Best Medicine: Why We Need the 2022 LTC Comedy Carnaval

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To explore Latine oppression within the affinity space of our own community is certainly different than to do so for the benefit of the white gaze. Still, even our own programming at the LTC has featured more dramas than comedies. Having witnessed the power of our platform over the previous three-year programming cycle, I pitched the Comedy Carnaval with the hope that our movement can take our advocacy a step beyond calling for more Latine stories—a step towards propagating a dialogue about what kinds of stories we want to tell in this moment and what impact those stories might have for our own community and beyond.

To be clear, I’m not against dramatic Latine plays. I don’t want fewer of them programmed. I want more comedic performance on stage for a sense of balance. Yes, our communities are facing injustice and tragedy. Yes, we should address those problems. But one of the most powerful and versatile tools that our communities use to tackle oppression is the power of humor. Laughter can soothe a broken heart, unite coalitions across differences, and even scare the shit out of a bully.

So, I pitched an event centering Latine comedic theatre that would serve as an intervention. With the programming of the Comedy Carnaval, we have aimed to explode historically confined definitions of “latinidad,” “comedy,” and “theatre.” Our request for proposals invited submissions of not only plays but any form of comedic performance, and I am thrilled that the final line-up includes carpas, sketch comedy, stand-up, solo performance, and a short film in addition to three staged readings of plays which themselves range widely from absurdism to clown to puppetry to family dramedy.

One reason for this expansive programming is to uplift traditional Latine forms such as the carpa (a populist form of itinerant tent theatre often political in nature) with an important and under-represented role in forming the foundation of Latine performance. Another reason is that humor is subjective, with different forms and content appealing to different individuals, and we hope to have something for everyone. A third reason—much more pressing now than I could have realized at the time of my proposal—is that our theatres must be flexible and innovative, finding ways to share stories and community when we cannot produce plays in the traditional ways or when our audiences cannot gather in our buildings. The inclusion of a variety of methods and mediums offers greater accessibility and opportunity to more folx to experience joy and laughter.

While the impulse in these challenging times is to merely divert and distract, I challenge us to select stories that provide a pathway towards imagining a better future. Escape can be nice, but it is temporary.

We’ve all heard some version of “laughter is the best medicine”—the phrase has become a cliché. But not at Comedy Carnaval. At Comedy Carnaval, we are in the business of dispensing that medicine for the benefit of individual and communal wellness and healing. I used to think that my aforementioned instinct to make a joke in a fucked-up situation was a sign of immaturity, conflict-aversion, or bad manners. I have since come to believe that it is a fundamental and important survival instinct. Should I perhaps be mindful of what kind of joke in what moment and in what company? Probably. But should we avoid making jokes and instead take everything seriously all the time? No. Unequivocally no.

Latine people are joyful, witty, clever, and funny. We must take pride in our long history of laughing in the face of oppression. We must hone the tool of the pen or the microphone that we know can be mightier than the sword. We must work in jubilant coalition with our Black, Indigenous, Brown, Queer, and Disabled siblings to remind ourselves and each other that doing good feels good. We must make the revolution irresistibly fun. The planning and execution of this event has been a bright spot over a bleak couple of years and leaning into that light has been an act of pleasure activism. My deepest hope is that attendance, too, will be such an act.





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