“In Quebec humor, he talked a lot about his navel, his sausage. There was nothing that spoke of us, everything spoke of the self”, recalls Christian Vanasse, the only one who has been in all the Zapatista line-ups, about the comic landscape obsessed with male-female relationships in which the band found itself. “And we asked ourselves, what do we do with the collective project, with the class struggle? »
It was 21 years ago. Gathered at the café l’Aparté, founded on rue Saint-Denis in front of the National Theater School by the Zapatista of the shadows – Nadine Vincent –, a group of young artists who all live on the left present an improvisation show entitled Let’s improvise elections, the night of the federal elections of November 27, 2000. Jean Chrétien returned to power.
Among its participants are François Parenteau, François Patenaude, Denis Trudel, Frédéric Savard, and Christian Vanasse, who will form on February 24, 2001, a first political cabaret, the hardcore of the original version of the Zapatistas. Professor and essayist Francis Dupuis-Déri is also briefly part of the adventure, soon to be joined by actress Geneviève Rochette.
And the laughter they generate allows them to quickly see that they are not the only ones in their corner dreaming of another world. The Zapatistas will migrate from the diminutive stage of the café-théâtre to the extinct Spectrum, then to the Métropolis, and they will be for the generation of altering globalism what the Cynics had been for the boomers.
There was a catharsis during our shows. Suddenly, we saw that we were a gang that wanted to make fun of the banks!
“Screwed in places, loose in others”
Although they have never signed with a major production company, preferring to patent their tours themselves on the sidelines, the group’s first decade of life dedicates its members to stars of the left thanks to their essential reviews of the year. An effervescence witnessed by Vincent Bolduc and Jean-François Nadeau, before joining the company in 2011. Theatrical woman Brigitte Poupart, who completes the stage quartet, had been there since 2005.
“I liked the content, of course, remembers Nadeau, but I also admired the form, very organic. The shows were prepared, but not overly so, screwed up in some places, loose in others. The other comedy shows, whether you’re on Gatineau, Drummondville, or on the DVD, it’s the same thing. The Zaps were alive. One of the first performances the two recruits participated in took place outdoors, in support of the Occupy Montreal movement.
The day before I found out that I am doing Chartrand and I have never imitated him in my life… Nadeau and I were hiding in a subway entrance trying to get a rehearsal. The others pointed at us, laughing, meaning: look at the new ones, they repeat!
If his texts were delivered in such a hurry – it so happened that the second part of performance was printed backstage, during intermission – the conversations that preceded the play will always have been expansive.
“That was what made me fall in love with the group,” says Brigitte Poupart. They were never afraid to talk about difficult things, to get to the bottom of a subject. She debated until 4 in the morning before writing the texts. Members also adhered to the 10% rule, allowing themselves to disagree with 10% of a show’s content.
The Zapatistas, however, will always have refused to submit to this mandate that comedic news commentators distribute their slights fairly. “We’ve been asked a lot: ‘Are you going to beat everyone equally?’ “says Vanasse. “The answer has always been no! We are not in the center. We are leftist and separatist. What that means is that we are against all those who have power. I no longer remember who said: the center is the loose right. »
the left mirror
They have also often been criticized for preaching to converts, a formula that continues to confuse Jean-François Nadeau, for whom a Zapatista show served above all to “energize the troops,” and not to delude himself about the possibility that a member of the Conservative Party has metamorphosed into an anarcho-syndicalist militant when leaving the room.
Although they have few direct heirs, Les Zapartistes leave behind a much more politicized humorous universe than in their beginnings, where it is possible for a Guillaume Wagner or a Virginie Fortin to triumph among the general public, while crushing the powerful. They leave not because the urge to show their teeth has dissipated – Christian Vanasse has been taking the microphone solo for a few years – but because stowing everyone’s busy schedules hasn’t gotten any easier with time.
Therefore, there is no need to dive into the past; our four wigged guerrillas promise with tonight we die a show devoid of nostalgia, completely attached to what the present brings with it of reasons to complain. What makes you angry these days? “Everything!” Vanasse replies, jumping out of her chair. There’s nothing that doesn’t piss me off.
He gives two examples: “People for whom eco-anxiety is a problem, while not being eco-anxious is a problem. Also: people who believe that the current threat wakes up. »
Nadeau puts his own: “Radical label to the end. As soon as you do something, you are a radical. That makes me cringe. »
Vanasse picks up the spittoon again. “Do you want me to tell you what bothers me the most?” It is when someone says: ‟I no longer recognize myself in the current left”… Let’s see! The left is not a mirror to look at you! »
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