Por Pep Blay – 3 de Febrero, 2011
The American comedian in Barcelona who invented Anti-Karaoke, Rachel Arieff, tomorrow debuts in Teatreneu theater a show about her own life, “Por eso soy así” (“That’s Why I’m Like This”). Bulimia and domestic abuse are two of the more controversial topics she deals with in this show.
“I don’t talk about the Bible or generic topics. I talk about my own experiencias and make comedy out of the life I’ve lived.” With this sentence Rachel Arieff describes the starting point of her theatrical shows, in which she appears onstage only with her biting and at times uncomfortable sense of humor. The latest of these shows, Por eso soy así, comes tomorrow to Teatreneu, with as its base, certain difficult chapters from her personal life, all before she reached 25 years of age.
“It’s a confessional monologue. It’s a trip to various chapters of my life which I’ve never spoken about in public before because they’re difficult places to visit. I’ve preferred not to go there, like my years struggling with bulimia or the relationship I had with a guy who abused me. But it’s great material for a show”, admits Rachel, convinced that comedy can help to digest tragedy. “What’s humiliating and painful for one person can be great entertainment for others,” she observes.
It all began with an eating disorder as a child. She couldn’t stop eating and as a result of weight gain, she developed bulimia and a self-mutilation habit which derailed her university education. The next painful memory is of abuse at the hands of her then-partner. “This resounds in Spain, where news of men who beat and even kill their wives never ends. This seems like a country that’s quite aware of its battle with machismo.”
Conscious of the delicate nature of her show’s topics, the actress has decided to reveal herself completely in first person. “My thing has always been to find the funny in the darkest things in life. I don’t care if someone feels offended. No one has the right to tell me how I should deal with my demons or tell my own story.”
“Satire has no limits,” insists Rachel. “I’m from the U.S., where everything’s more aggressive and brutal, like the society itself. People are armed! Here there is more courtesy and people behave better. I like that. In America I didn’t feel comfortable with my femininity. I felt myself wishing I were a man because to be female meant you were there to be dominated. In Spain I can be a woman and feel powerful at the same time.”
Rachel Arieff came to Spain in 2004, after going through a divorce and breaking a routine of a day job in an insurance company and working at night as a comedian, in Los Angeles. “I lived on top of a gas station and an illegal abortion clinic, with homeless men getting drunk around my front door till they were comatose,” she remembers. An interview with Popular 1 magazine, a pleasure vacation in Barcelona and love led her to try a new life in Cataluña, where she continues her trajectory in the comedic theater — now in Spanish — and has also made a name for herself through her other show, Anti-Karaoke.
“I felt lonely. I missed sharing the stage with my comedian friends.” For this reason she invented a format that allowed her to get onstage with talented, freaky people and “pervert” the great pop, rock, heavy or punk classics.
Thanks to the success of the formula, this show is still going strong in Barcelona and Madrid.
On another hand, her experiences and thoughts about Spain have found a showcase in a tart monologue titled Planeta Catalunya, which she offers in the Llantiol Theater. There she describes the hliarious contradictions she’s observed, and directs barbs at the Catalan linguistic policy of “normalization”.
“So-called “dangerous” comedy, that which deals with controversial issues, is my favorite kind” says Rachel. “It’s not provocation for its own sake, but rather to tell your own story in the most authentic way possible. That’s why black people are so successful at stand-up comedy in the U.S. After all they’ve suffered, the things they have to complain about are endless.”