Au Lapin Agile, or my adventures in a French cabaret

Four years ago, I spent a magical summer in Paris, capturing memories in a long-forgotten blog. This is reprinted from 8-3-10.


The idea of a cabaret show is appealing to many in the way that people say that “Playboy” is appealing because of its articles. The french cabaret show ranges from the kitchy moulin rouge performances (icky, but not in an unsanitary way) to the small unmarked cabarets in the red light district (you know that when a sex shop in france is unmarked something bad goes down behind those doors).

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped inside of Au Lapin Agile. The place itself is small, a bit tucked away from the red light district in the heart of Paris’ highest point – Montmartre. Back in the day, it used to be the favorite hang out spot of Guillaume Apollinaire who, according to legend, never once had a woman refuse him. And so I descended into the dimly lit room, to an old man playing piano and a bunch of old timers sitting at tables sipping on a concoction of wine and heavily-alcoholized cherries. There was not a tasseled nipple in sight. I was relieved.

In fact, the performers were mostly men. In their fifties. And (to my relief) there were no plummaged bodices, gratuitous leg shots, or rows of legs doing the cancan. The real french cabaret is a lot more tame. In fact it consists of a group of performers around a table, drinking cherry flavored cognac, playing guitar and accordion, and singing Edith Piaf songs from the 50s. Once the crowd gets tipsy enough, they start singing along. And this goes on for a good two hours. Thankfully, in the end everyone is fully clothed and a lot more nostalgic.


A guide to my favorite french expressions: 

OUF! – signifies exasperation, how one feels after drinking hot tea, or climbing up five flights of stairs because the french do not use elevators (or air-conditioning)

HOP-LA! – can mean anything from “Here it is” to “Watch out, you’re about to be run over by a vespa!!”

POUTAIN! – a general expression of dislike (similar to a good ‘dammit’ in English)

OH-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA (I’ve only heard this done by my host dad) – The only appropriate response when the opposing football team scores a goal on you.


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