Sunday night I went with Carol and her husband to check out Comedians, the 'real'comedy club in Sao Paulo. Carol performs there about once a month and I wanted to see what the 'best' of Stand-Up in Brazil was. The club has been open for two years. It's a lovely club, very polished. It seats about 300 people and reminded me of Gotham Comedy Club in NYC. The service was efficient (no minimum and actually decent food on the menu) and the show was tight, funny and varied. I will admit that I STILL am missing probably about 60% of the jokes but I am getting a lot of the humor. Actually, seeing as much comedy as I have seen since I've gotten here, and in a language that I was really not understanding at the beginning, has made me appreciate the many other aspects of comedy. The timing, the energy level, the body language, the character development that happens just within the first few seconds that the comic is on stage. The place was full - on a Sunday night at 8 pm - and the line-up was as follows: Bruno Motta was the MC, Daniel Duncan, Andre Sante and a new act (magic/comedy): Mauricio da Lei (see the end for a video of him). Interestingly, there was no headliner and Carol said that was typical. She said that comics either do 15 minutes or they have their own show for 90 minutes. This is very different than a typical show in the US , which has a host who also does 10 - 15 minutes, then a feature who does about 20 minutes and then a headliner 45 minutes. It allows comics to grow into additional roles and to see what the next steps are and have somewhere to go when they are better but not yet Robin Williams...This was another area that Carol and I agreed could grow here in BR.The site for the club is: http://www.comedians.com.br/site/home/index.php
And here is a clip of us meeting Mauricio before the show. It was his first time at Comedians and he gave us a preview. In the video, he had just asked me how I like it "fast or slow?" - the magic, that is:
While it is hard for me to be away from the US where I love the comedy and get most of the jokes, one of the cool things about being in Brazil is having the chance to see completely different things. Last night I went to Virada Cultural, an all-night, open air, free cultural festival, in downtown Sao Paulo,which is billed as the largest stand-up event in the world. The event anticipated 200,000 people over the course of 24 hours and the Stand-Up stage alone had about 12,000 just for the 2 am show (which is the one I saw). My host was the very funny and super gracious Carol Zoccoli
so I got to watch the following line-up from backstage.
MC Bruno Motta, Luiz França, Porpetone, Rudy Landucci, Carol Zoccoli, Afonso Padilha, Marcela Leal
It was absolutely amazing.
So I am sitting in the audience at Improvavel and, just before the show starts, a guy comes in, looks around, and sit down in front of me. It was hard not to notice him because he was distinctive looking and he seemed like maybe he was particularly interested in what was going on. He had a pen and pad out for most of the show taking notes (so did I!). Anyway the show ends and as we are standing around after the show, Carol points him out and says he was the first director of Improvavel.
Then, a few days later, I am checking out youtube and I find this interview by Rafinha Bastos of...none other than Marcio Ballas, who, it turns out, is one of the greats in Brazilian comedy and theatre. I mean, what are the chances that he would be there the night I was there and would be sitting IN FRONT of me just days before I am alerted to the series 8 minutes in which he appears. Okay, maybe it's not unusual but it feels like a coinkidink to me.
In other news, this series, 8 minutes, in which famous people are interviewed by Rafinha Bastos, is actually a great primer to the world of theatre and comedy in Brazil. They are short enough to watch on a break. I won't say that Bastos is the next Barbara Walters, but the interviews are decent.
Improvável (never mind that they stole my best choice for a name in Portuguese that matched my own...and that what they really do is improvisao!) is a great show. If you've ever seen "Whose Line is it Anyway?", you know that it is very challenging to be smart and funny while in a raucous, spontaneous atmosphere. It helped here that that the performers, Anderson, Daniel and Elidio are really good and that the crowd had many young folks (college students) who are happy to laugh.
The night I was there, I was so impressed that after the show, the performers stayed to take pictures with audience members for at least an hour (I was impressed that many audience members stayed this long as well). They are so in the mode of picture taking that they took one with me, too, while we were being introduced. Carol said that this is pretty typical - the comics and performers in shows are fairly accessible to the audience. It was fun and refreshing to see such a warm give and take between the cast and the spectators after the ófficial part of the show.
Carol Zoccoli was one of the performers I met when I went to see Comedia em Pe in Rio. Her English is excellent - having lived for a while in Montreal - and we chatted after the show quite a bit. She invited me to come see her open mic "Mic Aberto" in Sao Paulo. According to Carol, Sao Paulo has a much busier and fuller comedy scene. There are multiple clubs and even smaller venues.
I did head to Sao Paulo for a weekend to see what it had to offer. As it turns out, Carol was invited to host "Improvavel"which is Brazil's equivalent of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" that Thursday night. It's a live theatre show in which four comics (three regulars and a guest performer) do a variety of skits, improv and songs about topics suggested by the audience. As it happens, Carol is the first woman to ever host the show (this was the source of much humor over the course of the night). Over dinner, she shared her experiences with stand-up both in Montreal (particularly at Just for Laughs) and now as a full-time comic in Brazil. She produces Mic Aberto, which is a weekly stand-up competition for amateurs, she was involved in the recent run of Saturday Night Live Brazil, she performs in Comedy Clubs in SP and RJ, and now she is preparing for her one-woman show, "Não tô aqui pra julgar".
The next night I went to see Carol's open mic night at Club Kitsch. It is a fun event. Amateurs have a chance to do 3-5 minutes of stand-up and the audience votes on their favorites. While the voting is being tallied, professional comics get up to practice their new material. While I couldn't understand a good chunk of what was going on, it was easy to see who the crowd favorites were. And I learned an important word from Dinho Marchado, the host of the show that night, as he was wishing me luck in getting a stand-up show going in Rio: Merda! (This means "shit" and is, apparently, the Portuguese equivalent of "Break a Leg!") So I wished him "Shit" too!
I had the chance to see Comédia em Pé
this past Thursday night. This was actually the first stand'up comedy in Brazil, now celebrating its 8 year. The performers were all great and the Rio crowd was friendly and fun. Victor Sorro did a very funny bit about singing a song with the wrong lyrics (I have always called these mondagreens, go figure). I, of course, didn't understand most of the Portuguese, but I laughed anyway because his delivery was great. And the other performers: Smigol and Carol Zoccoli had the crowd in stitches. Stayed afterward to chat with the host: Claudio Torres - He was super nice and explained a lot about how comedy has developed in the last few years in Brazil. www.comediaempe.com.br
When we met again the next week, Claudio brought along Veronica Debum, an actress/comic who shared some of her experiences having taken comedy to the suburbs. The crowd there is less uptight than Zona Sul and willing to accommodate a little more low brow humor - which makes it a little more fun for the comics and a lot more colorful for the audience....
They both thought the idea of an open mic was a great one - the industry hasn't been established enough here yet to merit it. They said that many of the comics in Rio are not full-time comics - they are writers or actors who do the comedy in addition to their regular gig.
Thanks to Ellen for passing this one along. I must say, it's satisfying to get even some of these insider jokes...Check it out.
So when you start talking about comedy to people in Rio, you get one of two responses. They either cock their head, say "produce what?" and then start talking about how the help in Brasil is not like it once was (Awkward!)...or they say "I love Comedy!" and start thinking with you about how you can bring more stand-up to the country. This was the case last night. We met new friends and were sitting around shmoozing by the pool when this guy put me on to Porto Do Fundos, an ensemble group that has begun putting out weekly 3 minute sketch clips.
So, of course, if you are following my trajectory here, you will know that I will not claim to understand most of what is in this clip (though I did still find it very amusing...). That Porta dos Fundos (which means 'back door') is irreverent, ridiculous but still smart makes their humor appealing. There you go.
As unlikely as it was for us to get that first show up and running in 2011, I now find myself undertaking another most improbable endeavor: finding comedy in Brazil. Or making comedy happen here in Brazil.
I am hitting the ground running, as they say. I am looking for stand-up comedy, open mic nights, one person shows. This will be tricky - since I have only been here a few weeks so the most I can say in Portuguese is: "strawberry juice? thank you." But I figure you have to start somewhere.
I am happy for input - crowdsourcing if you will. If you know of a comic or venue in Rio that could help me, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maybe it will happen. It's unlikely. Improbable. But it just might happen.