Despite crises, Peru still chuckles
"The Jokesters" poke fun with impunity at Peru's politics, including yesterday's election.
When the call came in from the head of the observer mission of the Organization of American States, the stars of Peru's "The Jokesters" satirical political program thought they were in for a dressing down. Instead, it was just another object of their fun-making, encouraging the ribald trio to keep up the good work.Skip to next paragraph
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"I called to congratulate them and express how I see them doing quite an important job," says Eduardo Stein, a Guatemalan diplomat who heads the high-profile OAS mission here.
"They bring to Peruvians a dosage of humor in such politically complex times, and that allows people to distance themselves from some of the harshness. It's the healing effect of humor that any society needs," he adds, "which seems that much more important in Peru."
In a country hard hit in its spirit by the downfall and departure of former President Alberto Fujimori, by months of revelations of high-level corruption, and most recently, by a presidential campaign sunk in accusations of sex, drug abuse, and yet more corruption, "The Jokesters" have ridden in to the rescue.
With three radio and television programs daily, the trio - part on-the-mark impersonators and part irreverent political humorists - is a point of reference for Peruvians wading through the daily muck of a country coming to terms with a fallen "democratic dictatorship."
Most Limenos seem to think of the three - Guillermo Rossini, a lifelong radio man and "uncle" of the group; Fernando Armas, who imitated Mr. Fujimori; and Hernan Vidaurre, a former Lima cabby - as personal friends.
Take a cab here at 3 p.m., and the car radio will more likely than not be tuned to "The Jokesters" afternoon laughfest. Peek into a family's TV room at 8 or 11 at night, and they're probably watching "The Jokesters" as they dub their own interpretation of the news over the day's top news clips.
"The thing about "The Jokesters" is that behind their joking is the truth," says Carlos Melo, a laid-off bank messenger who, like most people here, breaks into a wide smile at a mention of the trio.
Many Peruvians were amazed when "The Jokesters" ("Los Chistosos") - who are celebrating six years on radio and 18 months on TV - were allowed to make fun of former strongman president Fujimori night after night when he was still in power.
While Fujimori and his detested spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, now a fugitive from justice, were busy attacking Lima's nongovernment TV stations and the more independent press, they left "The Jokesters" untouched.
"They got away with things because they were telling jokes and Fuji didn't know how to deal with that," says Mr. Melo. "If they had said the same things in a serious way, they would have been shut up."
Mariano Querol, a Lima psychologist, says comedians like these are a classic response to a situation like Peru's. "The loss of honor of a nation leads to a raising of humor against the leadership."