Pierre Dac, Paris, Photo Lynx studio, 1960s, Jacques Pessis Archives (g) – Pierre Dac and Dinah Gervyl in the sketch “Greta Garbo and her understudy” in a revue by Jean Boyer at the cabaret, La Lune rousse, Paris, 1934 , Jacques Pessis Archives (dr.)

Of the comedian Pierre Dac, we especially know his aphorisms:

– “Predictions are difficult, especially when they concern the future”
– And also: “Giving ostentatiously is not very pretty; but not giving anything discreetly is hardly better. »
– Or again: “When the one who laughs last has finished laughing, no one laughs anymore. »

But beyond hundreds of scathing formulas, this genius of the absurd who died in 1975 left such a strong imprint on French culture that the Museum of Art and History of Judaism (MahJ) chose to devote a entire exhibition. A happy initiative which takes the form of a personal tribute and a fluoroscopy of laughter in the XNUMXth century, according to Dac.

From the early 1920s to the mid-1970s, Pierre Dac left a humorous arsenal of a new genre without which Jean Yanne, Coluche, Pierre Desproges, the Guignols and many others would undoubtedly never have existed. About himself, he explains: “Given my Jewish origins, I do not understand why my hometown of Chalons-sur-Marne was not renamed Chalom-sur-Marne. »

Born into a Jewish family of deeply patriotic Alsatian origin, Pierre Dac was mobilized at the start of the First World War, where he was seriously injured. In the immediate post-war period, he did several jobs where he shined, but through his absence... After having been a taxi driver for example (one month), he became a singer in the cabarets of Montmartre. His aphorisms, sketches and reviews soon amused the whole of France.

Founder of the Society of Loufoques of which he proclaimed himself king, he invented new forms of radio and created The Treasure Race, a game which encourages listeners to participate in a hilarious hunt for the most unusual and crazy objects.

Brassaï, Pierre Dac in front of his microphone, Paris, 1935; private collection © Estate Brassaï – RMN-Grand Palais – Photo ©RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

A patriot and humanist, in 1928 he supported the International League against Anti-Semitism, which foreshadowed LICRA. Founder and editor-in-chief of the weekly L'Os à Marrow, he criticized the rise of fascism then joined Free France in London. At the microphone of the program “The French speak to the French”, he slams the Vichy regime and the Nazi occupiers. After the war, he said: “The souls of the righteous who perished in the crematoria are immortal. The proof, in the sky, I saw yellow stars shining. »

At the beginning of the 1950s, Dac formed a duo with Francis Blanche with whom he created the “Party of laughing”, a parody of a political party, and radio serials with record audiences. In the 1960s, he mocked the cynicism and mediocrity of the politicians of the Fifth Republic. In 1965, he was even a candidate for the presidential election, at the head of the Unified Wave Movement (MOU).

Pierre Dac, war correspondent, in the foreground,
leaning on a military truck, Eastern France, winter 1944-1945, Jacques Pessis Archives

In the presentation of the exhibition, the MahJ recalls that Pierre Dac devoted his last years to writing his Pensées: “He left a considerable body of work – more than 900 songs, twelve novels and essays, five radio serials, several plays , and an innumerable number of articles, in a style indebted as much to the slang of butchers (his father was a butcher) as to Freudian witticism and the nonsense of Jewish humor. In more than one way, Pierre Dac deserves to be considered today as a master of the absurd, in the same way as Samuel Beckett or Eugène Lonesco. »

From April 20 to August 27

Exhibition Pierre Dac, the party to laugh
Museum of Art and History of Judaism (MahJ)
71, Temple Street, 75003 Paris
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 18 p.m.
Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 21 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 10 p.m. to 19 a.m.
Closed on Mondays
Tel: +01 53 01 86 53

Pierre Dac in the Revue des loufoques at the cabaret La Lune rousse Paris, Kehren studio, 1936 Jacques Pessis Archives

Text: Katia Barillot

28.04.23

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