Comœdia


April Fool ! April Fool ! The day after tomorrow, you will hear this cry. Too bad for you if you are the victim of a more or less witty prank. April 1st is the holiday of mystifiers, but those who have a passion for this type of amusement are not satisfied with one day a year. All seasons are good to them.

There are people who will go down in posterity simply as mystifiers, people like Vivier, like Romieu. One day we should write the history of the great mystifiers; in this gallery would be Caillot-Duval, Alphonse Allais, Alfred Jarry and many others. There would be many painters in this beautiful assembly.

If the desire to make classification at all costs bothered us, we would say that there are two kinds of mystifications: those which have a well-defined victim and without whom the mystifier would have no reason to exist and those whose scope is more general or vague; those which attack an abuse, an impersonal ridicule, or even those which have no other aim than to delight the mystifiers.

It is to this last category that the mystifications of painters most often belong. When they are looking for "a joke" to play, believe me that the victim they choose is almost always sympathetic to them and when the mystifications are carried out in a body, then only the pleasure of having fun counts.

Among the latter we must cite, for example, the Poulbot wedding. Every year, for a long time, he would repeat his entire wedding ceremony on a fixed date. He put on his wedding tuxedo, his wife, those white veils and his orange blossom, and all their friends in beautiful wedding clothes, from the fire captain to the best man with curls. It was then the traditional meal, the songs for dessert, even the ride in a char à bancs. The little girls shouted: “Long live the bride!” » The onlookers made, out loud, their usual reflections and jokes about wedding nights in general and this one in particular. They were the victims of a mystification if you like, but a very innocent mystification.

A mystification which was also carried out by the painters of Montmartre and under the patronage of Comoedia, in the happy days before the war, when people had time to let themselves live, is that which consisted of going to inaugurate the statue of General Dumas on Place Malesherbes. This statue had been completed a long time ago, but to remove the veil which covered it, it was necessary to wait for the end of complications of all kinds. Some comedians decided to do without official authorizations and, one fine morning, organized the official inauguration of the monument in their own way. Poulbot and Hamman, in blue coats, climbed onto the statue and removed the veil that covered it. There were speeches, poems recited, flowers offered by a little girl.

The cinema and the photographers had already fixed for eternity the appearance of this moving celebration, when the police arrived to note the crime. But it was too late. The statue was indeed inaugurated, so much so that a decree from the President of the Republic officially declared it.

The farce of the donkey which exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants is a mystification which also closely touches on painting, although it was a writer who was one of the main organizers, Roland Dorgelès who, at that time, often took the Louvre Museum for shooting range. It was he who imagined placing a plaster statuette in a gallery only to go, a few weeks later, shout that it was fake and break it before the terrified eyes of the guard; it was he also who shaved in front of the Rembrandts which had just been fitted with mirrors.

The mystifications of painters are born innumerable in workshops and academies. The arrival of a new or some other local event is enough for the rapists to take to the streets and woe to the victims that chance places in their path!

We do not know if these traditions are still in force, but, around twenty years ago, very funny pranks were made in this way by painters who continued to like this type of amusement, painters like Bain, Trilleau , Escheman, Decroix, who was to find himself in Mortigny with many other workshop comrades, or even like Guy Arnoux who has kept his passion for disguise intact and who, even today, thus finds the subject of mystifications of all kinds, like going on horseback to drink a cocktail in a bar on Rue Royale, or, with Hamman and other cowboys, lassoing the little Bois de Boulogne dogs. But we should define mystification and not confuse it with farce, that would take us very far,

On the occasion of April 1, let us instead recall the memory of Henry Monnier, who was a painter as well as a writer and actor. He was also a prodigious mystifier who had within him the sacred fire necessary for undertakings of this kind. We know how he began, when he had just entered Girodet-Trioson's workshop, by brutalizing an unfortunate merchant, very proud of the ferrets he had in his shop.

Henry Monnier, claiming to be a taxidermist at the Jardin des Plantes, convinced him that his ferrets were guinea pigs and when the poor man was convinced of this he sent an accomplice to show him the opposite. This was the beginning of a struggle which lasted a very long time and almost drove the merchant mad.

Henry Monnier became famous for his pranks and his wit.

On the omnibus, he indulged in experiments of all kinds, passing a lady a small note on which was written “I love you”, signed “The Conductor”. Following a funeral. he said to the doctor who had treated the deceased: - Well, doctor, do you still have hope?
There are hundreds of Henry Monnier's mystifications; among them, we must not forget the one of which he was a victim, like the day when he met an Englishman to whom he explained the beauties of Paris, informed him on the path he should follow only to hear himself reply: Thank you, grocer!
He was a victim taking revenge! We should also finish the study on the mystification of which we spoke earlier with those which were fatal to their authors. They are many; Most of the hoaxers, from Romieu to Jarry, bore the brunt of the pranks they had committed.

April Fool ! They don't always make you laugh!

André Warnod.

 Comoedia april fool