Les Grosses Têtes – France’s most popular radio show

Created in 1977, the “Grosses Têtes” (big heads or brainiacs in French) is a hugely successful afternoon radio show broadcast on RTL.

Presented by Philippe Bouvard for 37 years, the show is  moderated since 2014 by star TV moderator and radio guru Laurent Ruquier.

The show is still a rising success with an average of 1,2 million daily auditors.

The recipe

The two-hour show is moderated by Ruquier who is surrounded by six recurring columnists. Questions about current affairs, puns and jokes maintain an upbeat rhythm concluded by the mystery guest – a celebrity whose identity is to be guessed by the columnists within a few minutes.

Laurent Ruquier

Laurent Ruquier

The columnists have different backgrounds – TV anchormen (Michel Drucker, Christophe Beaugrand), journalists (Christine Ockrent, Yann Moix), actresses (Isabelle Mergault, Chantal Ladesou) or entertainers from Ruquier’s team (la bande à Ruquier) such as Caroline Diament or Steevy Boulay.

The ingredients differ but they all bind with a sweet-sour sense of humor, puns of high and low quality, and a no censorship at all.

An unexpected success

The show, though prepared with care, was doomed to become old-fashion and deserted by younger generations of auditors. And yet, les Grosses Têtes avoided this fate. In a France experiencing a tense climate of terrorism (Charlie Hebdo events) and rising antisemitic attacks, media, politicians and public figures are walking on eggs. One wrong word can become polemical. Although there is no censorship as such, spontaneity is not the way to go.

The Brainiacs show stands out as an outspoken, honest radio talk, where all jokes are allowed, no matter how offensive or borderline – good humor and fourth degree prevail. It feels like a heaven of freedom of speech where anything goes. And it’s such a relief to hear things said bluntly sometimes.

Listen to les Grosses Têtes here (podcasts)

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About John Barré

English & German into French translator. Interested in languages, literature, video games, localisation & translation - among many other topics.
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