Chapo Ba, in which we give props to someone who has had a significant impact on Haitian culture.
Today’s Chapo Ba goes out to…Fernel Valcourt.
Fernel Valcourt’s stage and movie alter ego Jesifra, has over the course of his career, taken such a life of its own, that many of his fans don’t even know his real name. Valcourt, a native of Cap Haitian, Haiti got in theater early, performing at first in the vicinity of his home town, before attaining national fame. Daniel “Tonton Bicha” Fils-Aime has publicly declared that Valcourt single-handedly inspired him to become a comedian.
Like his predecessor Theodore “Languichatte” Beaubrun, Valcourt is not merely an actor, but a director and screenwriter as well, writing several of his most well-received plays including “Bourik La Bouke” (The Donkey is Exhausted), “Lanmou Pa Gen Baryè” (Love Knows No Boundaries), “Abitan Demisyone” (The Hick Has Thrown in the Towel). The biggest success of Valcourt’s career was his inaugural film role in the Raphael Stines film Kraze Lanfè (Breaking Hell). One of the most popular and most influential Haitian films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film widened out Valcourt’s exposure beyond the theatrical stage, and made him the most popular comedian among Haitians in the Dyaspora.
Valcourt’s popularity is not merely among older generations but overlaps into the generation of Haitians born off the shores of Haiti. His brand of comedy is based on physical comedy, but more importantly on double entendres, on his own self-crafted persona for Jesifra Lestomak, and flippant dialogue, a combination that has gotten him fans of all ages, and has made his dialogue lines catch phrases among his fans.
Valcourt’s popularity is such that in 2009, when an unfounded rumor that he had died spread throughout the Haitian community, fans got on the radio to pay their respects, before the untruth got squashed with a video of Valcourt announcing that he indeed was alive, and that God willing, he was going to keep audiences laughing.
Photo Credit: Belfim
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