Beloved in France, comic actor Gad Elmaleh hits U.S. screens on Friday in Costa-Gavras's drama Capital

By Paul Chi
Updated October 25, 2013 06:30 PM
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Stand-up comic and film actor Gad Elmaleh is not only considered the funniest person in France, but he’s also dating Monaco’s Charlotte Casiraghi, the stunning royal granddaughter of the late Princess Grace Kelly. And Casiraghi is expecting their first child together later this year.

Virtually unknown in the U.S., Elmaleh, 42, was actually in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris, as the misguided Détective Tisserant.

Starting Friday, American audiences will have the opportunity to see him again, this time in his starring role in the financial thriller Capital, opposite Gabriel Byrne and directed by Oscar-winning French director Costa-Gavras.

Here are five things to know about the Moroccan-born celebrity, who recently sat down with PEOPLE.

1. He’s known as the Jerry Seinfeld of French comedy
The funnyman rose to fame with one-man shows in the ’90s, making jokes about everyday observations. Now, he’s popping up at American comedy clubs and trying out his humor in English. He’s also testing himself by acting in the drama Capital.

“I’ve done about 25 movies, but most of them were comedies. I wanted to challenge myself and to go out of my comfort zone and to see if I could play a serious character,” he said. “But once you know you can do it, you don’t want to go back there. I like to do comedy. It’s my real passion. I want to make people laugh.”

2. Girlfriend Charlotte Casiraghi, 27, helps him with his jokes
“She’s a smart and very intelligent girl who has a lot of humor,” he says about the champion equestrian and model for Gucci. “We share the same observations about life. When we are somewhere, she says, ‘Did you look at that? Did you observe that? What did you think about that?’ And then we have a good exchange … she’s one of those people who always tells the truth.”

He also loves the princess’s easygoing personality. “You can talk about philosophy and make stupid jokes with her,” says Elmaleh. “We go see art or she will go crazy over a TV show and laugh out loud with me about a stupid gag. So this is important for me to mix all that and we have real conversations and share things. I’m the happiest man – really, I am. I am lucky to be with her.”

3. He’s not engaged – but madly in love with the princess
Despite Casiraghi’s wearing a diamond ring on her left hand and a friend of Elmaleh saying they plan to wed this fall in a private ceremony, “I can tell you we aren’t engaged,” he insists. “Maybe one day, but we aren’t right now. My mother called me and said, ‘I read that you are going to get married on Sept. 14,’ and I said, ‘What?’ My parents were freaked out. We aren’t married and not engaged.”

The couple met through mutual friends in 2011 and he admits it wasn’t love at first sight. “I don’t have a crazy story. It’s not a fairytale. The most beautiful stories are the real thing. It’s great that we were friends before. When you meet someone first as friends, you get to know each other and talk a lot to understand who the person is. That happened with us.”

4. He’s expecting a royal baby by the end of the year
Elmaleh and Casiraghi will welcome their first together child before Christmas. Although he is silent on the baby’s gender, Elmaleh, already father to son Noé, 12 (from a previous relationship with French actress Anne Brochet), is ecstatic about becoming a dad for the second time.

“There’s lots of joy and excitement. I’m at a certain point in my life where building a family is very important,” he says. As for the first-time mom-to-be, “she’s healthy and very happy to become a mother. She will be the best in the world because she is generous and very loving. She has all the gifts for being a mother. She’s precious and very loving and kind.”

5. He makes Princess Caroline laugh
When it comes to cracking jokes with Monaco’s House of Grimaldi, expect a smile from Charlotte’s mother Princess Caroline, who is second in line to succeed Prince Albert II as the principality’s ruling sovereign.

“She has a big sense of humor, a lot!” he says. “I think she likes my jokes. She laughs. When you have humor, it comes from somewhere, and Charlotte gets it from her. Humor is important and her mother has it. Her family is very kind and generous. They are not scary.”