Dear Jean-Michel Ribes,
"Seriousness strengthens ideas. He even solidifies them, until they end up clogging the thought […] the laughter splits it, until the light passes again." It is under the sign of this capacity of resistance of a laugh that escapes the tyranny of seriousness as well as hilarious stupidity, that you have placed your career, your talent and your commitment.
"Castigat ridendo mores" can be read at Horace.
From the laughter of the cynics to that of the absurd, from the carnival laughter that turns the world upside down to the emancipating spirit to allow it to detach itself from the real, you are one of the champions of this liberating act that always rises up against the sclerotic heaviness of thought.
You are a dear friend, a faithful and loyal man who has always accepted his convictions and commitments.
In your theatrical and cinematographic work as in the remarkable anthology in two volumes that you dedicate to the laughter of resistance, you stage the joyful metamorphoses of a rebellious spirit that creates calls of air, provides bursts of oxygen, opens horizons and cracks in the congruent seriousness of our world. In a society that Lipovetsky described as "humorous", where we must laugh at everything and where everything must make us laugh, you advance a quality laughter that gives full meaning to this impulse of heart and mind.
Your weapon is your pen. This "weather writing" which you like to say fills up like a cloud before falling, a deluge of laughter, in order to decompartmentalize, deride, unzip, stretch, demystify.
This deluge, which is not the front of the apocalypse but a deluge of humour and wit, you bring it to the screen with Thank you Bernard and Palace for television, with the complicity of Pierre Lescure, whom I greet, but also Museum high, museum low, among others, and your highly anticipated Countertops for the cinema. But it is on the stage that it blossoms your wandering and clownish ink, colored with the purple of your costume and wearing the cap of the entertainers, public entertainers, buffoons who alone tell the truth to the powerful.
Laughter is not the best shared quality. Head of conservative Turk, you have been vilified for the virulence of your committed theater, for your biting irony. Physically attacked by extremists in Nancy, you never gave up on your convictions. You belong to the great lineage of a theatre in the heart of the City.
With Animal-free theatre, you describe these delightfully absurd or magical moments that momentarily derail the implacable mechanics of the world. "Short circuits", to use your expression "that tell us that the world is not definitely planned and that there are still some places where reality has not closed its doors on us".
After the mechanics plated - not without sparks - on alive, it is at the service of the whistleblower laughter that you put your talent. With Angry René, you offer to the public a joyful farce, the opera-bouffe of a mad author of the King who pins and accuses with great strength of bursts of laughter and antics.
After spending more than 5 years promoting contemporary dramatic writing around "Texte nu" in Avignon, you are appointed to the direction of a very particular theatre, the Théâtre du Rond-point under the government of Lionel Jospin, by Catherine Tasca and Bertrand Delanoë. This is the beginning of 10 years of success for what was then a gamble.
Theatre is not a cemetery, you say. And it is a living theatre that you celebrate by offering to the public a program open to the world, in the image of the richness and vitality of contemporary creation. With a special attention to living authors, young directors and young actors, women also, directors, authors: this is what makes this theatre a unique place.
You have transformed the Roundabout into a space of invention, free speech and celebration. A place in perpetual ebullition not sparing surprises for an audience, which rushes, always more numerous, with each new curtain raising. An audience where young people have their place and I wanted to commend your tremendous commitment to the service of arts and cultural education as part of an ambitious program for middle and high schools in the region.
You are also, dear Jean-Michel, a formidable talent scout: throughout your career, in theatre, cinema or television, you have allowed talented young authors or actors to be known to the public. Young and promising politicians who were able to express their rhetorical talent during the many debates organized on the Roundabout stage.
"To create is to resist," wrote Stéphane Hessel, your late friend. At home, resistance comes through laughter. In Battles, written with Roland Topor, your stage and pen companion, you advocate for “a peace with red cheeks…that dances and laughs, a living peace…made of battles.” These battles are the ones that you have been fighting for more than 10 years by making the Rond-point a forum, a real cultural and civic agora around major social issues with the evening for the Wedding for All or December 2 with The plague, he said! Together, with all the actors in the world of culture mobilized around our Guard of Seals, we read, sang and danced in joy to resist hatred and intolerance.
Among the 100 words that you define with humor in a recent work, there is one against which your pen has always aimed: "The language of wood, ecological language that does not pollute the thought insofar as it does not contain any."
The public and your peers have never failed to salute and reward this freedom of spirit and daring that characterizes you. Today it is the turn of the Republic of Arts and Letters to distinguish you for these sudden outbursts of laughter that you know so well to offer us, for this joyous fight that you are leading against the definitive thoughts and the darkness of the spirit. For your determined commitment, in a unique place, in favour of contemporary authors, to a living theatre that also brings out young generations of artists. It is a grateful Republic that you help to make live by allowing it to never despair that renders its tributes.
Dear Jean-Michel Ribes, on behalf of the French Republic, we make you Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.