Philippe Risoli: “Even on the day of my death, I will never have the end of the story on the reasons for my ouster from TF1! »

February 29, 2024 / Jerome Goulon

In the 1990s, Philippe Risoli was the star of TF1, hosting cult shows such as Jeopardy!, Millionaire and of course The right price. Despite great popularity, the host suddenly disappeared from the air in 2001, without ever really receiving an explanation. Now aged 70, Philippe Risoli publishes a book, Tell my son that I love him, in which he looks back on his life and his career on TV. An intimate work in which he opens up like never before. On this occasion he us. given to an interviewer, to be found in full here…

Interview: The title of your memoir is Tell my son that I love him. Explain this choice to us…
Philippe Risoli: This is a sentence that was said by my father two years ago, when he died. He told that to the nurse. I was not present at his request. The day before, when I went to see him at the Amiens University Hospital in palliative care where he was hospitalized for pleural cancer caused by asbestos, he told me very clearly: "Go away, I don't want to not that you see me die! » A very strong sentence. We stayed for 5 minutes looking into each other's eyes, until the nurse asked me to leave him, because that was her wish. And the next day, the nurse called me to repeat these words to me. My father was the very last person who knew me in my inner circle. My uncles, my aunts, my grandparents and my mother had already left. So I wanted to pay tribute to them in my book, in addition to obviously talking about my passion for the media.

About the media, were they not necessarily considered a real profession by your family?
It's true. When I started working in television and talked about it with my Italian paternal grandmother, she asked me what time I got up in the morning. I replied: “Oh it depends. Sometimes I can get up at 10am! » And suddenly, she replied to me: “But then, you don’t work? » (Laughs) For her, who had seen my father and uncle get up early all their lives, working meant getting up at 5am.

In your book, you talk about the stigmatization of “Ritals”. For you, is there still racism in France? 
There has always been racism and unfortunately there always will be. But today, the problems are no longer exactly the same as when the Italians came to France. In the media, not a day goes by without talking about the divisions caused by religion. This was not the case before. In my neighborhood of 18e Porte de Clignancourt district was a melting pot of all religions. In my class, there was me, of Italian origin, and my Jewish and Muslim friends. And I don't remember us talking about religion, like 14 year olds can do today... That raises questions. 

Did writing your memoirs make you nostalgic for a certain era?
I consider my book more as memories than memoirs, there is nothing nostalgic about it. I address a lot of subjects which are more relevant than ever, but which are not new. 

Do you have an example?
We are being harped on about ecology. But when I was little, I was asked to bring back the bottles that were deposited to exchange them for other bottles. At the time, we were already doing a lot of ecological gestures which have disappeared today and which we are trying to bring back to the table now, thinking we have the idea of ​​the century... In those years too, everything was less Dear. And then people were partying… Once again, I talk about it in my book without nostalgia and without judgment. I'm just proud, in this book, to raise a whole bunch of questions...

Let's go back to your childhood. Did you know from a very young age that you wanted to do television? 
Yes. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to do TV. My mother told me that at the age of three, I got on a broom, put a salad basket on my head and shouted “Artist!” » Very quickly, I took whatever I could get my hands on, a spoon or a crust of bread, and I made a microphone out of it. I wanted to do TV at a time when that wasn't fashionable. It surprised everyone. 

And your little boy's dream came true on Canal+ in 1986, when you presented a new game, Star Quiz. Were you at ease straight away or rather stressed?
I felt that I had the trust of the Canal+ management team. I was like a fish in water and so happy that my dream as a three-year-old boy was coming true... I did it without any problem, the words came to me, it was fluid. On the other hand, I was nervous afterwards. The day my first show aired, I invited my whole family to dinner at my house, and five minutes into the credits, I had tremors, I was scared! I couldn't watch my first TV show, I was scared. I left the room, went to a street and waited for it to end. 

Did you have a role model, a presenter that you admired?
Philippe Gildas is one of the people who made me want to do this job. I contacted him and he responded! I had his letter with me for a long time, a little note where he said to me: “You have qualities, you have talent…”

Do you have friends in the industry? 
My friends are essentially not in the business! And I think it's good. Some people in the profession, whom I sometimes considered friends, were not always extremely elegant when I had professional difficulties...

How would you define the world of television in hindsight? 
There is a kind of in-betweenness on television. You know, TV people are a bit like golfers, they'll only talk to you about one subject. We're in a loop! If you have a dinner with TV people, well you talk TV from start to finish. We talk about everything. It goes from ratings to those who succeed, those who do not succeed. We wonder about the one who changed the channel and who should not have done so, the one who was right to do so. All this to say: do we really have friends on TV when places are limited and expensive? 

I imagine there are still good times. Is there an anecdote that stood out to you during your years on TV? 
My favorite is at Millionaire ! We had so many winners that we had to add days of filming. We therefore organized filming in a luxury hotel, the Trianon Palace, in Versailles. I used to talk to the winners, they were a little stressed and so I would bring them together. That day, I gathered them in the corridor of this famous hotel, and we were facing an elevator door. I tell them: “Listen, if you want to sing, sing!” Have fun, relax! If you want to dance, dance! No one is going to compare you to John Travolta!” And as I say that sentence, the elevator door opens and the real John Travolta comes out of the elevator, walks past us and goes, "Hello, good evening..." and leaves. One of the winners couldn't believe it. She had stars in her eyes and said to me: “But you do this every time? »

In your book, you say you almost set fire to a TV set because of your cigarette. Tell us… 
I smoked a lot at the time. Those who didn't smoke were considered nerds. I got into the habit of leaving the set to smoke, and sometimes I barely had time to light a cigarette before we were called to return to the set. So, I put out my cigarette on the shoe and put it in my pocket. I must have done this hundreds of times. But one day I did the same thing with less attention than usual. I stubbed out my cigarette, put it in my pocket, but it wasn't out. And so I return to the set, but the cigarette was burning in my pocket and it started to burn my thigh. I screamed in pain. The audience thought it was a sketch, everyone applauded me. But my pants were completely burning. I had to go out. We had to start the show again! 

Years later, do you know the reason for your sudden ousting from TF1?
I have a very small idea, but I believe that even the day I die, I will never have the end of the story on the reasons for my ouster from TF1. It's a job where you make a show, a decision-maker who is present at the filming will say that it was magnificent. And then if the ratings are disappointing, this same person will tell you that they never believed it anyway. 

Was your departure from TF1 violent?
I never argued with TF1, I always had cordial relations, whether with Patrick Le Lay or Étienne Mougeotte. Something must have happened that I'm trying to understand... I have a number of leads. You know, sometimes, it is enough that there is a change within a management, that the one who arrives has a particular affection for another animator who is part of his circle of friends, and that's it... There is no doesn't have 50 seats on TV, so if management wants to bring their friend, they have to free up a seat. I think that's what happened to me.

Are you watching television today despite being ousted from it? 
You know, I'm really a TV kid. I watch talk shows, it's always interested me. I often watch Cyril Hanouna. It's the one that invites me the most. Daily, for example, they never invited me even though my book talks about TF1 and I absolutely don't say anything bad about TF1, on the contrary. But I must not have the image they want to give to their show... We can say what we want about Hanouna, do all the Additional investigation we want, he, at least, he invites everyone without discrimination. It's not like any other...

Finally, you write in your book: “I am a Parisian, a real one”, but you are quite critical of the city… What annoys you the most? 
The works! Paris is the only city in the world where you see construction without workers. And then there are these kinds of concrete blocks which have been placed to create funnels and artificially cause traffic jams, just to put people off cars. So people are totally angry... I'm an ecologist at heart, I travel by bike, but this is punitive ecology. I don't like this management of the city at the moment. Paris is dirty, Paris is insecure. I feel like I'm saying what everyone is thinking. We finally realize that the French people are a kind people. Because to endure everything that Parisians undergo in Paris and not rebel, well I tell you, the Frenchman is a nice guy... (Laughs)