Character-driven blogging

LaureanoFor 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.

Here is my first shot at this – a profile of my new friend Laureano Márquez. Constructive criticism is always welcome!

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.”

35 thoughts on “Character-driven blogging

  1. Dear Blogger: You don’t should write about a well-know personality like Laureano… You might write about our firefighters, that do his/her every day work under the minimums and in most cases without life insurance; You should write about our cops, that have fear to work on the streets protecting people because they can be murdered by any thug; or about our nurses and physicians, that work every shift without the more basic drugs for patience treatment or basic support supplies; or about our “autobuseros” (public bus drivers), that work every day with the fear to be victim of an armed robbery or prying for don’t having a flat tire any day…You should write about the ordinary Venezuelan people that survives every day piled up in lines looking for basic supplies or food….

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  2. Laureano is an optimist on the future–he recently said he sees a “luz al final del tunel…es una gandola, que viene de frente… desmachetada y sin frenos….”


  3. People who know that comedian will have a better opinion than me but I think that, all in all, it is a well written article. That one about “the horse should gallop “to the left.”” made me remember the problems of an iranian filmmaker with the censorship. The film was about the Iraq-Iran war and the opening credits showed a cartoon with the silhouette of some airplanes flying from right to left and the names of the film crew on it. When it finished the censors told him
    – “OK, no problem with the film but you have to change those airplanes a the beginning”
    – “why?”
    – “because if they fly from right to left it makes people think that we attacked Irak. You have to change the direction and they have to fly from left to right”

    …censorship is always so sweet…


  4. I do think these guys are our last philosophers. Emilio and Laureano understand the history of our country better than anyone right now.


    • My favorite Emilio joke is when he touches the effect of telling entire generations to “not be a sucker” since children. Is a black and white point of view, isn’t it? The world gets divided in “vivos”* and suckers…and nobody wants to be a sucker.

      Now THAT’s getting to the root of the sickness.

      *Amoral and corrupt.


      • Man, let me tell you, I did celebrate a piñata for my boy here, and the kids hit the thing with enthusiasm but, once broken, with the candy falling from the cracks, the children spontaneously did a queue to fill their little bags. They then asked one another if they had one sample of everything so everyone had the same opportunity no matter their position in the queue.

        It was a deep experience for me. I learned profound things about the world that day.

        When I heard that joke from Emilio… you can imagine. This guy knows something about human nature.


          • I swear. My wife and me were shocked speechless. I was even thinking of writing a short column on the episode.


          • While we play top-this on pinata…

            My kids were visiting and went to kids party in Los Cortijos. The party entertainers -payasitas- command all the kids to sit down or else they will not get handed their take home gifts.

            All the kids sit until the sack of gifts is produced by the payasitas. All the kids stand up and mob the payasita, pinata like. My kids stay seated as commanded.

            The gifts are exhausted and my children get nothing. They cray and between sobs asked as why, if they had followed the rules, they had gotten none.


        • The kids did make a queue because children try to rehearse what they think/see adults doing.

          And you do queues. Every single day. Isn’t that delightful?

          I’d rather see them punching each other for candy, at least this can be considered normal.


          • Listen, I live in Scandinavia. The kids made a line and later shared because they are taught to collaborate.

            In the case of Venezuelan queues, they exist because one big abuser forces everyone else to queue while officials enjoy the perks of monopoly.

            Children here believe in true equality and know how to organise themselves to share and reap the maximum reward together.

            Your kids may punch, bite and behave in an uncivilised way, but that isn’t “normal”. That is normal to you, but that’s a problem you have.


  5. We are lucky in this our darkest hour to have so many talented comedians writers commenters who are able to give us both a laugh and a deep insight about our identity and current situation at the same time , Laureano is one of them , but there are others who combine clever and subtle humour with intelligent comment , Claudio Nazoa, Alberto Barrera, Ibsen Martinez, Orlando Padron and lots of others . , some of them are downright literary in the way they express their comments and humour. They help keep our minds sane in this our crazed Venezuelan world !! Thank you Juan for writing about them.!!.


    • One is even luckier when you get to sit down and hear, live, both Laureano and Nazoa talking about our country.

      They’ve been touring at home and abroad, not as a comedy act but rather as a “conversatorio” or conversational opportunity. Needless to say, put those two together and you are guaranteed to piss your pants a some point, but they are using humor to illustrate just how ridiculous living in Venezuela can be sometimes.

      The best part is that they encourage audience participation and the resulting discussion is quite excellent.

      If anyone has a chance to see them, do so.


    • Hmm, it’s a matter of taste of course, but the people you mention here are telenovela scriptwriters.

      Bad telenovelas.

      Leonardo Padrón es el carajo más cursi al sur del Rio Grande. Y a fuerza de ser tan cursi escribe mal. Yo lo leo y es como si me dieran a comer un cubito de papelón cubierto de miel y espolvoreado con azúcar. Terrible.

      Ibsen Martínez es el autor de “Por estas calles”, el eructo televisivo más podrido de la historia. Demagogia barata, kitsch y, al final, anti-democrática (N.B Ibsen se ha arrepentido de esa novela, pero como dijo LHC, tarde piaste pajarito). Este tipo imaginó a Eudomar Santos, no me jodas.

      Claudio no es su papá. Hace gracia y todo, pero… en fin, tu me dirás.

      “Downright literary”? Tienes bajos estándares Bill.


      • Es verdad que todos vienen del mundo de las telenovelas , pero no los juzgo por sus script de telenovelas ( que es un genero que desconosco y cuyos encantos no he podido nunca apreciar ) sino por los articulos que he leido en los ultimos tiempos y entre los que hay muchos que son divertidos , ingeniosos , pulcra y fluidamente escritos y salpicados de comentarios penetrantes y lucidos sobre nuestra realidad . Desde luego todos no tienen calidad literaria , pero tampoco faltan los que si la tienen . Sobre todo los de Barrera Tyskla y alguno que otro de Ibsen Martinez . Me ha cautivado Padron por una cronica de un viaje suyo que hizo a Miami donde describe la vida del Venezolano instalado por esos lares en terminos que me parecieron geniales.

        Mi unico standard en literatura es el poder de fascinacion y encanto que sobre mi ejerce lo que leo , o sea un criterio estrictamente ludico o hedonico . puedo admitir a una gran catolicidad de gustos , no sigo ningun canon iconico o formal y a veces sospecho que puedo incurrir en gustos que no son los mas elegantes . Tambien he descubierto que me pueden gustar diferentes cosas de distintos autores , en algunos es la elegancia y brillantes de la expresion , en otros la profundidad de los topicos que maneja o, la destreza con la que los maneja , en otros su sentido de la ironia y del humor .

        Una cosas que si puedo admitir es que mis standards son los suficientemente altos como para poder apreciar que eres uno de los que mejor escribe en este blog !!


        • Gracias Bill.

          En el fondo, creo que el problema es Gabriel García Márquez, que tenía un estilo emocional y dado a la metáfora. Pero es que el era un genio y su estilo era el resultado de décadas de trabajo. Un genio camina por el alambre sin caerse y además hace ver que no es difícil.

          Pero si es difícil, escribir como el. Estos tipos, y docenas como ellos en nuestro continente, son malos imitadores que terminan siendo cursis.

          En el caso de Ibsen diré que después de PEC se convirtió como San Pablo en el camino de Damasco y ahora escribe excelentes columnas. Pero igual, tarde piaste, pajarito.

          Te recomiendo a un tipo fenomenal, lamentablemente muerto, Roberto Bolaños.


      • Tu no crees que mas que imaginarse a Eudomar simplemente lo veia por todos lados en las calles, buses, metro, oficinas, etc?


        • Sí que lo veia, el peo es convertirlo en objeto de imitación.

          ¿Recuerdas tu la cantidad de gente que empezó a decir “como vaya viniendo vamos viendo” y “saliendo el payaso y soltando la risa”?

          Eso es imperdonable.


      • Ciertamente.

        La telenovela criolla es responsable en buena medida de la idiotez general del venezolano.

        Padron es el coco aqui


  6. I suggest you focus on the study of human Archetypes. By understanding human archetypes, you will be able to tell stories about what motivates them based on their inner driving forces. For example, the comedian archetype, as your friend in this story, is a classic human archetype that has endured through the ages. The prostitute is another classic human archetype. I am not talking about the individuals who trade sex for money.

    So, if you follow that line of thinking, you will comes across many, many types of human beings whom you will need for the task of reconstruction. I am talking about Historians, Writers, Philosophers, Profets, Doctors, Scientists, Nurses, Librarians, Gardeners, Painters, Farmers, Travelers and so on. We don’t become what we become by chance. We are born with innate archetypal tendencies that drive us to pursue our destinies. Human archetypes are not all positive. Some are very destructive and negative.

    Yes, Politician is another classic human archetype. I do lump them together with the prostitute archetype. It is my own bias.

    Good luck and I look forward to seeing what you write.


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