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France's puppet rulers turn 20.

It is a world where clones of Sylvester Stallone rule the planet, a happy-clappy Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse

Famous character of Walt Disney's animated cartoons. He was introduced in Steamboat Willie (1928), the first animated cartoon with sound. Mickey was created by Disney, who also provided his high-pitched voice, and was usually drawn by the studio's head animator,
 sits on Barack Obama's White House team, and Jacques Chirac is a caped and masked anti-hero anti-hero, principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero's lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man's ambivalence toward .

France's longest-running comedy show, "Les Guignols de l'Info," a satirical 10-minute newscast peopled by latex puppets, is celebrating 20 years of cutting stars and the political elite down to size.

Some three million people tune in daily to watch the show, a mirror-image of France's most-watched evening news show, hosted by a puppet of its long-term anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (born Patrick Poivre, September 20, 1947) is a French TV journalist and writer. He is a household name in France, and nicknamed PPDA. With over 30 years and in excess of 4,500 editions of television news to his credit, he is the longest serving current , which has taken on cult status in France.

"It is a badge of honor for a politician to have a puppet on the show, the sign you've finally made it," said media commentator Jean-Louis Missika.

France's favorite Guignols puppet, and the all-time star of the show, is the former president Jacques Chirac, caricatured as a roguish rogu·ish  
1. Deceitful; unprincipled: Set adrift by his roguish crew, the captain of the ship spent a week alone at sea.

2. Playfully mischievous: a roguish grin.
, beer-guzzling Gallic everyman.

Speaking to AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. , Chirac paid the Guignols a wry tribute and said he still tunes in to watch the show, which chronicled his political rise and two terms as president -- and which some credit with getting him elected in 1995.

"They are very clever, very political, very fierce," said the 76-year-old Chirac. "It's true they weren't always tender with me C* But mostly I find my puppet pretty likeable like·a·ble  
Variant of likable.

Adj. 1. likeable - (of characters in literature or drama) evoking empathic or sympathetic feelings; "the sympathetic characters in the play"
likable, appealing, sympathetic

During his 12 years in power, the cloud of corruption allegations dogging Chirac and his wife became a running joke on the show.

One episode cast the pair as geriatric gangsta Noun 1. gangsta - (Black English) a member of a youth gang
AAVE, African American English, African American Vernacular English, Black English, Black English Vernacular, Black Vernacular, Black Vernacular English, Ebonics - a nonstandard form of American English
 rappers, thumbing their noses at the law, and wallowing in a swimming pool full of banknotes.

Skewering her alleged penchant for luxury, another had Bernadette drawing the plush curtains of the Elysee, and working herself into an orgasmic frenzy as she caressed a luxury handbag.

And at one stage Chirac's puppet took to dodging tricky questions by changing into a cape-wearing anti-hero: "SuperLiar."

But popular legend also suggests the show's sympathetic portrayal of Chirac's election campaign in 1995 -- showing him as the victim of backstabbers -- helped him to victory.

"I would hope that wasn't the only reason I won!" Chirac quipped.

Giant posters went up across France to flag a special anniversary edition of the Guignols, to be broadcast Monday. On one of them Chirac haughtily haugh·ty  
adj. haugh·ti·er, haugh·ti·est
Scornfully and condescendingly proud. See Synonyms at proud.

[From Middle English haut, from Old French haut, halt
 exclaims: "I won't go!"

"That's absolutely right, I won't go," Chirac joked. "But I send them my best wishes nonetheless."

For producer Yves Le Rolland, who heads the Guignols' 300-strong team of writers, artists and puppeteers, Chirac's successor Nicolas Sarkozy is just as much fun to imitate.

Lampooned for his flashy tastes, the puppet Sarkozy is the "bling-bling" president, a jug-eared, diminutive figure who jabbers on about the price of his Rolex watch and the beauty of his husky-voiced first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's character made his entrance in the 1990s as a young upstart, scheming to succeed his mentor Chirac, and was portrayed on the 2007 campaign trail as a pill-popping hyperactive hy·per·ac·tive
1. Highly or excessively active, as a gland.

2. Having behavior characterized by constant overactivity.

3. Afflicted with attention deficit disorder.
, plagued by nervous tics, as he battled a schoolmarmish Segolene Royal for the presidency.

France's domestic spy agency reportedly once warned Sarkozy, who was interior minister at the time, that his Guignols puppet risked derailing his bid for the presidency.

Experts are divided over its real influence, but the Guignols has become a primary source of "news" for many young French people, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 sociologist Denis Denis, king of Portugal: see Diniz.  Muzet, whether tarring politicians or attacking US foreign policy.

Modeled on Britain's 1980s puppet show "Spitting Image spitting image
A perfect likeness or counterpart.

[Alteration of spit and image, from spit, an exact likeness, as in the very spit of; see spit1.
," the Guignols took off during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

As Western news coverage of the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq went into overdrive, the Guignols countered with mock reporting, hosted by a flak-jacket wearing Sly Stallone.

"France was at war, and suddenly no one was allowed to joke any more," said Rolland. "We were the only ones with a critical take on the conflict."

From then on, in the Guignols' world, matters of war and peace were decided by the "World Company," a sinister emblem of the US military-industrial complex mil·i·tar·y-in·dus·tri·al complex
The aggregate of a nation's armed forces and the industries that supply their equipment, materials, and armaments.

Noun 1.
, run by clones of the US action film hero Stallone.

On Sept. 12, 2001, as the Western world rallied behind a shell-shocked America a day after Al-Qaeda's strike on the twin towers, the Guignols sparked outrage with a prediction of the shape of things to come.

"We've got the keys to the world! From now on we can do whatever we want!" crowed Stallone's puppet.

Since Obama's historic election, the show's coverage of US politics has changed tack.

"Right now, with Obama, we are in a sort of cuckoo-land where nothing can possibly go wrong. The White House has been taken over by Mickey Mouse and his chums," Rolland said.

"But don't worry, leave it a few weeks and the World Company will be back."

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Mar 16, 2009
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