Coluche, one of France's best-known comedians, a social activist who opened a series of "restaurants of the heart" to help feed the poor in winter, and a presidential candidate in 1981, was killed June 19 when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a truck near Grasse in southern France, police said. He was 41.
The comedian, whose real name was Michel Colucci, last year tried unsuccessfully to break a world motorcycling speed record on an Italian track.
President Francois Mitterrand, informed of the death after ceremonies honoring American composer Leonard Bernstein, said: "It is heart wrenching. I knew him well. He was a lover of life, and he has just lost it."
Coluche was known for his impertinent, frequently vulgar humor that often shocked audiences as much as it amused them. His sharpest barbs were aimed at the authorities -- any authorities.
With fellow comedian Thierry Le Luron he staged a mock marriage last year to poke fun at an elaborate wedding planned for a popular television newscaster.
Coluche, wearing a traditional white bridal dress with a blond wig, and Le Luron, in a morning coat and top hat, were taken by a horse-drawn carriage to a reception at a restaurant on the Champs Elysees to the amusement of nearly 1,000 spectators.
The pair said they did it because they could not bear to see the magazines and newspapers monopolized by Yves Mourousi, host of a midday news program.
Coluche gained international attention when he announced his candidacy in the 1981 presidential elections. When polls showed him getting up to 15 percent of the vote in the first round, politicians stopped laughing and started criticizing him for mocking the electoral process. He eventually withdrew.
He was a major spokesman of the antiracism movement that has emerged in France in the past 18 months in reaction to the growing anti-immigration appeal of the far-right National Front party.
A spokesman for SOS Racism, the teen-age antiracism movement, said, "No word, no phrase can express our sadness and pain at hearing of the death of Michel."