By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When one thinks of all the amazing things that Rio de Janeiro has to offer, stand up comedy in English isn’t exactly first on the list. However, for a group of expatriates, Cariocas, and the occasional brave tourist, Rio Night Live comedy shows have become a place to laugh at the sometimes maddening, and often mad, experience of living in the city of Rio.
“It’s a very ripe environment to mock controversial things, and to think,” comments Boyce Edwards, one of the regular comedians at Rio Night Live. “But if you’ve lived in Rio for any amount of time, you begin to think as Cariocas do, because you have to.”
He continues, “We take the bus together, we use public bathrooms together, we suffer through Carnival – if we don’t like it – we do it together.”
Originally from the United States and married to a Brazilian, Edwards has been living in Rio for almost ten years.
“I don’t feel like I’m actually Brazilian, but I feel that the way I do comedy in relation to being here in Brazil, it is absolutely necessary that I connect with Brazilians as well. Most of the things I say both Brazilians and expats can sympathize with and laugh at, because that’s what this is all about.” He concludes.
Starting in 2014, Rio Night Live was founded by Finnish comedian Harri Soinila, American comedian Kim Levone, and Irish comedian Stephen Garland.
The night has since been organized and MC’d by English expatriate Amitov and has seen shows hosted by the Gringo Cafe in Ipanema, as well as Little Club and Blue Agave in Copacabana. Yet they have struggled to find a regular place to perform.
However, the group is now finalizing plans to set up a more permanent base on the rooftop of Lapamaki in Ipanema, with the first new show scheduled for the end of May.
With this renewed momentum, Rio Night Live are looking to become a more regular fixture in both the expatriate and Carioca nightlife calendar.
They are actively encouraging budding comedians, both foreign and Brazilian, to come along and try their stuff on stage, as well as those curious to see what an English-language stand-up comedy show in Rio de Janeiro is all about.
“I think it’s a wonderful environment where Brazilians and foreigners can laugh a lot and appreciate the talent and the creativity of the performers, some of whom are new to comedy and some of whom are more seasoned performers,” says Amitov, who has been organizing the show for over three years.
“Rio Night Live has a very special energy,” comments Talita Soares, a carioca comedian. “It feels quite experimental. Every time I go, I never know what to expect, and I’m always surprised in a positive, stimulating way.”
“I wouldn’t get too hung up on the idea that stand-up comedy in English would only be for expats because it goes beyond that,” she adds.
Soares continues: “Stand-up comedy is an imported format in Brazil. I think Brazilians still have the impression that stand-up comedy in English is more authentic and closer to the real thing, so it’s an interesting experience for Brazilians too.”
Far from being an expat-only experience, the group counts many Brazilians among its members and audience, as Pedro Bastos, another carioca and regular performer, explains: “A long time ago I was a little kid who liked stand-up comedy, and the only places that had stand-up in Rio were theaters with professional comedians.”
“There was no structure for open mics or anything like that,” he continues, “there was only this woman, Kim Levone, who put this thing together, and it was just like everyday, regular comedy. You go there, you do an open mic – if you’re good, you stay, if you suck, you go.”
“Stand up comedy is still a rarity in the city, whether in English or Portuguese,” he says. “There are only two other places in Rio where you can do that kind of stand-up open mic comedy, but in Portuguese.”
As to what is so funny about living in Rio de Janeiro: “I stub my toe every single day in this bloody city,” says Lui Boniface, an English performer. “I have been here for a year and a half, and I still do it every day. But it makes me laugh and it makes others around me laugh. So that, for sure, is the funniest about living in Rio de Janeiro,” she concludes.
Rio Night Live will be performing at the Little Club in Copacabana on Monday, May 6th, at 8 PM, with their first show at Lapamaki to be confirmed shortly. Tickets are between R$15-R$20. For more information, head to their Facebook or Instagram page.