as if they are very snobbish.
You mentioned that you embraced English but is that true in France, has that always been true that in France people in this country have always embraced the learning of English? (Longest question ever)
*Writing these phrases is taking me a very long time, and it is nearly 10PM and I haven’t eaten my dinner yet. So I am going to stop now, because dinner is pretty important, don’t you think?
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