The program Patofville and its namesake clown Patof have taken up permanent residence in the imagination of Quebec's TV audience.
After the death of Olivier Guimond in the early 1970s, Télé-Métropole was looking for a new clown character to join the TV program Capitaine Bonhomme. This led to the decision to employ the many talents of Jacques Desrosiers and thus, the character of Patof was born. As the program evolved, children embraced the character, who like them, was a little shy and awkward.
In 1972, Desrosiers hatched the idea of making a record entitled "Patof Blou" which was an adaptation of "Mammy Blue" by Roger Whittaker. The song grabbed first place on the Quebec hit parade for two straight weeks at the end of that summer. The clown's popularity shot up skyward, so much so that in 1973, Capitaine Bonhomme went off the air and Jacques Desrosiers was named the host of a new program: Patofville, which will then be broadcast from June 4, 1973 to August 27, 1976.
The texts for the program were written by Gilbert Chénier, who had previously collaborated with Desrosiers. In this program, Patof was the village Mayor and lived in a giant boot; Gilbert Chénier was Polpon, the Chief of Police and Chief Firefighter and he lives in a teapot, because he just loves tea. Meanwhile, Roger Giguère was the famous General Itof, a Russian spy who lived in a pumpkin. Other colourful characters regularly turned up on the show such as Boulik, Patof's loyal dog, Madeleine Arbour who would cobble together all kinds of things with the children and the Great Chief Amikwan who would come to tell them Amerindian legends.
Alas, in 1975, Gilbert Chénier passed away following a liver impairment. Another writer took over, the décor was redesigned and the format of the program was changed. Patofville became Patof voyage. The action now takes place in Patofville station. Two new characters appeared on the show: the station master, Monsieur Tut-Tut (Denis Drouin) and Fafouin (Roger Giguère), Patof's favourite scapegoat.
At the height of his popularity, when Patof was doing his show tours, he had to hire bodyguards and needed a police escort to leave the stage.
Télé-Métropole was not prepared to deal with such a phenomenon, where a TV character enjoyed such popularity. Management then decided that they wanted to acquire the rights to the Patof character. However, the Patof sensation, which largely surpassed the framework of television, remained the property of the performer. Negotiations were then engaged, and for two weeks, the program was not aired, notwithstanding the numerous complaints registered over the station's phone lines and letters of protest. After several meetings, a compromise agreement was reached. Desrosiers yielded his rights in exchange for a firm two-year program contract. Ever since the Patof incident, there now exists a derivative rights bureau at Télé-Métropole (TVA today).
In 1975, with the goal of refreshing the program with something new, like what had been done with Patof and Capitaine Bonhomme, the program carried on, but introduced a new character: the marionette Monsieur Tranquille. In no time at all, the latter was a big hit and soon took centre stage. Patof faded back into the shadows.
Jacques Desrosiers would later become a financially successful businessman. He was overcome by bone and lung cancer and passes away on June 11, 1996 after a short illness. However, Patof continues to live on today with its many fans. There is even a Web site dedicated to the latter and a blog called Patofville.
Written by Yvon Chouinard - September, 2008