You can tell Saulo García has years of experience in comedy for the way in which he reads a room. At the first performance of his show Sin wifi también se vive at Repertorio Español (through January 8th) it was as if he wanted to make sure each and every person in the audience was having the time of their lives. At one point, as he improvised songs based on different nationalities, you could tell if time permitted, he would have done one for every person in the room. When to this you add the way he combines personal history with larger commentary on the state of society, and his show becomes akin to comfort food.
In Sin wifi también se vive, García uses a series of characters to comment on how technology has changed the way we interact with each other. For elderly horndog Plutarco, the internet has given him a new method to find women, for openly gay Rene, technology has allowed him to fit into social circles he wouldn’t have dreamed of as a young man. All of the characters are united by García’s sincere interest in understanding what drives people. When I spoke to him on the phone, he was the first interviewee ever who started by asking me for feedback on his show - what did I find funny? What offended me? - while I was taken aback by the question, it made perfect sense given how open he is onstage. This also opened up our conversation, and led it to becoming one of the friendliest chats I’ve had with an artist.
Has fear ever come in the way of you and writing characters that people might deem offensive?
Many times, it’s not fear though, it’s ethics. You can’t say everything in humor, the line between comedy and offense is narrow. Even though humor is meant to be about saying things others don’t, there should also be respect involved.
When did you first realize you had a gift for making people laugh?
The show is very autobiographical, I realized when I was young that I could make people laugh, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else since. I was very little when I began doing musical improvisation. When I was little I entered many trova competitions, and won several of them. I then spent 15 years traveling all over Colombia with a partner, we would do political humor which I’m doing again in this show.
You talk about your late father in the show, can you comment on your relationship with him?
I am only satisfied with my writing when I realize I’ve left a part of me in it. I aim to be very visceral onstage, and in each of my shows I’ve made sure to leave space for meditation. In this show I thought of the great English actor David Garrick, who made people laugh even though he was crying inside. Some audience members think of entertainers as people who are always in a good mood, you go to the hospital and the nurse wants their picture taken with you, and maybe you’re in pain. People ask me often how hard is it to perform when you’ve had an argument with your wife, and it’s really hard, but the hardest time is when someone close to you has died, or when you’re sick. Artists are the only professionals who aren’t allowed to get sick, the show always must go on.
The show is about nostalgia and what we leave behind, are you ever thinking about your own legacy when you write?
Absolutely. If you notice closely, I’ve told my entire life story through my shows. The best kind of comedy is the one that comes from a place of truth, otherwise it’s just cheap jokes. Communication should come from the heart of the artist to the heart of the audience.
Who were some of the comedians who inspired you growing up?
I’m sure I have many influences because I’ve been a fan of comedy for the longest time. I’ve tried to come up with my own style though, my shows have stand-up elements, but they’re not stand-up comedy. I combine stand-up, theatre, improv, music, and overall I want to have a moment for the audience to reflect on what they’ve seen. My shows are the kind where people laugh and cry at the same time.
What’s the biggest challenge you find as a storyteller?
Finding what I want to tell. I want it to be something honest, something I need to tell at that point in my life. When I realized this show was a tribute to past generations, to Garrick, and to our parents who grew up without technology, the rest was just putting everything together. Finding the theme is the hardest part.
As a comedian, how has social media changed your profession?
I’ve gone through all the phases, when I was in Colombia there was no social media, but I was a TV and radio artist, so it was easy to reach audiences. Once I came to America I worked with Univision for a couple of years, and it didn’t really have the repercussion I wanted because I wasn’t being myself. I’m not that good with social media, but I know we have to be there, I have a show I do in South Florida for Mega TV and often share clips and jokes from the show on social media.
President elect Donald Trump makes several appearances in your show, and even though I wish we could just go one day without hearing his name, you make people laugh, rather than scream when you mention him. What do you think will be the role of comedy in the next four years?
Donald Trump or whoever’s next! There’s a difference between a comedian who uses political references in his shows, to comedians who become political. I’m the former, I have no scruples when it comes to making fun of Trump, but I also make fun of Obama and Hillary. Comedy shouldn’t be sectarian when it comes to politics. People laugh at Trump, and other politicians, because laughter is our only defense. Jokes can help create conscience, they’re anti-establishment, and will continue being so forever. Politicians have always been more scared of cartoonists than other detractors, since it’s in jest, they can’t be upset about it, and this kind of truth certainly becomes more dangerous for them.
For more information on Sin wifi también se vive visit Repertorio Español.