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Former French PM’s quip about his look wins annual humour prize

Self-deprecating joke about his appearance won top slot in contest of politicians’ wit by journalists

The radical change between Edouras Philippe’s look on in 2017 (left) and in July of this year (right) Pic: 360b / Obatala-photography / Shutterstock

France’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe is the winner of an annual prize for political humour after a tongue-in-cheek quote about his appearance. 

The quip by Mr Philippe, who is now mayor of Le Havre, was a reference to the auto-immune conditions vitiligo and alopecia that he suffers from – and the widespread belief that he will run for president in 2027. 

What was the former PM’s winning quote?

“If you think you have to be a playboy in France to be elected, I've got a few counter-examples,” he told French media outlet TMC during an interview in March.

It won him the Press Club’s ‘prix de l’humour politique’ award.

Holding the position of prime minister at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Mr Philippe’s appearance changed radically during his time in office. 

Vitiligo caused prominent white patches to grow in his hair and beard before alopecia led to him losing almost all of his body and facial hair, including his trademark beard. 

He had been the first prime minister in almost 100 years to have a full beard whilst holding the post and the first since 1951 to sport any facial hair.

His comment was also made just prior to the announcement that the then-government minister Marlène Schiappa was appearing on the cover of Playboy magazine.

It is unknown whether Mr Philippe knew about her interview and photoshoot with the magazine when he made the comment - or it was just a coincidence.

Many believe Mr Philippe will run for the presidency in 2027, with some early polls predicting he is the only alternative to a Marine Le Pen victory.

Although originally a member of the right-wing Les Républicains party, he was prime minister for three years during Emmanuel Macron’s first tenure as president.

He is now the leader of his own political party, the centre-right Horizons movement. 

‘We must laugh at everything’ 

He gave a light-hearted acceptance speech on Tuesday, thanking those who voted for him. 

“We can laugh at everything, we must laugh at everything. War, misery and death,” he said, referencing another famous quote by French comedian Pierre Desproges, known for his black humour. 

“Of all the forms of humour possible in the political world - irony, malice, understatement and so on - self-mockery is probably the least dangerous,” Mr Philippe added. 

It is important to “know how to smile at things that happen to you and that aren't funny,” he concluded. 

What other quotes made the shortlist? 

The prize is awarded to politicians by the Press Club, a collection of French journalists.

Fabien Roussel, leader of the French Communist Party, was given the ‘repeat offender’ award for a comment about the varied nature of the government’s interview platforms. 

“It's not enough to subscribe to Pif to know the government's intentions. You also need to subscribe to Playboy,” he said.

He was referencing both President Emmanuel Macron’s interview with children’s magazine Pif, and the controversial appearance of Marlène Schiappa in Playboy magazine. 

The sharp-tongued politician won the grand prize in 2022 for a remark about petrol prices – “The petrol station is the only place in France where the person holding the gun is also the one being robbed.” 

The jury’s choice prize, given by Press Club president Bernard de La Villardière, was awarded to another former prime minister, François Fillon.

It was given for a quote given during an inquiry into foreign interference in French politics and Mr Fillon’s possible links with the Russian government.

“If I want to sell rillettes on Red Square, I'll sell rillettes on Red Square!” he said.

Read also

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The best quips from French politicians in 2022

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