Les Guignols de l'info

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Les Guignols de l'info (English: News Puppets) is a satirical latex puppet show broadcast on Canal+, a French subscription-based television channel. Hosted by a puppet facsimile of TF1 news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Les Guignols is similar to the 1984–1996 British show Spitting Image. A segment appeared every weeknight on the Canal+ program Nulle part ailleurs, with a weekly recapitulation on Sundays ("La Semaine des Guignols", best of the week). While Nulle part ailleurs no longer runs, the Guignols are still running inside the Canal+ TV Show Le Grand Journal. Since the start of 2009 the show always begins with the line "Nous sommes en 2009 et vous regardez la télévision avec publicité, bonsoir." ("It's 2009 and you're watching television with advertising (a play on the recent elimination of advertisements on public channels), good evening.") Previously other lines have been used and changed roughly twice a year.

The show started in 1988 as Les Arènes de l'info (News Arena). It originally did not follow the news of the day and was not very popular. It was not until 1990–1991 and the first Gulf War that the show began to follow the news. It enjoyed a tremendous growth in popularity and quickly eclipsed its rival, Le Bébête Show.

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Impact on popular culture

The Guignols have had a tremendous impact on French popular culture, in many case introducing or popularizing phrases. For instance, à l'insu de mon plein gré ("without the knowledge of my own free will"), repeated by the puppet representing Richard Virenque is now attributed in jest to people who hypocritically deny having willfully committed attributed acts. The impact of political caricature in the Guignols is unclear, but some polls have shown that they influence voters.[1]

Chirac, running in the 1995 presidential election, was shown by the Guignols as unable to articulate a credible program beyond Eat apples!, the apple tree being the symbol of his campaign, but "sympa" (the nice, likable guy).

The show is known to be able to go further in challenging current popular figures and thought than many other forms of media. Some sketches displayed for example Raymond Barre, a former Prime Minister in a gonzo pornographic scene, President Jacques Chirac and his team in a Pulp Fiction–like destruction race to eliminate their competitors or the then Minister of Interior Department Nicolas Sarkozy as a flip-flopping politician.

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