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Guy Bedos, who made France laugh at itself, is dead at 85
French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (C) steps out a car as he arrives at Saint-Germain-des-Pres church in Paris on June 4, 2020 to attend the funerals of late humorist Guy Bedos. Bedos has died at the age of 85, his son Nicolas announced on social media on May 28, 2020. Thomas SAMSON / AFP.

by Théophile Larcher

PARIS (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Guy Bedos, who drew inspiration from Lenny Bruce in becoming one of France’s most popular and bitingly satirical comics in a 60-year career that took him from nightclubs to movies, television and the theater, died on May 28 at his home in Paris. He was 85.

His son Nicolas Bedos announced the death on Twitter. His daughter Victoria Bedos said by phone that her father had had Alzheimer’s disease.

Much like Bruce, Bedos was a ferocious political commentator in his satirical, even cynical, sometimes melancholic routines, whether depicting patently racist characters or just downright silly ones. His outspokenness, complete with crude language, could infuriate politicians of all stripes on the one hand and feminists on the other.

One memorable sketch that was much debated in feminist circles had him repeating the line “All them bitches” while leering at photos of women in a newspaper.

A champion of progressive causes, Bedos was characterized by detractors as a member of the “caviar left,” a term used to describe socialists with lavish lifestyles. Bedos, a native of Algiers though he was not Algerian, countered that he rather liked to think of himself as part of the “couscous left.”

Even as a leftist, however, he took some of his harsher shots at socialist presidents like François Mitterrand and François Hollande — though the right wing was not spared, either. The far-right politician Marine Le Pen sued Bedos after he compared her to Hitler. (The suit was dismissed in 2016.)

On the whole, though, few took offense at his remarks, a reflection of France’s traditionally accepting attitude about free speech. The Élysée Palace, in a statement after his death, said Bedos had “personified French humor.” In 1990, he was awarded a Molière, France’s highest theater honor.

Guy Bedos was born in Algiers on June 15, 1934. His family was numbered among the pieds-noirs, ethnic French who were born in Algeria under French colonial rule. His father, Alfred Bedos, left home when Guy was 5. “I never called him Dad,” he wrote in a book about his troubled childhood.

Bedos described his stepfather as a racist and an anti-Semite and said his mother, Hildeberte Verdier, had beaten him. At 12, he said in interviews, he considered suicide until an attentive doctor advised Verdier that Guy should consider taking theater lessons.

“I went to the theater on a medical prescription,” he liked to say.

Bedos enrolled in a theater school in Paris and befriended Jean-Paul Belmondo, among other soon-to-be-famous actors.

His first successes came in the 1960s with Sophie Daumier, his onstage partner and second wife. They performed in notorious sketches like “The Flirt,” a slow dance with a back-and-forth inner dialogue revealing the characters’ contradicting understandings of their encounter. In another, “Holidays in Marrakech,” a racist couple just back from Morocco report on their vacation.

In movies, Bedos had credited roles in more than 40 movies. He was best remembered for his role as Simon, a tennis player smothered by his Jewish mother, in the 1976 comedy “Pardon Mon Affaire,” and a sequel, “Pardon Mon Affaire Too!” (1977). Each film was nominated for three César Awards, France’s highest film honor.

Bedos’ first two marriages, to Karen Blanguernon and Daumier, ended in divorce. He married Joëlle Bercot, who survives him, in 1978. In addition to her and his children Victoria and Nicolas, he is survived by two other children and four grandchildren.

Nicolas Bedos became a prominent humorist, actor and author in his own right, while Victoria Bedos became an actress, scriptwriter and author.

“He was a beacon for us,” Victoria Bedos said of her father in the phone interview, adding that she had learned from watching him write sketches and shows.

Bedos retired from the stage in December 2013. His last appearance was at the Olympia concert hall in Paris, where he was joined onstage by Victoria and Nicolas Bedos.

“I will remember you,” he shouted to the audience, with tears in his eyes.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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