Revealed during the health crisis (2/4). At the announcement of the first confinement in March 2020, spirits fog. But not that of the actor Noam Cartozo, determined to fight against the ambient gloom. From the balcony of his Parisian apartment and on social networks, he hosts a parody of “Questions for a champion”, to the delight of the neighborhood and Internet users around the world.
It all started with a joke, as so often with Noam Cartozo. On March 17, the Parisian actor, then aged 31, was confined to his apartment in the 11th arrondissement, like the rest of the French population. The performances of plays in which he played in Marseilles came to an abrupt end. To deceive the boredom which is already beginning to emerge in the recess of his two-room apartment, the artist broadcasts, the first days of confinement, music, then organizes blind tests. But very quickly, the actor, who likes to call out to his neighbors from his window, gets bored. He then came up with the idea of running a quiz. The game “Questions for a balcony” was born.
From March 24, the calm rue Saint-Bernard turns into an improbable playground: the neighbors on the even side oppose their knowledge to the odd neighbors, separated by a loyal gentleman who is happy to laugh. Success is quickly there. Each evening, after the 8 p.m. applause addressed to the caregivers who are at the bedside of Covid-19 patients, the game begins. The questions fuse. Laughter too. “I saw people a little sad on their balcony, I wanted to brighten up their daily life with a little moment of joy every evening.”
From rue Saint-Bernard at the other end of the world
The ritual is immutable. A jingle, which resembles that of “Questions for a champion”. A few minutes of applause for caregivers, firefighters, garbage collectors. Then the launch of the host, who has become a gimmick. “Good evening and welcome to questions for a” … “Balcony!”, The neighbors answer in unison. Then the questions follow one another. “Which group performed Hotel California? Where is Siberia? Which animal is Thumper in Bambi?” Young and old can participate.
After a quarter of an hour spent with the neighbors, the game continues live on Instagram for 45 minutes. Social networks are once again proving their power: in a few days, connections explode, the game is watched all over the world. The daily meeting even registers a peak at two million connections. “I did not expect such a success”, is still surprised the actor, several months after the release of the game.
“It was great to see my little nephews who live in Israel also screaming ‘Balcony’ from their couch, thousands of miles away,” the actor continues. Julien Lepers or Samuel Étienne, the troublemaker of the balcony also disguises himself according to his moods and current events, helped by his companion, professional makeup artist. Sometimes extraterrestrial, sometimes wizard, he is also rabbit, vahiné , or Donald Trump for an evening.
Sponsors and media
As in a real game show, there are prizes to be won. “At the beginning, I saved rolls of toilet paper and packets of pasta, which have become scarce in stores.” But very quickly, brands see the potential of the daily meeting. Sponsors’ proposals abound. “I received countless offers, from the most needed products in these times of crisis to the most outlandish. I only took reasonable offers,” says Noam Cartozo with a smile. Gaming brands or children’s press publishers thus donate game boxes or magazine subscriptions for the youngest. Large distributors also offer packages to go through confinement for two for a week. Some are redistributed to neighborhood volunteers who continue their marauding. In all, more than 30,000 euros in gifts are offered for the game during the first confinement.
The realization, it, professionalizes. At first, a single camera films the improvised show. Very quickly, seven objectives frame the show to multiply the shots. When the game is over, Noam then gets down to a long editing job that takes him until three in the morning. “Between the preparation of the show, the management of the sponsors, the editing, etc … I have never worked so much during confinement”, he admits with a burst of laughter. In the end, I was telecommuting like the others. ”
Soon, Noam also has to deal with the media. “From the moment AFP and Reuters news agencies released a dispatch on the show, requests for filming and interviews with French and foreign journalists poured in.” The actor willingly lends himself to it and shares his joie de vivre in the news and broadcasts all over the world. However, behind the smile of the entertainer turned public, things are not going so well. Two days after the show started, he received a phone call from his mother. “She certainly calls to congratulate me and encourage me,” thought the carefree thirty-something. His enthusiasm quickly died down: his brother, suffering from Covid, was hospitalized and placed in an artificial coma. No question of flinching. As his brother fights on his hospital bed, Noam also wants to keep up with his long days. His own way of fighting by his side. After a month of hospitalization, his brother is out of the woods, Noam then feels the need to share it with his neighbors, who have become true life companions, always from his balcony. “Everyone applauded, it was really a great time to share.”
The end of confinement, the start of new projects
The end of confinement is due to the emission. The game ends on May 10. “On Sunday night I said goodbye to the neighbors. I thanked them for playing with me every night. It was very moving. Everyone applauded. There was a long standing ovation, like in the theater. It was also a good thing that it stopped. ”
From this parenthesis, there is a great bond between the residents of the neighborhood. “Since then, we’ve all known each other in the street, we exchange. There are newsletters, WhatsApp groups. There is even a couple who formed thanks to the game. I’m really happy to have brought a little cheerfulness to people during this period which was sorely lacking “, summarizes Noam Cartozo.
The story could have ended there. But after confinement, new projects are being set up like new shows on social networks. An editor also proposed to the providential host if he wanted to immortalize his show in a real game box. The thirty-something hesitates. Finally accepts. In barely three months, the box of games entitled “Y a du monde au balcon” sold more than 3,200 copies. No desire to make a living: for each game box sold, one euro is donated to the Hospitals of Paris, Hospitals of France foundation. Inside the box are the names of the neighbors who participated in the game as well as the name of the hospital where their brother was treated. “If this game can bring some money to the hospitals that have saved thousands of people like my brother and good humor in the aperitifs, then great.”
Since this summer, the actor has found the boards that he missed so much. Touring all over France, he picked up the plays where he left off. With a few details. After the performances of the “Three Musketeers” and “Don Quixote … or almost”, spectators now come to greet the one who entertained them during the confinement. “They follow me on social networks and come to see me play. They wait until the end of the play to discuss, it’s the best gift,” concludes the actor. In this story, Noam Cartozo gained many followers, new fans, new notoriety. And great memories.