Televangelist Jesse Duplantis has been very successful in Europe lately:
PARIS — Coming soon to the Omnisports de Bercy in Paris are Justin Timberlake, Blue Man Group and John Legend. But the only sold-out show so far belongs to Jesse Duplantis, France's favorite American "comique."
They think he's the second coming of Jerry Lewis," says one bemused New York theater critic.
While Duplantis's American audience is limited mainly to TBN viewers and Word of Faith churches, in Paris he's built a following as a comic genius. After his recent appearance a French newspaper called him a "brilliant showman and deft satirist of all things religious and American."
But for Duplantis, this poses a problem.
"French audiences don't think I mean what I preach. They think it's an act," he says backstage after one "performance." "The more I tell them I'm serious, the more they think it's an act."
The French see preaching as an American art form, like blues and jazz music. Recently at a packed 15,000-seat arena Duplantis called people forward for prayer, which the French audience gamely did, clamoring for him to touch their foreheads. Some even fell over backwards for effect.
"I loved the audience participation," said one girl excitedly in the lobby afterwards. "It was like being part of his culture for a moment."