The brainchild of New York comic Peter Ostrovski, Argentine comedienne Ana Carolina, and renowned local comedy producer Gabriel Grosvald, GrinGo! is the first English-language comedy show to arrive in Buenos Aires.
Brought together by a shared passion for stand-up and eager to fill a gringo-shaped hole in the Buenos Aires comedy scene, Peter and Ana pitched the idea for the show to Gabriel, who was keen to make it happen.
The trio held their first event in October this year, and now run weekly stand-up shows in what feels like a perfect choice of location. The brick walls, dark lights and close-quartered seating of Absinth Resto Bar provide a no-frills backdrop, whilst full tables, friendly staff and relatively cheap beer provide the inviting atmosphere.
As always in stand-up, the acts are hit and miss – though reassuringly, last week’s selection proved more hit than miss.
Opener Steve Mullaney had the unenviable job of warming up a crowd that was just settling in. After an awkward start he delivered an entertaining performance, and with material that was, by his own admission, mostly about being gay, he threw down some punchy lines that had even the straightest guy in the place laughing. His take on the mechanics of gay sex proved a particular favourite in a set that marked his first appearance at GrinGo!
Whilst taking time to look at his prompt sheet between jokes resulted in a few awkward silences, it was easy to attribute any shortcomings to nerves and the tough job of breaking in an early crowd. Not to mention one peaked with anticipation for the big name on the bill.
That big name was Ezequiel Campa, a popular Argentine comic with an impressive local following. In one of his first English language performances, his humour translated seamlessly and, despite a couple of moments where it felt like he was slightly labouring the point, was largely a success with a non-Argentine audience.
Delivered with an endearing geekiness, his jokes proved easy for any audience to relate to – centering on subjects such as the typical Saturday night dilemma of choosing between the arty film you know you should watch and the latest Bruce Willis one you really want to watch.
A regular GrinGo! performer, Harry Redlich, followed with an enjoyable but somewhat reserved performance. His style, less snappy one-liners and more conversational humour, relied on a degree of audience participation that sadly never seemed to materialise – which perhaps says more about the crowd than the comedian.
Tipped as having spent a number of years doing stand-up in New York, I was expecting more of a polished set from Ana Carolina, one of the co-organisers of the event. But what began with a wonderful self-mocking approach, with lines like “I know, right, you’re trying to work out whether that’s a man or a woman on stage,” quickly declined into a fairly awkward exchange between comedienne and audience.
Her choice of topics, ranging from subjects such as paedophilia to having sex with her mother, surely didn’t help her, whilst her mention of Steve Jobs, the recently deceased founder of Apple computers, inspired a sharp intake of breath, followed by a worried “Ooouu” from the table next to me.
But what her material lacked, she made up for with great timing and an extremely funny range of facial expressions, through which her class as a well versed comedienne was apparent.
Fellow GrinGo! founder and experienced comic, Peter Ostrovski took the stage towards the end of the evening. His performance, although again a little disjointed by the use of prompt cards, was both funny and relevant, touching on topics that succeeded in striking a chord with a hugely international audience; no mean feat.
Witty responses and some swift improvisational skills made for some hilarious moments when opportunities for audience exchanges opened up, but it was expat Francesca Fiorentini who was the runaway star of the night.
With a level of confidence that was obvious from the moment she took the microphone, her set flowed from one joke to the next with effortless ease, maintaining audience attention and a comfortable level of laughter throughout.
Her ten-minute set, based on the particularly pertinent subject of dating Argentines, was full of carefully constructed quips that made fun of both the Argentines being dated and expats doing the dating.
A particular crowd-pleaser was her impression of herself as a fortune-teller, able to predict with consummate ease the various problems her friends would encounter and approach her about when dating Argentine men; promiscuity, immaturity, and mothers.
Whilst GrinGo! delivers a show that sits comfortably outside the realm of professional comedy, it’s by no means an amateur affair. With Peter at the helm, the show ran smoothly for just over one hour, and carried a momentum that made certain you never caught yourself wishing any of the evening’s performances would end.
As a community of English-speaking comedians continues to establish itself in Buenos Aires, the variety of people and performers that GrinGo! will be able to combine can only improve, and the kinks of live stand-up will be gradually ironed-out, as performers adjust to an international audience that makes falling back on country-specific stereotypes or in-jokes almost impossible.
In the meantime, GrinGo! Stand-up makes for an entertaining and extremely worthwhile way to spend a Tuesday evening.