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Peruvian Comedy

Peruvian comedy, at least in the post-colonial era, began in the 19th century with Manuel Ascensio Segura, a journalist and playwright whose work, in the tradition of Aristophanes and Molière, tweaked and satirized the institutions and customs of the society he inhabited. Peruvian militarism was a frequent target of his work. He also poked fun at partisan politics, libelous journalism, and Lima provincialism. Though classified technically as "comedy," today Segura's work, like Molière's, is more likely to evoke a knowing approval from a sophisticated audience for the acuity of his observations rather than belly laughs.

In terms of laugh-until-you-cry humor as opposed to intelligent humor, a comedy troupe like Los Cómicos Ambulantes, or the Walking Comics, have been making Peruvians laugh for several generations since the 1970's. A rag-tag, loosely assembled association of performers, some of the Cómicos Ambulantes had backgrounds as professional circus clowns; others were simply naturally funny men. They performed street theatre, attracting crowds by parodying behavior and attitudes indigenous to cities like Lima and Cusco, in the latter they called themselves the Incas of Laughter.

A turning point for Los Cómicos Ambulantes came when they were invited to perform on popular Peruvian talk shows such as Talking Straight and Between Us, where their perceptive pokes at Peruvians struck a chord with a popular audience. As a result, they were granted their own programs, The Walking Comics Show and The Kings of Laughter. Much like American comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live, this served as a launching pad for individual careers, as has been the case with comics like Kike and Lonchera. Others did less well and wound up once again in poverty.

In the meantime, local street performers and comedy troupes, such as La Banda del Choclito, continue to amuse the local citizenry, who, considering all that Peruvians have lived with and still have to face, could use all the humor they can get.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Peru: Peru Dance and Theatre,

By Ricardo Segreda
Growing up in New York, Rick Segreda used to cut out of high school in order to hang out at the Museum of Modern Art and catch foreign-language...
13 Jun 2012

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