Atlantic Talks are back after a short break in August and our first guest in September is Ricardo Araújo Pereira, the comedian who started out as a journalist, but quickly realized he’s better at playing with serious things.

After graduating in Social Communication from the Católica University, he experimented with journalism in TVI. He quickly realized that it was not his kind of journalism and moved to the Jornal de Letras, until he discovered that his path was humor. He made several collaborations before becoming famous, along with three friends, with the Gato Fedorento.

Since then his career has been known by everyone. He has had several programs on television – the most recent being ‘Isto é Brincar Com Quem Trabalha’ at SIC -, he collaborates with two radio stations and writes several opinion columns in Portugal and Brazil.

With the return of the Atlantic Talks, Ricardo Araújo Pereira agreed to talk to Filipe Santos Costa about his influences, the impact of American comedy in Portugal, and even about the political correctness in humor these days. In between there was discussion about the complex philosophy of minutiae in Seinfeld, the sensitivity of fans of philately, and a lesson on the economic reasons that lead the Estica to earn more than the Bucha.

About American Humor

The way American humor has entered our homes, especially in recent decades, is overwhelming. By the type of humor, by the ability to export trends by the United States, but also by the way it is done. Proof of this even includes an interested person like Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

“In Portugal, metaphorically we have our backs to Europe looking at the sea. We can do this exercise, even to me that humor interests me especially: I can say 20 English and American comedians for every Spanish or French I remember. And Spain is right next door.” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

But what distinguishes American humor? For Ricardo Araújo Pereira it is above all a heritage of Vaudeville, a type of theater of varieties of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which favored two fundamental aesthetic values: speed and effectiveness.

“Basically Vaudeville was kind of a morning show. What mattered in Vaudeville was selling the Calcitrin of the time, some band, a product that protected the joints in fact not protecting them. How did the viewer stay interested in the moments when Calcitrin was being sold? It was with moments of magic, illusionism, comic doubles, which were important because of this dynamic between a type called thestraight man and the other who is the one we laugh about. This tension, this contrast, is fundamental. It’s Bucha and Estica. It’s not two Buchas, two Buchas aren’t funny. Bucha and Estica are.” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

This contradiction is fundamental, but also curious because at the end who made the most money was the serious element of the comic duo. According to the comedian, this happens for two reasons: firstly because it is easier to find a Bucha, the clown, than the serious element. The second reason is even more curious, and perhaps more important.

“It’s a way to compensate him [the straightman]for the other getting all the laughs. I find this very interesting, very curious, because it means that hearing laughter is a value. For a performer who is on stage, hearing laughter is a value.” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

When asked about the best comedy series, Ricardo Araújo Pereira hesitates for the variety that could enter this range, but, of course, Seinfeld is a reference. For innovation, for the fact that all people can relate to a series that, deep down, is about nothing.

“Often what Seinfeld offers, and what Larry David offers now, is complex philosophy about minuteness. Sometimes there’s a look we’d call philosophical. Many of those dialogues sound as Socratic debates, because the maieutic is there, only instead of being about justice it’s about double-dip [of french fries].[de batatas fritas]” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

About political correctness and the pressures in which comedy lives

At a time when tensions in society around identity issues are very high, and when social media makes (or ends) a career, the comedian says it is difficult to make a hierarchy of feelings that can offend people, so it becomes more complicated to draw a line between what can or cannot be used to make humor.

“I have nothing against people saying ‘wait a minute, this offends me’ and every person has their own. There are people for whom a reference to Maomé is offensive, but for others, it is Sporting, for others, it is philately. And I’m not exaggerating. There are even people who have very strong feelings about philately. And I’m nobody – neither I nor anyone else I think – to say ‘I admit that people who have very strong feelings about Maomé then it stays out of the question to do comedy, now philately have patience’. There is no way that anyone will make a hierarchy of deep feelings of things that might offend them.” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

But there are issues that are most troubling for the comedian, that don’t even have a Facebook page, with the tendency towards literalness and growing sensitivity of people about the comedy done with political leaders.

“What seems unsettling to me is the current tendency towards literalness, for when a comedian tells a joke, people read it literally and say this is inadmissible. (…) It’s healthy for people to laugh at their leaders. Authoritarian people don’t consider this, and I say not only dictators, authoritarian people in general. I have heard, said by people today, that perhaps what we do desacralizes power. My first impulse is to say that desacralizing power is quite positive. But there are people who think it’s not.” – Ricardo Araújo Pereira.

A fascinating conversation, that you can listen to where you usually listen to your podcasts. You can also follow the links below: