Comedy Cancun: Fun with an Audience of 1 (Me)
The theme of the night could’ve been, “You might be Cancunense if…”
A good chunk of jokes and observational humor revolved around the absurdities you must accept when living in Cancun (I’ll elaborate later).
One of my coworkers performs there and I’ve been promising her I’d check out the show. This promise persisted for two months – the entirety of time I’ve worked with her – until I finally made it a point to attend.
It was a noble and brave thing for me to do considering the circumstances. After several weeks of low precipitation, the Cancun heavens decided to pour it on us.
Not content with having the Caribbean Sea beside us, the entire city became either an infinity pool or a series of concrete cenotes that made our cars beg for life jackets.
So even though I was feeling tempted to stay home and curl up to my reinstated Netflix account, I was going to make good on my promise of seeing the comedy show.
Everybody Loves Rainin’
Several puddles later, I finally arrived to the Vuela Vuela, where about six people were sitting outside the bar. I sensed they were staring at me and they got up as I headed toward the entrance, and I thought, “Calm down, weirdos, I’m just gonna check out some comedians.”
As I went inside the place, the six people followed me and I thought, “Oh good, I’ve got stalkers.”
All the tables inside the retro bar were empty and marked as “Reserved,” so I went to one I thought wasn’t reserved, up against the wall. Guess who sat down around me…all six weirdos.
Then the emcee announced that my stalkers were the performers and their entourage, and none of them were the co-worker I came to support.
So I was, effectively, the only member of the audience.
That 2000’s Show
Even if only one person shows up, the show must go on.
That’s one of the many lessons I learned from acting in Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana.” It was a University of Arkansas drama department production for Spring 2006.
“Iguana” calls for two Mexican boy servant characters. And I, being a Mexican boy of 22, was typecast as one of them. I think it was the role of Pedro, or Pancho, can’t remember which, but it was supposed to be the “Latin lover” role. I was THRILLED…and then the director gave it to the other actor who was taller, more handsome, and not Mexican (wah, wah).
Our two-week run happened in February, and Arkansas tends to get snow on those dates. Any bit of powder scares the locals who are still not prepared for snow even after years and years of getting it during February/March.
The second weekend of the “Iguana” run was snow-packed. As the only non-actor there, I asked the cast members, “What happens if nobody comes?” And Frau Fahrenkopf answered, “We do the show even if there’s only one audience member.”
Luckily, plenty of people showed up. Mainly students who would flunk their theater classes if they didn’t attend.
Being in such a full-scale production taught me a lot about discipline and the huge amount of time required to be successful at performance arts, be it a play, a musical set, or a comedy routine.
So I have a lot of respect for actors, particularly comedians, because I know first-hand how much sacrifice it takes to perform for an audience, especially when making them laugh.
The headliner for the comedy night was Andrew Nicolás, a well known local comedian, and my co-worker’s husband.
He explained that two amateur comedians would try out their material, then he would close the night, and as the only audience member, it was my sole responsibility to laugh at all their jokes.
OK, he didn’t really say the last part, but I felt the same pressure a dictator feels when choosing between starving his people or laughing as they starve.
Before letting the amateurs come to the mic, Andrew made a few jokes about life in Cancun, my favorite being a shot at the tourism industry. I’m paraphrasing:
“What could we say to the ancient Maya people if they were here today? ‘Sorry we turned your sacred lands into all-inclusive hotels…Here’s some free drinks.'”
The first amateur was a very raw aspiring comedienne, I could tell she had just recently begun her stand-up routine.
Her first line was, “I’m a former prostitute…” The audience…err…I didn’t know whether to laugh because she was joking or whether to pity her if she was telling the truth.
After that opener, it was evident she needed help writing and defining her jokes, but her stage presence, confidence and delivery were quite good.
Life of Brayan
The second amateur was more seasoned, and his jokes were more on point and he delivered them with so much joy. He killed me with one joke about certain show-offy Mexican men with big egos and heavier wallets and emptier brains — we call them “fresas” (“strawberry men”).
“I hate these ‘fresa’ guys, especially when they are named Brian (or Brayan),” said the comedian, whose real name, by the way, is Brian (or Brayan).
The third and final act was Andrew, who made it known that he is half Mexican and half Jamaican, and made jokes about this and many other facets of everyday life.
Cultural Learnings of Mexico for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of America
Between the three comedy acts, humor was extracted from news of the day such as WhatsApp crashing for several hours and pop singer Luis Miguel going to jail in LA for breach of contract.
Life in Cancun/Mexico can be absurd, so it’s a vital target for our comedic heroes. After living here for six months, I can finally explain why these topics are funny:
• Yaxchilán Avenue (yash-chee-LAHN a-vuh-nyu): Take the epicness of Beale Street in Memphis or Sixth Street in Austin. Yaxchilán Avenue in Cancun is none of it, there’s only about 3 blocks of half-empty bars.
• Neighborhood 227: Cancun is divided into numbered neighborhoods. The higher the number, the higher the crime rate.
• IMSS: Mexico’s socialized medicine. It’s no laughing matter, and somehow they mocked it successfully.
• Military Service Card: All Mexican high school boys must go through compulsory military service so they can get a card that proves they’re apt to get a job cutting grass on the side of the road and bravely throw it at the foreign enemies trying to invade our land (this is Brian/Brayan’s joke, he nailed it).
• Cancun Natives Are Wussies: As no one in the audience — meaning me — was from Cancun, they let the natives have it for being scared to go out of their houses when it rains. Not too different from Arkansas natives when it snows a fraction.
• Husbands vs. Wives: You don’t have to be Mexican…if you’re married you know how it is.
Before the show had begun, I told Andrew I was probably going to leave early because I have kids. I could tell from a gleam in his eyes that he wanted to bully me with a barrage of daddy jokes.
That would’ve been epic.
But because I actually stayed ’til the end and got to hear his set, he was very gracious.
As a personal thank-you, Andrew gave me a wise piece of advice before driving home.
“When you get to your house, tell your wife, ‘Honey, sorry I’m home so late, but there was a huuuuge line at the Oxxo [convenience store] and they just now served me.'”
And I replied, “That’s a good idea. But I told her I was going out to buy donuts.”
And of course, the only donut shop open at midnight was Krispy Kreme, and it was next door to where Comedy Cancun was performing.
How I Met Your Mother’s Day
I don’t know how to close out this story, so I’ll just share today’s entry from my Cancun life diary:
I’m driving on the right lane, about to make a right turn, and a lady on the middle lane curses at me for not letting her cut me off so she can make the same right turn. She called me a son of a something something. In Mexico, we refer to this as, “She made you remember your mother,” so it’s kind of appropriate for Mother’s Day week. Then in a fit of anger, and to show me who’s boss, the lady flashed her brights behind me for a quarter mile, not realizing the Cancun sun is brighter than the headlights on her sardine-can-sized car, so I could barely see them anyway and I could care less about what she did with them. Just as you could care less about what I write and you probably haven’t read this far ’cause you’re too lazy to read, so go remember your mother this week…and buy her flowers while you’re at it. Or some donuts.