Coluche: The Clown Who Was an Enemy of the State

A documentary by Jean Louis Perez
Firsto broadcast November 14, 2011 on France 3

In October 1980 popular French comedian Coluche announces he will run for presidency. His “campaign crew” is made up of left-wing activists from the late 1960’s and 70’s. What began as a joke quickly turned serious. Friends, supporters, journalists and simple voters see his “comic” campaign as a kick in the teeth for the self-interested powers that be. And yet five months later and with vote intention reaching 16%, the clown inexplicably withdraws. Silent, he seems shaken by what he has experienced. A most unlikely campaign swinging the political elite’s reaction  between laugh or serious concern regarding Coluche’s extraordinary popularity. The comedian’s ex-wife, Véronique Colucci, his friend Romain Goupil and politicians from both left and right tell the inside story of the political fallout of Coluche’s amazing popularity.

In 1980, Coluche is accused by then President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of “trying to ridicule the French Republic”. He also worries the entourage of socialist candidate François Mitterrand. The documentary reveals how the clown received death threats from a shadowy group self-called “Police Honour” which had claimed responsibility a few months earlier for the murder of left-winger Pierre Goldman.

What remained unknown at the time is that French Intelligence services had been secretly ordered to “discourage” Coluche. A former member of the service talks about the operation and other witnesses provide insights into the secret war against actual or perceived “leftist” opponents. An unusual war littered with strong-arm tactics, underhand tricks and illegal methods. A campaign of manipulation and intimidation conducted by Gaullist and pro-Giscard forces against their opponents. The investigation also uncovers how these methods continued into the 1990’s, including the break-in of “SOS Racism” offices.

“Coluche for President” extraordinary campaign took politics into the era of communication and entertainment.