'I want to earn those laughs': Gad Elmaleh brings his comedy to an American audience

The French comedian moved to the US to find out what happens when a successful comic performs his jokes in front of a new audience.
French comedian Gad Elmaleh is performing in comedy clubs across America. (Arie Elmaleh)

About a year ago, Moroccan-born French comedian Gad Elmaleh decided to bring his comedy to America. Elmaleh is the kind of comic who sells out arenas, but when he needed a change of scene, Elmaleh began performing in tiny venues across the States. As he works on his jokes in English and tours America, the comedian is set to appear on Conan and perform at Carnegie Hall next month.

"The challenge, it's more than I expected," says Elmaleh, "I thought it would be easy just to travel with my comedy and translate it, but I was wrong," he admits. The comedian says it's not enough to simply translate jokes, "I need to adapt and create new bits and translate not only the words, but my perspective." Despite the challenges, Elmaleh says it has been very exciting and interesting to start over. Not only have the venues changed, but he is tackling new audiences and American media. "France is my wife and America is my mistress," Elmaleh explains and he says it's been exciting to develop this new relationship.

For now, the French comedian isn't sure when he will feel he's made it in America. "I need to keep on working on my English and making Americans laugh," says Elmaleh. He admits, "I don't think you've made it because you do Carnegie Hall or those talk shows." Instead, he is curious to see where this tour will take him. Elmaleh believes, "when you do things sincerely but you don't know where you're going," that's a real journey.

Gad Elmaleh is on tour in the US until February 11. Find more details and show listings here