Alfons, Germany’s Favorite French Comedian
Emmanuel Peterfalvi arrived at the age of 24 in 1991 in Hamburg. Nothing predisposed the Frenchman to become a recognized humorist in his adoptive country. The character he created, Alfons, became his double; he analyzes with humor and depth the things of life and the world.
From our correspondent in Berlin,
Olaf Scholz’s letter tortured Emmanuel Peterfalvi for a long time. The then mayor of Hamburg had taken the best pen from him to ask Alfons, the character that the Frenchman has created and molded for years, if he did not want to become a German. Installed in the city since the early 1990s, the comedian has made a name for himself in his adopted country.
But from there to take German nationality? Emmanuel Peterfalvi doubts for a long time. The letter from Olaf Scholz that hangs on Alfons’ refrigerator calls out to him every day. His family history emerges: can the grandson of an Auschwitz deportee acquire German nationality without betraying his grandmother who meant so much to him? One fine day, a fire in Emmanuel Peterfalvi’s kitchen seals the fate of Olaf Scholz’s letter; the recipient of the letter turns the page. provisionally. A meeting on a television with the mayor of Hamburg beat the Frenchman. A handshake between the two men seals Alfons’ naturalization. Or almost. Like any foreigner, the Frenchman will still have to complete his file and study German history to pass his naturalization test and know by heart the date of the founding of the communist GDR. ” The decision was not easy; I spent two years thinking about it. All my past came back to me. It was a complicated journey. But upon arrival, it became clear. I have lived more than half of my life in Germany, I am half German “.
Olaf Schölz, then still mayor of Hamburg, hands over his naturalization certificate during a ceremony to Emmanuel Peterfalvi and other foreigners who have just opted for German nationality. A few months later, having become Angela Merkel’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz himself will attend the Alfons parade.
The naturalization of Emmanuel Peterfalvi and the reflection on his family past will give rise to his most personal show” Alfons-Jetzt noch deutscherer / Alfons even more German “.
A family history rooted in Germany
Nothing predisposed the young Parisian to such a course. It is true that he learns German as his first language, but the choice is explained more by pragmatic reasons. His grandmother, born Erica Grünfeld in Romania, speaks German. Emmanuel Peterfalvi makes his show a tribute to this woman of character who marked his childhood. But fate could have been very different. When Erica learns during the German occupation that her stepfather has been arrested for deportation, she goes to the Kommandantur and demands to go with him. She is transported to Auschwitz. ” When I was a child, he explained to me that he did not hate Germans. I just want this to never happen again “explains his grandson.
This family background does not predispose Emmanuel Peterfalvi to come and settle in Germany. However, he arrived in Hamburg in 1991, but without much desire. After working for the Canal + television channel in Paris, he will have to do his civil service, instead of the classic military service, with the Première channel, a subsidiary of the French group. He is finally drafted after the end of his civil service. His experience at Canal + benefits him at Premiere, where we continue to improvise. The young Frenchman’s pugnacity is also paying off.
Emmanuel Peterfalvi then left the private channel for the public service to which he has remained faithful ever since. German viewers discovered it, among other things, during the 1998 World Cup in France with its “Télé Croissant” section. Alfons will then see the light of day. The character becomes the double of Emmanuel Peterfalvi, with, as an essential accessory, a tracksuit jacket made in the GDR. His extreme searches to unearth an ersatz turned out to be in vain. This jacket has become Alfons’ “uniform”, the one that the very serious wear daily Frankfurter Allgemeine described as ” French preferred by Germans “.
From a simple column to your own program
His new townspeople love this somewhat goofy character, armed with a huge microphone resembling a large stuffed animal that Alfons has long conducted street surveys with. He stammers with difficulty and with a terrible French accent questions a priori crap: ” Who is the laziest? Foreigners or unemployed? », « Should heterosexuals have the right to marry? “. Alfons’ interlocutors do not mistrust this third-rate journalist. ” Sometimes it was super shocking but you don’t hear that kind of talk on TV, because usually the people interviewed control themselves. “. With these some 300 surveys, Emmanuel Peterfalvi reunites with his first love when the tape recorder that Santa Claus gave him when he was six years old was immediately used for a family survey.
But over time, the comedian wants to renew himself. He is no longer just the “signature” that intervenes in a humorous program; he gets his own shows from him. For more than fifteen years, he has presented the program “Alfons et ses invite” twice a month on the SWR public television channel and a radio program six times a year on the Saarland public radio. And he tours Germany to perform on stage with his various programs.
Within ” Alfons, even more German », the comedian achieves the feat of speaking without excessive pathos about the concentration camps and the fate of his deported grandmother. Emmanuel Peterfalvi evokes with emotion who he called him ” small head », a respectable lady who, with her trained fly, quickly became the darling of the subway trains: with a discreetly sliding magnet, the insect moved, it seemed to obey her. Even François Mitterrand, whom she admired and whom she met on several occasions, fell for it. And the talented comedian Emmanuel Peterfalvi makes the audience laugh by evoking the failures of the Germans and the French and the incidents of his naturalization, always with intelligence.
Awarded the Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest decoration
Sings the famous song Barbara, Gottingen, On stage, this anthem of Franco-German reconciliation, the meaning of which explains to German audiences how a Jew who had gone into hiding during the war to escape the Nazi occupiers ended up accepting a concert on the other side of the Rhine where she was conquered by the reception from the public to whom he even dedicated a song on the spot.
Last year, Emmanuel Peterfalvi received the Cross of Merit, the highest German decoration, comparable to the Legion of Honor. The text that justifies this award mentions his ” exceptional merits for Culture, Tolerance and Humanity. » « This justification was really very moving for me. “says Emmanuel Peterfalvi. That day, his new decoration hangs from his stage jacket. A small, more discreet fly is a tribute to his beloved grandmother.
” Thirty years later, it is clear that he had something to do in Germany. Because of my family history. But also because Franco-German friendship is essential for Europe. And if there are disputes at the top, it’s important not to leave that to the politicians. Peace in Europe for decades is a gift that must be cherished “. Emmanuel Peterfalvi now wants to go to schools with his show.
After the start of the war in Ukraine, Alfons wanted to act. He made a copy of his famous jacket, this time in the colors of Ukraine. Many people, known or less known, have put ” the peace jacket “. In total, several tens of thousands of euros were raised for Ukrainian children.