Venezuela is not just oil, breathtaking landscapes, natural wonders, and beautiful women. Comedy, or rather, a fantastic sense of humor, is also part of what we are. While our people can be rather complex and flawed (especially when it comes to picking our politicians), we’ve always been characterized by our irreverence, political incorrectness, and for our capacity to laugh at anything and everything without any sort of filter, including ourselves.
Nothing is exempt from our satire, everything can and should be mocked, ridiculed, and parodied. That type of absolute absurdist, no holds barred, and sometimes self-deprecating comedy—to laugh at both one’s own adversities and the collective’s, even in the direst of times—is perhaps one of the most influential factors of how I personally approach comedy. Pretty much every meme edit, parody lyrics, or joke I make tends to follow those precepts.
Unfortunately, with all that’s happened in this country over the past years, it’s hard to find ways to laugh and express through comedy. There’s not a single aspect of our lives that has not been impacted by 22 years of Bolivarian, Socialist, Anti-Imperialist and Profoundly Chavista Revolution™, and humor is no exception.
Before all of this, and up until a few years into the Revolution, our media was able to produce quality comedic content. You had the staple shows, such as Radio Rochela and Cheverisimo, silly one-off productions like the Condeaventuras, and dozens of great performers and comedians, too many to list them all.
There was a bit of everything for everyone, and even if many of the jokes flew over my infant head, there were some timeless sketches and characters.
The creative spark that Venezuela’s mainstream media once boasted died long ago, it’s been a long time since they’ve been capable of producing anything worth of value. We no longer produce telenovelas, shows, or anything, really.
To be fair, the deterioration of the country didn’t really help with that regard, from the severe mutilation of our freedom of speech, asphyxiating economic collapse, and an unwinnable fight against hyperinflation, too many obstacles thrown to wrestle against.
Without saying names, a few of these remaining television channels and media outlets had to cut down on these types of satirical content as part of their survivalist deal with the regime, most notably after the events that took place in April of 2002. Since then, they’ve essentially continued to exist in a very censored and stagnated state, because at the end of the day, it’s all business.
This has always been a country plagued by its politics and politicians, the political climate has always infected our day to day lives, and as such, much of the content drifted towards that tangent, hindering other forms of comedy, but after the severe degradation of what we used to call ‘normal’, the collective creativity has suffered as a whole. Back then, the justificable and ineludible shortcomings of the pre-Chavez Venezuela could be seamlessly woven into a sketch’s narrative, good luck trying to do that today.
For what it’s worth, this constant permeating of politics into entertainment (in this case, comedy) is not a problem inherent to this country alone, but at least the script writers were able to find ways to make it funny and entertaining, unlike the unfunny and sterile first world shows that many new Venezuelan talents now seek to emulate.
With a mainstream media unable (or unwilling) to produce comedy like the shows of yore, many comedians and performers continued their careers taking up other venues as their main windows of expression (and work), such as stand-up comedies, podcasts, or ventured themselves into international waters, with varied success.
During the late 00s and early 2010s, there was a huge surge of Stand Up comedy. It’s an easy way to divulge comedy, political humor, and satire, as it only takes one venue, a mic, a few chairs, and an audience—even a close relative of mine ventured into these waters back then.
Furthermore, we now live in a world where access to entertainment media from anywhere across the globe is just a few clicks away, and as fast as your internet connection goes. Productions and shows made in countries that are not going through the steep economic and societal woes that we face have replaced much of our now missing autochthonous offerings.
Faint vestiges of that absurdist comedy that I grew up still exist here and there, aided by the platforms and technologies of today. I applaud and celebrate their efforts, because they’re closer to that type of comedy that I feel ever so starved off, the one that ‘Entertainment’ Venezuelan podcasts cannot provide me with — I don’t wanna straight up insult their job and call them ‘unfunny’, I just feel like I’m not the target demographic for their comedy style.
The globalized and modern offerings of big tech and social media offer ways for Venezuelans to create content way far beyond what this country can provide you with, but at the same time, today’s global modern sensitivities clash against our proclivity towards irreverence and dark humor.
Comedy and humor is like a minefield these days, it only takes one offended person to detonate the entire field and risk getting cancelled and execrated from the public stage. On the other hand, it’s even more dangerous to do so within these borders, as ‘offending’ the wrong politician or socialist party strongman can not just get you cancelled, but far worse.
There’s no need to make an extensive investigation as to how and when comedy died in Venezuela. With all that’s happened here, all the tragedies, the horrors, the shortcomings, the societal entropy, the economic turmoil, the censorship, the closure of media outlets, and everything else, well…there’s your answer.
The absurdity and outlandish scenarios stopped being part of a comedic repertoire—it has become our reality.
It is hard to laugh when we’ve lost so much, it’s hard to laugh, mock, and ridicule those that have brought ruin to us when all it takes is one quick rustling of their jimmies for their forces to knock at your door.
While not as important as health, food, power, water, or education, good comedy and satire is something we too need in this country. It does good to one’s soul, and laughing, being able to laugh with others, has helped me overcome my darkest days in this complicated reality of mine.
Perhaps one day, when all of this is but a fading memory, we’ll be able to once again produce entertainment and comedic productions in a greater scale, and hopefully be able to produce comedy free of political taint, as mentally scarred as we already are and end up being once this nightmare is over.
Sounds like a pipedream, and it may very well be, I’m afraid.
Who knows, maybe once my other projects and dreams are more materialized, I could do my part and try to take a shot at producing comedy that goes beyond my simple meme edits.