Comedian Izzard wows Paris crowd – in French

An ‘emotional’ Eddie Izzard brought down the house at Paris’ Olympia Hall on Wednesday, making history as the first non-native speaker to complete a tour of France in French. His home truths about the French had the crowd in raptures.

Comedian Izzard wows Paris crowd - in French
File photo of Eddie Izzard: Courtesy of the artist.

On the final night of his ground-breaking mini-tour of France (in French), English stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard brought an enraptured Parisian audience with him on a journey through space and time – from the beginning of the universe to a meeting on the moon between Neil Armstrong, Darth Vader and God.

Izzard, in jeans, black coat-tails, and his trademark deep red nail polish, explored common ground like iTunes contracts (“Did it take God millions of years to create us because he was reading the terms and conditions?”), Wikipedia, and his usual surreal sidebars – a section about a velociraptor caught speeding in a Renault Mégane brought parts of the audience to tears.

The biggest belly-laughs, though, came from some home truths about the French themselves.

A vast conspiracy among French restaurant-owners to hide all vegetables from tourists (except for haricots verts), and a mafiosi network of French pharmacies got a great response, but a section about that old British bug-bear, French toilets, sent the trendy but buzzing crowd into rapturous applause.

“You've had the French Revolution! The aristocracy – gone, all the prisoners in the Bastille – free! Everything in French society changed. The toilets? Exactly the f**king same.”

For all his fantastic absurdism, however, Izzard also lives in the real world of politics and religion, and hit a couple of nerves with a piece about Pope Benedict retiring into vice-ridden debauchery, and a fleeting comparison between the Nazis and France’s far-right National Front party.


Izzard also got a sustained roar of appreciation after pointing out he had just perfectly used the subjunctive mood in French, and suggested that, 1,000 years after William the Conqueror, his ample use of the word ‘f**king’ amid French phrases, was an “entente cordiale – a bridge” between the French and British cultures.

Having taken the audience through the Creation, Noah’s Ark, and the Ancient Greeks, Izzard tied together the loose ends in a dazzling climax, where Roman centurions try to communicate with each other in a kind of Tower of Babel battle-scene.

Izzard flew between Latin, French, English, Spanish, Italian and German – a brilliant, chaotic way to hammer home his parting message: “We are all totally the same, and completely different, at the exact same time.”

After the sold-out show, Izzard (still speaking French) told The Local “It was emotional for me. L’Olympia is such a great venue, with so much history. It’s been a dream of mine for years to do this tour, and now I’ve realized it.”

Next up for Izzard is another piece of history – his ‘Force Majeure’ world tour this spring and summer will take him to the UK, German, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Russia , India and beyond.

Unwinding in his dressing-room, glass of white wine in hand, Izzard told The Local, with a smile: “I won’t stop now. I can’t stop.” 

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.