Rachid Badouri is undoubtedly a master storyteller, and he is in his element in Les Fleurs du Tapis, a special that runs for an hour and forty minutes and covers everything from his opinions to his journey of finding humility within himself. The only fault is that he is a few years too late with his jokes. It is unfair to call this set dull, but it is not high on jokes either, barring one or two moments. Borrowing words from Claire Dunphy (Modern Family), Rachid Badouri is fun but not funny.
He starts by talking about COVID-19 and how difficult it would be to explain the last few years to someone who has just woken up from a coma. Wasn’t this joke doing the rounds on Instagram two years ago? Why did Rachid Badouri think it would be funny to open his set with this? But his confidence must be appreciated in presenting this joke as if he were the first to think of it and say it. He then falls back on the usual joke of classifying racists as unemployed men living in their parents’ basements. It’s not necessarily false, but it’s simply old. There is some clever wordplay between ‘Lacoste’ and ‘low-cost’ and also about how bargaining works with fake products.
Rachid talks about racism at length, but not in a funny or clever way or even by taking an insightful route. He reminds us of essays we used to write in school against racism and on social issues, with facts and figures stating how the marginalized groups were worthy of recognition and equal treatment because they had a prominent member in the past who contributed to society. Growing up brought the realization that this argument diminishes such groups, but Rachid Badouri doesn’t seem to think so. On that note, this is not a woke man on stage, though he tries very hard. For so many reasons, his set sounds like an explanation and an apology. He takes his time establishing that he hates misogynists because they don’t know the ‘strength’ of women. This strength he is talking about is related to childbirth, and while that appreciation is well and good, it is reductive to paint that as the reason women need to be respected rather than because they are human beings like any other. Rachid Badouri then goes on to talk about how phobias don’t intersect. His point is that a person who has been discriminated against in any one way will never discriminate against others because of his experience. Basically, people who experience homophobia won’t be Islamophobic, and vice versa. There is no need to discuss why this argument holds no water, but it is interesting to note that he doesn’t mention misogyny while talking about it. Additionally, he had just finished talking about the racism he faced in his life. Rachid did not need to say it, but it was obvious that he was establishing that he couldn’t be blamed for any misogyny.
Rachid goes on to talk about how he was a terrible person, but before that, he makes sure to tell his story of being an underdog. He traces his journey of hustling for years without success, and when success came pouring into his life, he lost grip on reality and was the worst kind of person to everyone. However, his behavior became public, and that is why he was forced to take a step back. That is also the reason Rachid feels the need to bring it up the way he did in this stand-up special. It was not lost on us that Rachid had described his hard work in great detail, emphasizing how his wife had stayed by his side to take care of him. Basically, he is telling us that he has her forgiveness before he tells us what he did wrong.
By the time Rachid starts listing his faults, he already has the sympathy of the audience. He is the underdog who is a devoted family man and has a wife that one could go to war with. People want to forgive his faults and try to tell him that he was never wrong in the first place. At this point, when Rachid Badouri berates himself, he closes the gates of all criticism because he shows his self-awareness and his willingness to work on himself. He criticizes himself for behaving so badly with his wife and shows that he changed for her sake. This is why Rachid Badouri is an excellent storyteller, because he told the story that everyone loves hearing, of the caring woman who brings her wayward husband back on track with the power of her love. It is a story with love and redemption, and the audience is in love, enough to give him a standing ovation as he credits them for the success of his career. Interestingly, the runtime of the set is equal to most movies.
The intention of Les Fleurs du Tapis is to repair the image of the comedian. Being funny is a side note, though it should have been more prominent. The lack of it made his intentions rather clear, and that lost our sympathy instantly. However, even for the wrong reasons, this was a more entertaining set than most of what Netflix has been producing in the last year. The translations have been missed in a few points, and there are a few stereotypes (harmless and actually funny ones) that don’t land, but it is a subjective thing and would work with a different audience. Rachid Badouri may have benefited from making a biopic out of his life rather than a stand-up special. He could have played himself, but the criticism of the audience would have been more harsh and direct, which the comedian definitely wanted to avoid.
To sum it up, Rachid Badouri’s image redemption has probably been achieved. He starts his set with the line, ‘Family is everything,’ and talks about how he came to that realization. There isn’t anything to pick on without sounding petty, so Rachid has achieved his goal with this set.