Jonathan Cohen on Le Flambeau: “We really wanted to stand out from La Flamme” [interview]

The Torch Joanthan Cohen
Canal +

After The Bachelor, Jonathan Cohen parodies this time Koh-Lanta.

The irresistible Jonathan Cohen transforms The flame in Torch and reinvents the concept by parodying this time Koh Lanta. On the program, lots of new faces (Kad Merad, Gérard Darmon, Jonathan Lambert, Jérôme Commandeur, Laura Felpin, Mister V…) and quite a few old ones (Ana Girardot, Géraldine Nakache, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Leïla Bekhti, Camille Chamoux…) . Big pressure for Cohen, who must reconnect with the enormous success of season 1.

I understand that you are still editing [l’entretien a eu lieu le 11 mai dernier] ? Not too hell?

Frankly, it’s hot. Here I am in the mix of episode 5 out of 9. After that, things are progressing pretty well, I’m on schedule. But it’s a crazy job to come up with comedy.

Especially since we imagine that there is a lot of improvisation in The torchand therefore a lot of material that will not be used.

Yeah, hours and hours!

How do you find the comic timing in the editing?

By setting a course and not hesitating to cut tons of jokes. There are scenes where I removed an incalculable number of valves to favor others, but also so that we never lose the thread of the action. We must laugh, but we must always move forward. That’s how I like comedies, when there’s no mirror: we make a joke, we move on. So that the action does not suffer and that we do not lose rhythm.

Jérôme Commandeur, who plays the presenter of the show Denis Brogniart style, confided to me that he was struck by the importance of acting on the set. He tells that the actors almost really had to play this fake Koh Lanta.

Exactly. This Season 2 is an issue-based comedy. For all the characters, the stakes are over important, as in this kind of show where they all absolutely want to win and surpass themselves. So we had to be at the same level in the tests. And that’s where it gets funny: it pushes the characters to act on their own stupidity.

I’ve only seen the first two episodes so far, but I feel like you’re going even deeper into the character bullshit and madness. It was necessary to push the knobs to the bottom?

In any case, we wanted to really differentiate ourselves from season 1, so that there is no redundancy. It would have killed me for people to say to themselves: Yeah OK, actually it’s season 1 but revamped “. So there was this desire toupgrade comedy, but in all the characters. To serve everyone well so that it is very balanced.

The American series whose The flame was inspired, Burning Love, was entitled to a season 2 in the United States, with the same concept. Why did you choose to walk away from it and parody Koh Lanta ?

Yes, in the United States, they had made a season 2 with a Bachelorette. It was the same system as season 1, but with a woman. We tried to do that, and then we stopped because it was going in circles. We see it well with season 2 of Burning Love : it drops a lot in quality because it all becomes redundant. But for us, that meant putting six months of work in the trash! We had to quickly turn around to keep the same broadcast timing, and we chose to go with a parody of Koh Lanta, a type of program that has very clear codes known to all. It was obvious: the characteristics of the characters are very marked, and then there is this pretty cool thing where everyone is ready to win, everyone is ready for anything. And that is caviar for comedy. But to keep up the pace, spent six months working like crazy on the writing and we shot in stride.

There are a lot of new faces in The torch, both confirmed actors and actresses and others who come from YouTube or Instagram. With very different styles… How do we ensure that all these comedy worlds come together?

For the choice of actors, it’s a lot of feelings, in fact. You instinctively know who will be compatible. And afterwards, you have to succeed in getting everyone in tune, bringing the actors towards our universe and what we want to tell. But it is done both with great seriousness and with great lassitude. It goes through mutual trust, fun and group cohesion.

In France, comic series with this kind of humor and which bring together a large audience are ultimately quite rare. Why The flame worked so well?

I think it’s a tone that the public is not used to seeing in the panorama of French comedy, which is often very human comedy, “comedy of life”, if you will. The kind of humor that we manipulate in The flame and The torch is very Anglo-Saxon. And we’re more used to seeing him in sketches or on YouTube, not in a series with so many episodes. There have been H at the time, of course, but I wouldn’t be able to name anything else in that style… In any case, I think people needed to have that sense of humor in their daily lives.

In the episode of Hot Ones with Kyan Kojandi, there’s a point where you get very serious about your relationship to your fame and the fact that the “cohenmania” could end as quickly as it came.

I’m 42 years old, I’ve been doing this job for almost 20 years and I went through so many stages before having the chance to have a little light on me… Lasting is not between my hands. You have to be super humble about that because it’s the reality. I take advantage, it’s insane and I give the maximum of what I have. But I know we’re just moments in people’s lives and I never want to forget that. I don’t want to fool myself that this is going to last a lifetime.

But that may also be what makes you popular, beyond your mind-blowing comic vista. Even on promo on a TV set, you keep a healthy “normal guy” side.

Probably because I’m too old to tell it to myself. I never had rage, I accepted life as it was with its share of frustration and failures. I have had more failures in my life than successes! I work hard, but I try to stay calm about it. I have a simple relationship to work and my “status”. Afterwards, it doesn’t prevent that when people tell me that they love me, it upsets me. I find that completely crazy.

Le Flambeau, The Adventurers of Chupacabra, from May 23 on Canal+, three episodes per week. Nine episodes in all.

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