Last night was a fiery and sizzling Sunday night in downtown Toronto not just because of the warm temperatures in the city— something we’ve all been impatiently waiting for all April— but it was also a rare treat to have a night of stand-up comedy all in Spanish, courtesy of Nicaraguan/Canadian comedian Martha Chaves. She and a very eclectic group of friends treated the audience to some great stories and hearty laughter during the all-Spanish set, something that is not at all frequent in the comedy circuit and that we certainly hope repeats many times and in many places across Canada in the near future.
Martha’s group of friends were as diverse as any group of Canadian comedians can be. They’re all very successful stand-up comedians in their own right and trying this out in a language not their own was brave and risky, but they all came through with flying colours— some more than others, but they got extra points for the mere fact they took a chance on doing something different. The night’s performers included Robert Keller, who for a full-on Canuck not only won the audience with his amazing language skills but also broke the ice in the best way possible with his witty and hilarious act. He had us all in stitches when he effusively congratulated Martha for all the jobs she was doing last night: Master of Ceremony, Headliner and then having to clean all the offices after the show. Too funny!
Next Ricardo Mejías, a comedian of Chilean background, struggled with his Spanish-language skills and admitted that he was extremely nervous, feeling so out of his element performing in Spanish. But he won the applause of the crowd for his effort and bravado for having the cojones to get up there in front of the audience to tell his stories. We hope to see him soon, having honed his Spanish-language skills, so we can hear all the great stories we’re sure he has of having grown up a Chileno in Canada.
Comedian Patrick Hakeem, who is of Lebanese and Ecuadorian background, was honest right off the bat and told us he’d do his set just like he communicates in real life: in Spanglish. “Mami, te quiero mucho. Can I have some money?” Living and communicating in a bilingual household is truly something with which the great majority of the audience identified with instantly. He had us all laughing with stories of his Chilean stepfather and also of the mixed messages he sends women given his unique blend of backgrounds.
But I guess no one had more of a mixture of backgrounds than Peruvian/Canadian Jessica Salomon, who admitted to have as many perceived strikes against her as anyone could possibly have: her Peruvian mom is also Jewish, her grandfather was Egyptian and she’s also a bisexual Lawyer who married a Palestinian woman. Her stories were absolutely hilarious and her Spanish, my goodness, it was impeccable!
Then Martha finally came on to entertain us with so many hysterical stories of her life: growing up in revolutionary Nicaragua, moving to Canada, her profound dislike (to put it mildly) for Stephen Harper and many other stories that all of us could certainly identify and laugh along with fully. Those of you who have seen her comedy in English know that she is not only one of the funniest people on earth, but she’s also incredibly smart and her comedic timing is right on point. It was such a treat to see her telling her funny anecdotes in Spanish. The audience— a varied crowd of people from all parts of Latin America including a bunch of Nicaraguan supporters, as well as people from Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Guatemala, Panamá, Chile and more— just loved the routine, and were great sports as Martha interacted with many of them and made them feel part of her show.
Kudos to all the comedians for stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new to please Spanish-speaking comedy lovers. We strongly encourage to keep doing it because if there’s anything Hispanics know and absolutely love, given our tumultuous and violent history, is how soul-healing and restoring it is to laugh and have a bit of fun despite life’s hardships and tragedies. You will not find a more willing and receptive audience to hear your stories. Martha herself is a groundbreaking pioneer and a great example to everyone, as she didn’t let a second language barrier stop her from doing what she loves, and has carved out a very successful career in comedy for the past 20 years. Hopefully this is not just a one-off event and there will be more Noches de Comedia in the future. Thank you, Martha and friends, for such an enjoyable night of laughter, stories and fun in our beautiful Spanish language. Que se repita soon!