The prodigious young Chilean filmmaker and her critically acclaimed debut feature Young & Wild
June 28, 2011
Jani Dueñas, co-founder of the infamous comedy gang talks about the city's changing comedy landscape
- Text by Nico Castro
Chilean people are not so used to laughing at themselves. So Niño Gordo (Fat Kid) has been a great exercise to fight against it. The stand up comedy group started to perform last year, and added another member to their core for 2011.
They define themselves as a set of monologues based on everyday situations that come from the prejudice of growing up as overweight kids and their mistakes. Niño Gordo is Jani Dueñas, Paloma Salas, Felipe Núñez and Sofía Vicuña.
Satellite Voices: Where does the need to create Niño Gordo comes from?
Jani Dueñas: I think there were parallel needs from all of us. In comedy, timing is vital - in our history, it certainly worked the same way. I was prepairing my comeback to open for Malena Pichot (a famous Argentinian stand-up comedian and former blog sensation) in Santiago and I thought it was a waste time to put so much effort in just one gig. So I immediately put together a comedy group where we could perform together on a longer season.
The chemistry between us happened right away, so we decided to make the show and we go to work. Our first season was at the end of last year and we added a second one now, in which we added Sofía Vicuña, who works kind of like a slave and mascot at the same time, basically to allow us to work less and drink more whiskey in our dressing rooms.
SV: What are the main themes in your show?
Jani Dueñas: Since stand-up is a very personal thing, I don't know whether there is one theme that unifies us all, since each one of us speaks from their unique experience and about anything they want. What certainly gathers is a feeling of dissatisfaction - with ourselves, our lives, our bodies or anything that surrounds us.
We named it "Niño Gordo" because it is a concept that gathers bullying, the laughable and the ridiculous, but also things adorable and emphatisable. We all have a fat kid inside of us, in the sense that we all have weaknesses and things that we don't want anyone to know, otherwise they would make fun of us. The fatness as something literal and the fact that you still live with your mother, in the case of Paloma; about disliking your voice, your appearance or your love life, in the case of Sofía; the country, publicity, the government and television, in the case of Felipe; and about sex, relationships and being over 30 and not fitting in what society wants you to be, in my case.
SV: According to you, what does Niño Gordo offers that no other stand-up show does?
Jani Dueñas: Variety. We are four people with different age and background, in life and in comedy. I'm an actress, Felipe and Paloma are screenwriters and Sofía is an audiovisual communicator. All of that gives us different ways to approach this and to stand in stage. I think for the audience that's a very interesting thing, since you can feel related to any of us, therefore they can laugh and have fun. Besides, there's not much stand-up here in Chile, so we can't compare to other gangs. So, let's leave it as we are awesome because there are no other parameters for us to measure with.
SV: What are your main references in stand-up?
Jani Dueñas: From abroad, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Louis CK are my idols. And here, and abroad as well, it's hard to find female comediants, even though there are more and more these days, which is cool. Joan Rivers is excellent and Chelsea Handler is also a great reference. From the younger ones, Whitney Cummings has become a new favorite.
SV: How would you rate the state of Chilean comedy these days?
Jani Dueñas: I remember that when (Sebastián) Piñera became our president, someone very wise said: "This could be the best four years in humour in our country". Now, if we see it with the perspective that time gives us, I couldn't agree more. How are we not going to laugh with all the stupidity that goes on everyday
In that sense, there's a comedy efervescence these days in Chile. We are becoming less afraid of making fun of ourselves and others. That can only be a good thing. There is a big audience there wanting to see comedy - improvisation, stand-up, sketches or whatever. It would be great that all the progress that we have made in our music scene, with all the shows and bands, would spill in comedy as well. I think we're getting there, but not quite yet.
Niño Gordo is every Saturday at 11 pm at Cachafaz @
We get the inside scoop on what our favourite Chilean acts think about the about the major music festival's Santiago outpost
Journalist Ignacio Franzani hosts the latest show on Chile's public TV channel exploring real life Santiago streets