For a change of pace, I’ve decided to use my column at Foreign Policy’s Transitions blog to focus on the people, on the Venezuelans that are making a difference, surviving, and suffering. My goal is to focus on a different character in each column.
This is not easy for somebody used to writing about politics and economics, commenting on news, and such. It requires a whole different set of writing muscles, and I’m not sure I’ve pulled it off yet.
The value added is towards the end:
When I met Laureano in Austin, I asked him about the heavy undercurrent of anxiety in his comedy. “I’m deeply concerned about where our country is headed. It gets harder and harder to laugh about the situation. I was kidnapped when I was entering my home a few months ago, and this has shaken me.”
I asked him about the balance between tragedy and comedy. “It’s no balance. Tragedy is essential to my comedy,” he said without skipping a beat. “When freedom is threatened, comedy can be the only hiding place in which freedom can be safe. There was a Spanish writer from the early twentieth century named José Francés, who wrote that a comedian is a man that stops at the side of the road and contemplates the path of his life. When confronted with human misery, he is deeply saddened, but when the sadness reaches his brain, it has become laughter. … Comedy is a great threat to dictatorship because it unmasks it. That which has been illuminated with the truth of comedy cannot be hidden anymore.”
“Still,” he concluded, “it is impossible for me not to feel terribly sad when I go on stage to talk about what is going on. Sometimes I speak about serious things in my act, and people begin to cry. But I do it … because it is important.”