The beautiful discomforts resumes the antenna on TVA, Wednesdays at 9 p.m., after a hiatus of four years. Martin Matte approaches through fiction the theme of his own separation, on the razor’s edge between humor and drama. Discussion on freedom of expression.
Marc Cassivi (MC): I just watched the second episode of Beautiful discomforts and I wonder if you had already negotiated this fine line between drama and humor so well.
Martin Matte (M. M): Of course there is something different in the writing. I am 50 years old. Looks like I’m giving myself the right to go there. I have often been in the drama, in my stage shows. But this time around, I was really like, “Fuck off. There was a kind of letting go in the writing. I write what I feel like writing. There is also an episode on domestic violence. It’s a real challenge to succeed in making it funny and laughing loudly around such sensitive subjects.
M. C .: Weren’t you afraid to miss your shot?
M. M.: I was mostly afraid of repeating myself. That’s why The beautiful discomforts stopped after three seasons. When the idea of writing about separation came up, I talked about it with François Avard [son script-éditeur] and François Rozon [son producteur] and they thought it was a good topic to explore. But I’m telling you this very honestly, I thought that it could not be possible to get to the other three seasons. Because I was no longer inventing a series from scratch. Finally, thanks to this letting go, I started writing something else. I had a playing field of mise en abyme. I could push the characters further. I doubt all the time. For example, I wondered about the character of Patrice Robitaille. It is not someone who evolves that much …
M. C .: He is the “mononcle” of the gang …
M. M.: Yes. But he is without malice. I know people like that who are focused on their positions. They express it less because it goes less well today. It “graffiti” when the character of Pat speaks.
M. C .: Of course we hear it and we wince. Because society is changing, and there are things that are no longer being said. That said, it is a discourse that does exist, which is even quite widespread, but which we prefer to ignore for all kinds of reasons. You had this will, while writing, to say: there are guys like that, we won’t pretend that they don’t exist?
M. M.: Absolutely. Pat is also taken back by his friends who, at the same time, tell themselves that he is like that and that he will not change. I don’t have a friend like him, but, in my big gang of guys, he sometimes talks nonsense. It exists and it’s funny to stage it. This is a question I am often asked: do I censor myself? What are my censorship criteria? I do not have any ! When I write, I hope that I will be supported by my entourage, François Avard, François Rozon and the people from TVA, who were very relevant in their comments. They made me think. A journalist asked me how I had managed to get certain scenes to pass. How I had negotiated for TVA to agree to spend this at 9 p.m. There were no negotiations …
M. C .: Does that surprise you as a question?
M. M.: I admit that I do not know what to answer when I am asked this kind of question. It’s okay that people don’t find it funny or that they don’t find it said, what I write. They have the right not to like it, but not to have me remove a scene or tell me not to write it. Why are we so afraid? It’s not the end of the world, this series! It’s real life, it’s a bit heavy, it “graffiti”, there are discomforts, there will be worse ones. But ciborium, it seems to me that it is desirable to see that on TV! Let it not be just good-natured, formatted humor.
M. C.: Is there a part of you, in your deep drooling nature, that wants to test the waters and the limits of what you can write?
M. M.: Sure. It’s certain. And I do not know why ! I find out. I tell you in all simplicity. When I am asked to write a short two-minute text to mark a birthday, for example, I spend three hours finding the worst case I can say, but which will pass anyway. But why ? I participated in a tribute to Julie Le Breton at the theater. I was between Michel Tremblay and Robert Lepage. And I really said enormities, hard and terrible things, which made a lot of laughs. I was in my car afterwards and I was wondering: why? Why does it absolutely have to be like that? It is certain that by constantly walking on the wire, sometimes, we put our foot on the ground. But my batting average is good and, above all – and this is my greatest pride – there is always at least one really good scene in every episode.
M. C .: Going back to that time which seemed to be afraid to be afraid – I am thinking of the episode of The little life withdrawn a few days by Radio-Canada – do you think it’s true that we can’t say anything anymore? I’m always suspicious when you use that expression …
M. M.: I would tell you that on social networks, indeed, the storm leaves very quickly as soon as something is said. Personally, I still want to believe that on stage and on TV I can say whatever I want. Sometimes people say they have had carte blanche and that’s not true. Me, it’s true! And it has been true from the start. I can be heavy. I am going to write things and at TVA, they will tell me that they think it will not work. I answer that I find it funny and I am told: “Even for you, we think it will not pass. It could hurt you! I had these discussions with TVA. And it always ends with: “Martin, if you want to do it, go for it!” There are times when I left not fat in my tank, but it always passed. I don’t know if the reaction to the broadcast is going to be any different from five years ago. I dare to hope that there will not be debates and 4000 complaints. It would depress me! I lived it a bit with Maxi and this ad that I found good child [la publicité, taxée de grossophobie, a été aussitôt retirée des ondes]. I had read articles about the fact that the number of overweight people had doubled during the pandemic. In confinement, we eat more! I laughed at myself and my weight gain. It didn’t go any further. I’ve been accused of hating fat people. Oh come on !
M. C .: But do you understand that?
M. M.: I understand that Maxi did it for its customers. I would not have withdrawn it. When I was asked if I wanted to do something to apologize, I refused. I’m sorry if it hurt people, but I think it’s funny. It would have been okay if someone told me: “We don’t like it, be careful, it can hurt. We would have grown up together in there and I would have been more careful about my writing in the future. But from there to saying: “You take that off immediately and you apologize”, me, it’s something that annoys me! I really hope we can go through the season without this kind of debate. Hope I am not mistaken.
M. C .: Of course, you and me are in a way the embodiment of the privilege that is talked about a lot these days. You even more, because you are rich! White, straight guys, around 50 years old, who have a great opportunity to say whatever they think. It is true that there are many people who do not have this privilege …
M. M.: Yes. [Pause.] Is that the end of your question?
M. C .: The question is: faced with this observation, what do we do?
M. M.: We will not apologize for being ourselves! I have often had these discussions with my girlfriend and with friends. From the first meeting of Beautiful discomforts, I said, “We’re going through something right now. Something is happening. There is an open door to diversity and we will try to do our part. »Robin [Aubert, le réalisateur] was glad I said that. It remains that at the base, in The beautiful discomforts, there is me, my family and my two friends who are white. These are the main characters. I don’t want to divulge what’s going to happen, but the issue of diversity has been tackled as best we could, in our own way. The first step is to be aware of it. I changed gags this year thinking about this. I wrote saying to myself: “Go elsewhere, avoid the cliché! And I think it’s even funnier. It pushed me, I hope, to be smarter and smarter. What you say about privilege, I’m just keeping it in mind, but you’re right that I didn’t think about it for the first three seasons. I didn’t think about that. Like everyone else, I saw the Bye and I found it refreshing to see so much diversity on screen. Lupine also with Omar Sy who is a hit global. Something is happening. There is a place that is taken. It’s the same for women in cinema and TV. But in the context of Beautiful discomforts, there are also limits. We’ll see if we talk again in two weeks because the show was taken off the air. You could ask me: “Worse? How do you live with the scandal? ” [Rires]