Incredible Indie Tuesday: Angouleme Fest Doubles Down on Controversy with Bizarre Award Prank

Angouleme 43 Official PosterAlready dealing with the controversy over all-male Grand Prix nominee list, the Angouleme International Comics Festival provoked even more outcry at Sunday night’s closing award show.  The ceremony opened with the emcee, French comedian Richard Gaitet, coming on stage and announcing the award winners…only to reveal minutes later that it was all just a big joke.  All those people who just thought they’d won a prestigious Angouleme award and had started to celebrate?  Ha ha, turns out these were just weird prank winners and you actually lost!  And…uh…here are the here are the real winners, everybody!

Seriously, these weren’t some fake joke award categories that were announced in some harmless emcee opener monologue.  They announced winners to the actual categories from the pool of actual nominees, only to roll it back it and give the award to someone else a few minutes later.  I’m…not sure what part of that is meant to be the joke?  People were visibly upset at the ceremony and it immediately sparked outrage across social media.

Lewis Trondheim designs of Le Fauve mascot of the Angouleme International Comics Festival
Le Fauve was first designed by Lewis Trondheim back in 2007.  Tiny mascot too cute for bad comedy routines!

Apparently, the whole joke revolved around these prank awards being the ‘Faux Fauves’ which translates to ‘Fake Wildcat’ which I’m guessing is a reference to the cat mascot trophy the winners receive.  First of all, if you’re planning a whole comedy bit around a pun, unless you’re actually hilarious it’s going to go poorly.  Second of all…if you want to do a comedy bit about giving out fake awards,  maybe make them actually fake???  I legitimately have no idea what the intended punchline was meant to be.

Then Gaitet topped it all off with making a crack at French cartoonist Dorothée de Monfreid by saying they were giving her a second Grand Prix because she’s “the biggest author in the profession — in terms of size.”  This is funny because Mondfreid is six foot and, ha ha, a woman who’s tall, isn’t that hilarious!  What a witty joke to make about the award the Festival didn’t even nominate any women for!  At this point, I’m starting to wonder if the whole of 2016 Angouleme is just an elaborate Kaufman-esque ruse that hasn’t hit its final punchline yet.

2016 Angouleme Grand Jury Book of the Year Statue
The actual Fauve d’Or for Book of the Year went to Richard McGuire ‘s work ‘Here’

No one in the room or following the Twitter hashtag #FauxFauves was very impressed with this oh-so-hilarious prank.  Also, just to be clear, this backlash isn’t just people being able to grasp the genius of esoteric French humor.  The Angoulme Grand Jury (a.k.a. the group of esteemed comic professionals who chose the award winners) issued a sharp rebuke of the whole gag calling it cruel and vulgar.  Gaitet issued an apology and actually owned up to having hurt people’s feelings.  “My fundamental mistake was failing to grasp the range of expectations and hopes, the strong emotions that reigned in the room on such an occasion,” Gaitet said, which makes it sound like he had no idea what he’d even agreed to emcee.

Unsurprisingly, Festival officials had no idea what the whole fuss was about.  Everyone’s taking this all too seriously–come on, every Golden Globes or Oscars award show has jokes!  Which…is true…but usually there’s actually humor involved?  It’s not just pun-based deception that just makes everyone involved feel bad.  Festival director and official douchebag Franck Bondoux blamed it, of course, the evil outrage machine that is social media.  “The problem is the dictatorship of the tweet,” his statement said, which is just so gloriously overdramatic.  Remember folks: when you tweet, your 140 characters are just as serious as a fascist regime and, most importantly, could hurt an old French dude’s feelings!

Panel from Jeremiah 22, created by Hermann Hupper
A panel from Hermann’s Jeremiah. Out of print in English, maybe we’ll see a new edition now that’s he a Grand Prix.

It’s really a shame that this year’s winners for both the Grand Prix and Grand Jury prizes were so mired in controversy.  Hermann Huppek, who uses only his first name for his comics work, took home the Grand Prix lifetime achievement award, which is well deserved for the long, varied career in Belgian comics he’s had over the decades.  As this year’s winner, an exhibit of his work will be shown at next year’s festival, and hopefully this award will push more of his work into the English-language market.

Meanwhile, the Angouleme folks have a whole year to rehabilitate the show’s reputation and avoid 2016’s mistakes.  Here’s three simple pieces of advice:  reject bad comedians and their puns, don’t forget about the ladies, and never let Franck Bondoux be your spokesperson again because, oh man, he is just the WORST.

Catie Coleman

Catie Coleman

Catie is a lawyer by day, comics fan by night (and during the lunch hour). Unsurprisingly, her idol is She-Hulk and can only wish that she could work a purple suit in the courtroom like Shulkie can. She's also into Stephanie Brown, because she has apparently an affinity for characters in purple.