Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chicken for Fish

(Havana, Cuba) If you want to find a countries soul ask about its comedy. I asked famed film Documentarian Gloria Rolando about what is funny in Cuba. Rolando has won the equivalent of the Cuban Academy Award for Documentaries. She has befriended young rappers, poets, and social commentators. They are drawn to her. In her Cuban/English/Spanish she tells us about last night (Monday). A TV show called Vivir DeCuento – roughly translated “The Stories We Tell…it is the most popular show on TV and all of Cuba watches it,” she says. We noticed a number of restaurant workers gathered around the TV while we were eating dinner the night before but, didn’t know what they were watching. According to the filmmaker its following has been steadily growing.

The show has a number of skits but, this week one of the skits hit very close to home. It was about Cuba’s dreaded rationing card. There are a lot of ironies about the card, and the native population is more than willing to tell you about them. When it was first introduced it use to have 40 items now it’s down to seven. The state under the Cuban Communist system wants to make sure people can afford the essential items. Unlike a capitalist society they aren’t at the mercy of the free market system. The removals of some items have allowed some Cubans to grow their own vegetables and sell them to willing buyers. The items include rice, beans, cooking oil, flour, milk and meat (normally chicken or fish if you have dietary restrictions).

In an ironic twist, an island nation surrounded by water, fish at a market is not plentiful. In fact I watched a group of fishermen trying their hand along the famed street which stretches the entire Bahia De La Habana. Once again an ironic twist, they were using artificial lures. Why, because to use bait (squid or shrimp) would be the equivalent of using food to fish.

Now back to that skit. There is an old man who is a central figure in the television show. His skit begins with a question, “Should he buy chicken or should he buy fish?” The problem is there is no fish, and the seller asks if he wants chicken? The old man says, "No, fish!" After about three times of asking for fish he acquiesces and agrees to chicken. The seller says, "See Chicken for Fish." This is a running a joke in Cuban society. “Cheekin for Fish.” But there is no fish and the audience gets it immediately.

That same day we talk to a number of people and they have all seen the skit. Each person begins to laugh and repeats the joke, “Cheekin for Fish.”

Alicia Centelles, our translator puts it in perspective. “The humor can crush the balls of the pure thinking…maybe you can find a comedian who is talking about a subject that in the paper or the radio you cannot see or listen to but the comedian says it…people will say the comedian is very brave…but everybody laughs…we know he is telling the truth…he or she is right”.

I have written about U.S. comedy and its cutting edge, here in Cuba it is no different, funny is funny.

We’ve asked our friends in Cuba to see if they can get us a clip, here’s hoping it’s the Chicken for Fish skit because even in English it’s funny.


Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home