The return of Michel Courtemanche | The hero is no longer tired

Twenty-five years after the unique and disastrous performance of his show chaos, In 1997 Michel Courtemanche returned to the stage for a gala ComediHa! Fest Quebec. The comedian shares how he overcame his morbid stage fright and why his talent “didn’t fall on the right guy.”

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Dominik Spaet

Dominik Spaet
The press

“I took the wrong exit. Michel Courtemanche is not talking about driving on the Autobahn, but about his career path. A slow bifurcation that will start early: the teenager was already playing pantomime with his friends, in the best (or least) opportune moments. “At Poly we smoked big bats and when the world was really frozen I pretended I was behind a window. »

A true Mario Lemieux of the MIM (Montmorency Improvisation Movement, founded by a certain Claude Legault), he lands on the stage of Club Soda in 1986, like surrendering to the current of a river mightier than us an audition at Just for Laughs Mondays. His unforgettable number drummer, which played at the festival of the same name the following year, put it into orbit. He will not return to Earth until a decade later after the unique display, which was canceled mid-flight chaoson July 17, 1997, an impromptu show with a painfully ironic title given the true chaos that reigned in his mind and life.

But contrary to popular belief, Michel Courtemanche did not take the stage for the last time on July 17, but on July 21, 1997 during a show under the stars in the Old Port. Despite her mostly glowing criticism, the journalist fails The press Suzanne Colpron wrote: “We feel like today he’s ready to move on, but that other thing isn’t quite clear in his head just yet. In a word, he is looking for himself. »

She also recalls “the perseverance and zeal of the public who refused to let him go,” as well as a new number offered to be called back, that of “supertired hero.”

A super tired hero, that’s exactly what Michel Courtemanche was back then. So that even if the proposals have multiplied, he does not give in: the shows were over for him.


Michel Courtemanche, 27, in October 1992

“I had offers, yes, but I didn’t care, I didn’t care, it couldn’t have been clearer,” he recalled during a lengthy interview at a café in Outremont, his old quarter, recently.

I was bruised, my mental health issues were still undiagnosed. It didn’t go well. The environment I grew up in was unhealthy.

Michael Courtemanche

Every time he has to utter the words Just for Laughs, his old bugger, the comedian simulates a gag reflex, even if in 2022 the Just for Laughs Group bears little resemblance to whoever pushed them forward in the late 1980s.

“I had to stop or I would get lost. I turned down big deals, but I had to take my time. »

Michael and short sleeve

Why, 25 years after leaving the board, did Michel Courtemanche agree to hold a gala at the ComediHa! Fest-Québec and to unveil a new number of visual humor – good old Courtemanche! – during the Anthony Kavanagh Gala?

First, let’s recall that he had already returned to the stage in 2019 in a surprise number presented with Frenchman Kev Adams and in 2016 through the revival drummerfor the 30the Birthday, but mostly so his nephews and nieces can see my uncle in action anywhere other than a living room.

Despite these noble intentions, the experience had been painful. “I ended up playing it like I was out of juice, and I really was out of juice,” he recalls.

“Michel was nervous and after his number he was about to pass out. If Mario Jean hadn’t supported him, he would certainly have fallen because he had no legs,” says his brother Jean face to face (KO Éditions, 2018), the fascinating, tragic and sometimes disturbing biography of Courtemanche by Jean-Yves Girard.

“Actually, it was my stage fright that tried it. I wanted to die before I went on stage,” says the main prospect. Ever since his second and final tour, the man with the blessed face shared his everyday life as soon as he woke up with stage fright worthy of a leaden screed. The mere idea of ​​attending a live TV show petrified him so much that he chose to decline such an invitation.

“It’s an old defensive reflex that has deteriorated over the years. It had to do with being afraid that people wouldn’t like me, even the ones who paid for the tickets. I felt like I had to earn it every night. The hordes of impotent admirers who systematically awaited his arrival at a French theater will not allay that fear, only aggravate it.


Michael Courtemanche

There was Michel the guy and Courtemanche the star that people adored. But it’s like Michel could never have caught Courtemanche. People saw me on one level and I felt way below.

Michael Courtemanche

But thanks to a hypnologist, in recent years the comedian has managed to regain the energetic state of fever he was in on his debut when he was about to enter an improv hall. Circumstances that enabled him to accept the invitation from ComediHa! welcome, even if we shouldn’t hope for a real return.

“It’s fun because it’s episodic. But humor is not what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be a director,” says the man who studied in the field and later directed the set of the series cafe camera.


Michel Courtemanche on the set of the show Wirelessin 2008

“The talent didn’t fall on the right person. I wasn’t made to tour, to uproot myself from Quebec. I like making people laugh at a dinner party, but doing the same thing night after night for three years at Estie got boring. It wasn’t very creative. »

That Jacket from Tanya

At 57, Michel Courtemanche seems to be in better shape than he has been in the past quarter century, a salutary effect of the training he has resumed to prepare for his gala. The man takes care of his body, regularly helps people like him living with bipolarity, and is swamped with projects, including an expected 2023 show that will see young comedians perform his most memorable numbers.

But Michel Courtemanche is less reluctant than before to drop his armor. An almost banal question at the end of the interview about his mythical sleeveless jacket causes him to burst into tears for a few minutes.

Michel explains that around 1996, Tania, a Swiss teenager recovering from cancer, asked to meet him. It was his childhood dream. “She came to me with many gifts that she made, including a jacket like mine. I recently found the jacket in a box. I had never managed to put it on because I stopped and chose to during Anthony’s gala. »

Michel wipes his eyes with his palms. “I don’t know what became of Tania, but I would have liked to tell her that I would finally put her jacket on. »

Why is Michel Courtemanche back on stage? That reason alone would suffice.

The ComediHa! by Michel Courtemanche, August 12 at 7:45 p.m. at the Capitole Theatre

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