Alright, folks! Who’s ready for a juicy price?
The owner of a bowling joint in Venezuela had Ivan and his friends’ attention…
All you have to do is pick one of your mates to tell a joke in front of all of us…
Ivan quickly scanned through his memory to find his best joke, he knew his friends would pick him.
… and the funniest one will win two hours to play for FREE!
As Ivan predicted, he was chosen by his mates and needless to say, he won the competition.
Ivan won for him and his mates a price as juicy as mangoes
Ever since he was young, Ivan was known for being a funny storyteller, for doing hilarious impressions, and for how much he enjoyed making an audience laugh. But how did Ivan travel all the way through from telling jokes in a bowling joint to becoming a pioneer of Latin humour in Australia and one of the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s nominees for Most Outstanding show?
We talked to him and he shared his story with us.
Everything started in Venezuela. During our conversation, he recalls his parents being an important part of his comedy today. On one hand, his mum would regularly highlight the details of Venezuelan culture as a Spanish immigrant.
“It helps a lot when you zoom out from your culture for a while and you see it as an outsider, you learn that there’s humour everywhere as long as you see things from the right angle”. Ivan tells me.
On the other hand, his father, originally from Venezuela, emphasised the importance of two skills to succeed in life. Learning English as a second language and the ability to talk in front of an audience.
Keeping these family treasures in his pocket and using laughter to win some perks and navigate life, Ivan never seriously thought about making a living out of comedy. Well, he didn’t until his friend, Cesar, came back to Venezuela after studying music in Boston…
- Ivan, we have to do stand up comedy!
- Stand up? What’s that? You mean like Seinfield? That’s for really talented people, I can only tell jokes, I can’t write them!
- Yes, you can! I’ve been studying it, it’s an art! We can pull this off!
And they did. The planets in Venezuela were aligned because there was a hunger for local comedians, and the concept of an open mic was starting to flourish. With well-written jokes and the ability to tell them, Ivan and Cesar teamed up with a third friend, Bobby, to form “El Efecto Chicharra” (a game of words to say that you will laugh until you pee!).
The old days when Ivan spelled his name with an accent on billboards!
Their show was quite a success not only in their own country but they were also able to make their countrymen laugh in Miami. The beginning of the past decade witnessed unprecedented social turmoil in Venezuela. In 2012, Ivan decided to leave his country to explore other opportunities in Australia. This wasn’t the first time he had lived overseas, he had previously lived in Spain where he became a Brewmaster.
He wasn’t foreign to Australia either because back in 2004, he came to Brisbane to study food technology. On this new adventure in the Land Down Under, Adelaide became his new hometown and while he knew he wanted to do comedy for a living, he also knew this wasn’t going to happen right away, he needed to make a steady income first and refine his English.
Being a food technologist allowed him to land a few jobs in the food and hospo industries. While English wasn’t new to him, he wanted to polish it and did so by taking a course at the Australian Radio School and improving his pronunciation with a speech coach.
“I thought, if people don’t understand what I’m saying, they won’t laugh at my jokes!”
His career as a comedian in Australia started with the right foot. His first show was during a Monday open mic session called “One Mic Stand” where comedians, in order to participate, had to pay by bringing three people to the venue. If you were the night’s funniest comedian, you wouldn’t have to pay the next week. Similarly to the bowling episode, Ivan won with flying colours.
He started to build his reputation, got a manager, and gained more presence in the comedy scene. But most importantly, Ivan won Australians’ hearts and he did it from within. With sheer curiosity, he learned the intimate, the nitty-gritty of Australia’s culture, mate! During his shows, the audience finds a mirror and a time machine on the stage. They see themselves and laugh about the memories of what it means to be an Australian. Being at an Ivan’s show means scanning through your own tales, seeing yourself having your first fairy bread, eating a spaghetti jaffle while camping, having a smashed avo at brunch or a Bunnings sausage sizzle on a Saturday morning.
Ivan on Stage
After four years in Australia, Ivan went through a discovery process that allowed him to reinvent himself as a person and a comedian. By 2016 he was telling his jokes at the Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala. That same year, Ivan won the best newcomer award at the Sydney Comedy Festival.
These events catapulted his career but they didn’t come easy, Ivan harvested the seeds that he and his closest people planted years before. The seeds of looking at your own and others’ culture with an outsider lens, the seeds of learning a foreign language, and the seeds of making people laugh an intimate art.
At Brunswick Daily, we couldn’t be more excited about what’s coming up next for Ivan. His most recent show “Piñata”, got him nominated for Melbourne’s 2021 Comedy Festival Most Outstanding show. We can imagine that his next show will grab our attention by teaching and remembering us with comedy who we are.
Check out this video, it’s what Ivan considers to be the first time he made money out of comedy (he won the part by telling a joke during the casting!)