Monday, March 19, 2007

My First Stand-Up Comedy Routine

Copy and paste this link to see the video of my performance:

So on March 14, 2007, I performed my very first stand-up comedy routine in front of 200 strangers at the local club "The Satchmo" and competed against 4 other amateur comedians. And I WON!
I was convinced to enter by the director Sergio, an improv director who after my interview with him told me that he was convinced I had it in me to be a stand-up comedian. Doing stand-up comedy in any language is hard. But doing it in Spanish was an absolute and total nightmare to me and even though I told him I would do it, I spent the next 10 days sweating and going to the bathroom regularly. I was SOOO nervous.

Stand-up is one of those things that you either fail or succeed at. There is almost never an in between. The first second you get on stage requires that you have an immediate connection with your audience. It also requires that you sustain their attention for your entire routine. Keeping 200 people interested in you is pretty hard. I am of course extremely proud of myself because I won and have attached pictures so that people can see it. And to confirm my parents' decision to boast about this to as many people as is humanly possible.

So here is the question everybody asks: What did you talk about?

So here is what I did:
There is an assumption by the average South American that every black person is from Brazil. So my routine started with me talking patois/Jamaican dialect which took the audience offguard and got their attention. After speaking in dialect I said "Oops, nobody understood that no?? uh oh!" After that I had the entire audience saying YEAH MAN! and ended by saying "NO I AM NOT FROM BRAZIL!" That was hilarious to them because they were all thinking I was Brazilian that the moment I stepped on stage.

YEAH MAN became the running gag of the show. A running gag is a line that a comedian uses to see whether or not the audience is with him/her. Its an interactive line that the audience repeats with you so you keep their attention throughout your act. You have to find the right balance and know when to use it and how not to overuse it. The line also has to be short and catchy. Luckily yeah man is short and catchy for spanish speakers who pronounced it "Jay man" but it worked.
So I said (in spanish)
everybody having a good time?
and they responded "jay man"
--.wanna have a beer?
-Jay man!
Wanna have sex with me?
---Jay man!
---Very good..thank you so much for phone number kidding.

Then in the routine I went on to say that I blame my mother for everything. I dont blame her becuase I am irresponsible, blaming my mother is a medical recommendation from my psychologist who always said to me "Echale la culpa a tu madre que te pario" That line means blame 'yo momma!'
I explained that I swear in my routine because bad words are the first words you learn when you start to speak another language. Given that I have travelled so much, I have mixed the swears from different countries. (Only spanish speakers can understand this) So I used a sentence where I mixed mexican swears with swears from Spain and I explained that I do this because I respect the equality of all swears. This is how world peace can begin...swearing. I also clarified that I dont actually know what the swears mean, nor where they come from, nor what I am swearing about...
but I swear
so please put up with me and my incoherent profanity for the remainder of the show.

The swears were a joke in and of themselves because in the peru context they make absolutely no sense and given that Im combining from swears from different countries, Im not saying profanity..Im talking gibberish.

I continued by explaining that my mother sent me to other countries because she realised that I couldnt learn anything in Jamaica. She sent me to NY to learn to drive, then to Spain to learn to cook and when I came back she was watching the olympics and sent me to Kenya to learn how to run. (I officially apologise to Wangechi for fulfilling the Kenya stereotype).
Anyway, when I came running back from kenya she told me that she was going to send me to Latin America to learn Spanish and when I said no, she used intellectual arguments and other words she beat the crap out of me and when I regained consciousness I was in Lima, Peru.
Then I invented that there was a pedestrian street in Lima Centro (there is no pedestrian street there so the audience found it funny that I invented one) and said that I looked for a restaurant to eat. Looking for a restaurant was a joke in and of itself becuase Peru has a reputation of having bad restaurants that give you loose bowel movement for extended periods of time. So I told them how I told my mother I was learning to 'cagar' (to take a dump) for my entire time in Lima until I found a clean restaurant in the invented pedestrian street.
Anyway, I find a restaurant and before I enter the restaurant I was hit on by a giant sausage who of course thought that I was from brazil. The giant sausage story is in a previous post on this blog and was the highlight of the routine. (see Salchicha Gigante)
Being hit on by a giant sausage is a fairly easy story to get people to laugh at. So I exagerrated and made it into a show down between me and the sausage. So when the sausage realised that I was more psycho than he was , he ran away. But then I got really upset that he ran away and was like "A sausage cannot reject me" and the roles were reversed and I started pursuing the giant sausage. So I told the audience to imagine the image of the only Jamaican in Latin America having a show down with a giant sausage in an invented street in lima center. I was yelling at the sausage until I realised that people around me on the imaginary street were hearing me scream "Sausage don't leave me..sausage I love you..sausage give me a chance!"
Then after that, I ran into a family from guatemala--see previous post "Guatemala hospitality" and they loved the story of course.
I ended with the moral of the story being: If you have a run in with a giant sausage, get told off by the someone's wife and don't learn to swear properly in spanish, blame "yo momma!" Jay man!
And that was my presentation in a nut shell. Of course I am not putting up all the jokes told in my routine but once I get the link from the group I will transcribe what I said at each point.

I do want to say that I respect every comedian who has the nerve to stand in front of an audience for hour long shows to make them laugh. It is not easy! If you do not seduce your audience in the first five mins, you have already failed. And a failed routine is a form of severe torture for both the comedian and the audience.
I send my condolences to all comedians who have been booed off stage.
(to the left is a photo of me and the runner up)

(How ironic that I put my winning photo here while I send my condolences to comedians..its kinda for you but yay for me right?)

Another thing that came to my attention after my performance was how it is that humour has become totally commercialised. Comedians often tell the stereotypical jokes they tell (including myself with the Kenya jokes) because it assures you an easy laugh. Doing stand-up comedy is not about changing the world because as a comedian you are providing a service that your audience has paid for. So there is a way in which Stand-up comedy has been coopted by capitalism and has become a harder space for creating social change.
Secondly, stand-up comedy is a space of dialogue between the comedian and the audience. It requires you to be totally natural and to make the audience feel like they're in a room with a friend who's telling them a story. You are dependent on the audience's approval and have to choose a topic that the audience is familiar with. People use easy jokes and fall back on stereotypes because they feel that it is 'common knowledge' that the audience can relate to.
I am not saying that it is impossible to do progressive humour that gets people to laugh. But I am tracing the difficulties for stand-up comedians when they prepare a routine.
But also, there are comedians who harbour their own beliefs about distincts group of people anyway so they themselves believe some of the jokes they crack. Comedians have to figure out better ways to make a difference through stand-up and not just--how can I make people laugh here?
There is a way to do both.
So I guess that I hereby vow to make no more kenya jokes.

Also, part of the reason that certain racist/sexist/homophobic jokes are told is because only certain people have access to stand-up comedy. Out of the five comedians two of us were female and last week and this week there will only be one female comedian per show. It is not that womyn do not have a sense of humour, but it has to do with who monopolises stand-up comedy as a space. In other words, we have to think about stand-up comedy in terms of who owns the space. I will explain why stand-up comedy is male-dominated in another post.

It is empowering to make so many people happy in 12 mins but it is also the most vulnerable I have ever been. To be a comedian is to be completely vulnerable to your audience in some ways. For me being in front of a bunch of strangers doing stand-up is kind of like standing naked in the middle of a highway in front of a speeding truck where you hope the driver will see you in time to jam on his brakes.
Thank God my audience stepped on their brakes!
Enjoy the photos and wish me luck for my next routine.

P.S The picture on the right is a picture of the first person to ever ask for my autograph. Since he was so hot I gave him my phone number..although I think he's gay...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Machupicchu--the tax relief

Since my sister came to visit, we headed straight to Cusco to see the Wonder of the World Machupicchu. But before I show you that I want you to see a picture of Ollytantambo near the Valley of the Sacred Inca. I had never heard of it before but I thought it was really nice and if you're ever in Peru, be sure to check it out.
Photo of Ollytantambo.

From there we headed to Machupicchu. Macchupicchu is referred to as the Lost Inca city because it was built during the 15th century and then abandoned by the Inca Empire because of civil war. Nobody actually lived there for centuries but to get there people would do the Inca Trail which is a four day trek to get to Machupicchu. The Inca Trail has become a huge tourist attraction but I did not fool myself into thinking that my body could handle going all the way up there. Especially if you can get there by bus and train anyway.

Machupicchu sits high at over 7000 feet above sea level and it is hard to believe that the city made of white granite was built using human, manual labour and not the machinery that exists today.
The city was 'discovered' by a North American Professor Hiram Bingham who went to Peru doing research on the Inca Empire in 1910. Well lets not say 'discovered' since peruvians knew that it existed; but since it was abandoned and Peru has SO MANY ruins, they kind of just didn't really pay that much attention to it. They say that only 10% of the ruins in the country has been discovered so that goes to say how much there is to see. Most of the other ruins haven't been found yet because they sit at very high altitudes in the mountains and are so hard to reach. The altitude sickness that you experience is enough to deter you from trying to find these places. You have to move so slowly anyway because of the lack of oxygen when you are climbing some of the ruins around Cusco.
But what I think is a better way of saying this is that the Professor was the first to make Machupicchu public to the rest of the world. The people who lived near Cusco knew that Machupicchu existed but no one actually went there becuase it was so hard to reach. Anyway, with the help of a young indigenous boy as his guide, the Professor made his way to Machupicchu.
When they got to Macchupicchu they found two families living there. And can you believe why the two families were there i.e 2,430 mtrs/some 7970 feet above sea level?
You'll never guess this...
They had moved to Machupicchu--the middle of nowhere--




Is anyone flabberghasted by this?? Because I really am!!
I mean I understand that times were hard but come on!! I guess if you thought Jamaicans were bad, or people in the States were bad about filing taxes, those two indigenous families just kinda took the cake for me.
I guess Machupicchu is not only one of the 7 Wonders of the World, it may just be the best way to escape the IRS.
Anyway below are the pictures of Machupicchu..until you go there, you just can't believe it exists.

Here is my sister:And here I am:

Photos taken by Danielle and Shani Roper