By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After Mic Aberto (Open Mic), a successful series of open-mic comedy shows in Portuguese held in Rio de Janeiro, Kim Levone’s production company Improbable Comedy is back, continuing a successful run of stand-up shows, this time in English and with Finnish comedian Harri Soinila. The next performance will take place tonight, Tuesday, December 2nd, beginning at 8:30 PM at the Copacabana beachfront restaurant and bar, Mab’s.
“I eventually came around to this idea of Stand Up Comedy in English,” Levone told The Rio Times. “I realized that there are many, many expats in Brazil who would love to come to a comedy show and English is a common language for estrangeiros [foreigners] from other countries as well. In addition, when I would mention comedy to Brazilians, they were ga-ga over American stand-up, citing Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld as favorites.”
Levone, a clinical social worker by training, spent years as a foster care/mental health professional in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. It was almost four years ago when her life took a different turn.
“In 2011, I founded a (very) small production company, Improbable Comedy, and began to produce live stand-up comedy, something I had always loved,” said Levone. “When my husband got the offer to come to Brazil for a few years and I knew I wouldn’t be able to work as a social worker, I decided to focus on stand-up comedy.”
Once in Rio, Levone continued to pursue her dream and eventually partnered with Carioca (Rio native) comedian, Paulo Vinnicius to produce a series of open-mic comedy nights that were also a amateur competition for Brazilian comedians.
Entitled, Mic Aberto Rio (Open Night Rio), the shows featured stand-up comedy in Portuguese and enjoyed a successful eight-show run in 2013. Then due to the name she was establishing for herself as a successful comedy producer, when two foreigner professional comedians arrived in Rio during World Cup earlier this year, they reached out to Levone. She in turn arranged a show for them at Gringo Café in Ipanema.
One of the two performers, Finnish comedian Harri Soinila, remained in the city following the World Cup’s end and he and Levone formed a new partnership with the goal of developing stand-up comedy in English.
“I’ve loved stand-up comedy for as long as I can remember,” said Soinila explaining his start in the business. “I once wanted to have a stand up night at a bar I was managing, so I got to know some comedians. Pretty soon an MC asked me when he’s going to see me on stage, and that’s when I made the decision I would do it and asked: ‘When do you want me?’ He said, ‘Next week’ and that’s when I peed my pants a little.”
“My history with Brazil is a lot longer,” Soinila continued. “Fifteen years ago I had a month off work and some money saved up, so I went to the airport in Tallinn, Estonia and asked the travel agent girl to send me where it’s summer, and ended up in São Paulo. Since then I lost count on how many times I’ve been to Brazil, and once at a comedy night in São Paulo I made friends with Tomas Kenedi and the idea of doing some shows in English was born.”
Due to greater initial interest, Soinila and Levone started their English stand-up shows in São Paulo. Then after two successful months there, the pair brought the show to the LimeTime Hostel in Botafogo.
Tonight’s edition will mark the first time Mab’s restaurant and bar has hosted the event. Performing during the night will be special guest and Paulista (São Paula native) comedian Cassiano Batalha. Additionally, American illusionist William Mandell will present his comedy routine, as will Juan D. Ablo and Harri Soinila.
Entry to the event is only R$20 and includes a free caipirinha. As always, in addition to Brazilian and expatriate professionals and amateurs, beginners are encouraged to come and give stand-up a try for themselves.
Following tonight’s show, Escobar in Leblon will host the event on December 9th and the laughs will return to Mab’s again on December 16th.
“We are hoping to grow the show so that it becomes a weekly staple of the Rio nightlife,” Levone continued. “Additional goals of this project are to spawn off other shows and to eventually bring in big name American comics to do a several city tour of Brazil…and beyond. I know it’s crazy to dream so big but this show was crazy too in the abstract and it’s been amazing. Maybe it’s good to dream big!”
What: Stand-Up Comedy in English
When: Tuesday, December 2nd, 8:30 PM
Where: Mab’s Restaurant and Bar, Av.Atlantica 1140, Copacabana
Entrance: R$20, includes one free caipirinha.