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Man Who Played “Frenchie,” Radio Character That Caused Stir, Quits

February 11, 1993

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ The man who plays ″Frenchie,″ a not-so-intelligent Franco-American character on a radio station, said this morning that he’s quitting his comedy act.

Ernie Gagne said the recent uproar over the character is ruining his life.

″As I value my career and privacy above my hobby of being an amateur comedian, I have decided to withdraw my services and contributions to the WBLM morning program, effective immediately,″ Gagne, 34, said on the air.

Several groups have complained that the character, which has been featured on WBLM for seven years, reinforces a stereotype that Franco-Americans are stupid.

Gagne, pronounced GAHN yay, said he considered his routine ″innocent, somewhat self-deprecating humor, of the type popular among ethnic groups and widely seen on TV and in comedy clubs everywhere.″

Station officials said Frenchie had lots of fans and that no one complained until recently. The FM station has an estimated 188,000 listeners in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Before today, WBLM had kept the identity of Frenchie a secret, saying only that he was a Franco-American who volunteered his time at the station.

But Gagne said he lost his anonymity after reporters tracked him down and bothered him at work and at home.

Members of the Association Canado-Americaine have circulated petitions asking WBLM to get rid of the character. The Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine filed a formal complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

But Gagne said his decision to quit was strictly personal.

″It is highly distressing to me that, in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and expression, that so few people can impose their standards of correctness on so many,″ he said.

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