Yvon Deschamps could no longer present today the monologues that made him famous, it is often said, in order to illustrate an alleged narrowing of artists’ freedom of speech.
Is it really true, Monsieur Deschamps, that you could no longer play, identically, some of your most important texts, without provoking controversy? “It’s true, but it doesn’t matter,” replies the one who is always the first to recall that several of his numbers (including Intolerance and The Liberation of Women) have already, in their time, been badly welcomed by a part of Quebec.
But Yvon Deschamps sought first and foremost to shake up his contemporaries, not to shock for the sake of shocking, even less to hurt, the effect that certain of his numbers (including the one containing the word that begins with an N) would certainly produce in 2023. . The father of Quebec humor is nevertheless sorry that the creators, and those who employ them, polish their words at the slightest annoyance expressed by a minority of the public.
In his monologue entitled La manipulation (1980), Yvon Deschamps alternately personified a guy from the far right, a guy from the far left and a crazy guy, who all shared the same ridiculously concrete conviction in their conception of a ideal society. The master of irony was perhaps already describing our era, which is not very good at dialogue.
“Hey people are sensitive! he exclaims.
Mr. Deschamps adds, before bursting into his laughter which should be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: “Comedians have all the rights! Mike Ward went all the way to the Supreme Court to give us every right to say whatever we want. »
Although the many encounters that punctuate the daily life of a cultural journalist immunize against the gaga admirer syndrome, interviewing Yvon Deschamps is undoubtedly the closest thing to shaking hands with history with a capital H. Total transparency : your scribe felt, walking towards the bright offices of the Fondation Yvon Deschamps Centre-Sud, as if he had obtained a tete-a-tete with René Lévesque or Félix Leclerc.
“So I understand you,” says my host with that false vanity, typically Deschamps, behind which hides a humility sharpened by several setbacks. If he belongs today to the icons of Quebec culture, he has not forgotten that the end of his career has often been prophesied. He remembers it like it was (almost) yesterday: on October 17, 1973, in La Presse, Christiane Berthiaume capped the review of her show La liberation de la femme du péremptoire title: “Behind the new monologues of Yvon Deschamps , the void… “
A privileged moment, therefore, to talk to Mr. Deschamps, and doubly precious insofar as it is extremely rare that the 37-year-old greenhorn behind this article has the chance to chat with a man 50 years his senior, with all that that supposes of salutary perspective.
“Life is easier today anyway,” drops the octogenarian about the advancement of Quebec, which has necessarily changed a lot since Les unions, qu’ossa donne? (1968), a number that encapsulated the enslavement of an entire people. Anecdote to give chill in the back: at the beginning of his working life, adolescent, the grandfather of Yvon Deschamps worked 72 hours a week, without any holidays listed in the calendar.
“Who will hold my hand/At the end of my path?” /who will hold my hand/to the day without tomorrow? “, sang Yvon Deschamps in 1982 in Alone, one of his most moving songs, composed by Serge Fiori, on a serious text, in which a man paralyzed by his finitude reveals himself.
“I’ve always been obsessed with death. She’s been everywhere in my life since I was 6 or 7 years old, he says. When I realized I was going to die, I didn’t accept that at all. I thought to myself, “Let’s see! The others, maybe, but not me.” And around 12-13, I was sure that I wouldn’t die, that we would find something to prevent that. I have had anxiety attacks many times in my life because of this. »
“But as you get older, it’s the opposite,” he hastens to add.
On July 20, he will participate in the Gala Ultime of the Just for Laughs festival, a final lap for this concept which has served him well, he who has hosted no less than 15 galas. What does he hear about on stage, during this evening, all the profits of which will be donated to the Yvon Deschamps Centre-Sud Foundation, which helps young people in the neighborhood?
“I’m trying to pick up things I’ve written about the fear of losing identity to immigrants, other people’s ways and customs that might take our own identity away from us. An unfounded fear? He’s laughing. “No, it’s completely unfounded. »
At the Deschamps, there is no question of the grandchildren speaking to their grandfather in English. “With Grandma, she’s an Englishwoman, that’s okay!” “, he exclaims about his unwavering Judi.
“But they like it, speaking in English, what do you want?” “, he continues more seriously. “I think that’s the appeal of American pop culture. They watch so much on their phone. They find it cooler to say things in English. »
“For my kids, my grandkids, for sure it worries me. But I’m still confident, I’m like, ‘The caveman was very, very worried about the future. He was scared. When fire broke out in the forest because of lightning, the end of the world was near.” The environment, I think about it a lot, and I tell myself that it can’t be that humans are thick enough not to do the right thing at some point. »
The first Yvon Deschamps foundation, set up in the late 1970s, helped people with disabilities. The comedian had launched it because the money that his career brought him indisposed him.
“I was so bad, it’s our Mosus of Judeo-Christian culture. It was a sin to have money when I was a kid, and afterwards, as I was more of a leftist guy and I was like, ‘What do I do with the money? I don’t have to deal with having money”, it made me unhappy. And there, I even thought of stopping working, to stop doing it. Eventually it was Judi who said, “You’re so tiring with your money. Give it, we’ll talk more about it.” »