Sunday, 17 January 2016

Those weird times when international media makes comedy out of Venezuela/ns (not including the joke-like-but-actually-real news)

As I was having my morning coffee and checking my Facebook on this Sunday morning, I saw a friend sharing a post which translates to "Song I Venesuela is the hit of the season in Lithuania". The image of three men with cliche South American dictador outfits made it for me, and I needed to watch.
So this is how Lithuanian pop bands dress when they try to depict Venezuelans. Via
In case you feel like watching it, here's the full video with English subtitles:

And as I finished watching, I thought about a few other occasions in which Venezuela (and Venezuelans) has been made fun of by international comedy. And I don't mean when something so awful that is funny (when it's not happening to you) appears in the news (like that time everyone was teasing Venezuelans about the infamous toilet paper shortage), or when our country is used as an alternative setting to North Korea or some African desert for an action movie or video game where a violent and chaotic background is needed, 
I mean when things like that time when Justin Timberlake dressed as Elton John and dedicated a spoof of Lady Di's inspired song "Candle in the Wind" to the then recently deseaced Hugo Chavez.

This was for the opening speech of Saturday Night Life. For the record, when he says "everything in this song it's true", he's serious...

Speaking of Saturday Night Live, the show has a not-so-known semi-recurring Venezuelan character called Fericito, a Venezuelan comedian played by Fred Armisen (whose mother is Venezuelan so he knows what he's talking about). 
See the video where the guy was introduced to the show for the first time (sometime in the late nineties):

Fericito was a nightclub comedian and he had all the cliches of Venezuelan cheap Radio-Rochela-Style comedy, mixed with a Miamiesque-Variety-Show tackiness. The "catch line", the percussions, the stupid eyes and so on. The character was so succesful that for a while he had his own sketch called Showbiz Grande Explosion! (yes, with an exclamation mark, he's tacky like that).

But this isn't Fred Armisen's only time wearing the yellow-blue-and-red. He nailed the borderline dictador role with the infamous Parks and Recreation episode called Sister City (fifht of season two), where he plays Raul Alejandro Bastilla Pedro de Veloso de Morana (my guess this was to make fun of our tendency to have two long names followed by two long surnames, and use them all), the leader of a Venezuelan delegation sent to the town of Pawnee, because their city, Boraqua, is a Sister city to Leslie's midwest small town.

The American delegation is expecting a group of third world modest, poor, simpletons, but when they get a trio of cocky, authoritarian, loud, pen-stealer, big spender, romantic crazed, Miami loving, vain military representatives, hilarity ensues...

By the way, Fred gets an A+ for his Veneuzelan accent.

On a more local note, there was a Chilean commercial that went viral in Venezuela a few months ago because it made fun of Venezuelan president's comments about how a little bird spoke to him.
Watch and cry baby:

If you speak Spanish, you'll see that the accent is closer to a Cuban accent than to a natural Venezuelan one. I can assure you it wasn't an accident.

In a lighter and less political note, I'm gonna list a video called Signs you're Venezuelan by Venezuelan-American comedian Joanna Haufmann:

And then there is this video in College Humor of 2012's Miss Venezuela making an A-for-effort attempt to answer a final round question in Miss Universe in English. Is she nervous? Is she lost in translation? Is she crazy? we'll never know.

Do I find this stuff offensive? Not really... Actually I find it surprising when a foreign show or comedian makes fun of Venezuela, I'd say is a similar feeling to the one you get when you see your name on a can of Coke.

Do you find this offensive? Please, learn to take a joke.

If I ever find more examples, I'll update (if you have any and would like to share them, great!). And speaking about offensive jokes, just for the record, the only truly offensive ones are the ones made with hurtful intentions, even if they're the lightest and more family-friendly of them all.

So no, we're not all egocentric, salsa-dancing, guys with a thing for holding machine guns, but to be fair... imagine that a Venezuelan pop band decides to make a music video about Lithuania. Do you think it would be accurate, researched and free of cliches? Yeah right.

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