If you have yet to see Lyonnaise actor, model, comedian, and occasional European reality protagonist Julien Marlon learn to speak English, then you have failed your own happiness. His “Teaching English to a Frenchman” sketch series has made Julien a fixture on the social feeds of blithe millennials eager for the next piece viral, escapist humor.
“I love making people laugh!” jests the bearded Frenchman as he takes in some sun and wine on the patio of Los Angeles’ fashionable eatery Zinque. “Comedy is a lot of fun when done right, and forces me to push the boundaries of what I’m comfortable doing on camera.”
If nothing else, Julien’s journey has been a long exercise in growth through self-induced discomfort. Raised between the banal comforts of France’s gastronomic mecca, Lyon, and the rosé-drenched beaches of celebrated Caribbean isle, St. Barthelemy, Julien was unsatisfied with the prospect of la vie facile. “I was growing edgy in Lyon. I needed to get out and see what was waiting for me Westward.”
Boxing up his pleasant childhood, Julien caught a flight to Montreal where he would attend university and study finance. Reticent to embark on a path oft-trodded, however, Julien began dipping his toes into the dramatic arts prior to his graduation. “I started acting towards the end of completing my degree and loved it right away. After graduating, I moved to Los Angeles and have been here ever since.” The following five years would see Julien appear on a number of popular American television programs, lead multiple French reality series, and produce, direct, and star in his collection of widely viewed comedic sketches.
Over perhaps one more glass of wine than planned, Julien reminisces on the whirlwind of amusement, frustration, and adventure that has characterized his post-graduation romp in tinsel town, and lays out his five tips for making a video go viral.
What has been your most exciting moment while filming a project?
My most exciting experience on set came fairly recently. I booked an episode of the new Starz show Counterpart and played opposite Oscar winner JK Simmons. It was a great moment for me to realize that give years ago I was studying finance, and now I’m sharing the screen with such a remarkable talent.
How do you find the funny in a moment?
It’s not a super involved process; I just keep my eyes open and stay attuned for gifts from the comedy gods — I’ll end up noticing something happening in my life that I find funny, and I end up turning it into a sketch. When it comes to writing and making it funny, I just trust my instincts, cast whoever I think might be right for the role (typically my friends), and produce what makes me laugh. Hopefully, if the material triggers a response in me, then it will trigger a response in others too!
How would you characterize your style of comedy?
I tend to make light, funny, relatable material, with an emphasis on relatable. I like when people look at my skits and write comments like, “Oh my god, that’s so me!”
How does the French market, experience, and audience differ from its American counterparts?
French television is very different than American television, one of the largest differences being the discrepancy in budget sizes. I feel that French TV is able to tell a big story with small budgets, whereas the US tells a small story with big budgets.
What do you love doing outside of work?
Outside of work I love working out, going to the movies, and spending a nice afternoon on a terrace drinking wine or beer with my boys!
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Hard working, determined, emotional, easy-going, reliable.
What’s your guilty pleasure and why?
Flourless chocolate cake, because it’s good!
Five Tips For Making Your Comedy Sketch Go Viral
1. The material must be relatable. The more relatable the video, the more people will share it!
2. Keep it short. It’s easier to get a video to go viral if it’s shorter than two minutes in length. Remember, people don’t give you much of their time.
3. Grab your viewer’s attention within the first 10 seconds. If your audience doesn’t laugh – or at least smile – within the first 10 seconds of watching, he or she will likely move on.
4. Subtitles. I find that having English subtitles helped me tremendously. That way, potential viewers in the international community who don’t have the best English can understand what’s happening.
5. Collaborate. Being able to collaborate with other talented people is extremely helpful. Many content creators focus on working with people with large followings – and doing so helps a lot – but, in regard to the videos I made that went viral, the actors I collaborated with had no following, just great comedic timing.
All photos by Alex Stone.