...The intention of this post is to give an explanation in response to questions we have had of how Barcelona Comedy Festival has come about and what it actually is, programming wise!
Barcelona is an officially bilingual city (Catalan/Spanish) with a pretty cosmopolitan breakdown of residents which offered the opportunity to create a unique multilingual festival project back in 2008. ComedyinSpain have taken a very patient development plan starting with a core of the local languages of Spanish, Castellano and English (which we had established via club nights called The Giggling Guiri in BCN & Madrid since 2003) and Dutch for which we felt their was an audience and we subsequently proved there was.
Barcelona has been home to regular Dutch comedy ever since and it is something of the model for what we hope to achieve in developing markets. Since then we have presented shows over different year's programmes in Swedish, German, Italian, with varying levels of success and failure and this year 2013 we present the 1st Russian language comedy show ever in Spain.
Our programming as we are still young in festival terms is based on a curated core of International shows where some of Europe's very biggest comics perform in their own language and as a lot of international comics are seeking to develop English language careers we will seek to give them spots on mixed bill shows or ideally create totally unique format shows. Beyond this we extend a complete open platform for shows in Spanish and Catalan
Our multilingualism DOES NOT mean that:
A. we have shows containing comedy in different languages
B. we get approached all the time by non native English speakers who just want to perform in English.
The audience is simply limited in terms of English 'understanders' and we have to manage the market saturation as we will also always have to accommodate the many locally produced English language productions. But we have had many of Europe's 'biggest' comics and their agents be really disappointed when we explain as they have no profile in English we need them to perform in their native language to make their visit viable. Many refuse to perform at all as a result, with a couple of times reasons have been offered like the misconception that Barcelona is some kind of Costa Stag and Hen destination. Nothing could be further from the truth as your average expat in the city is pretty much your multinational creative whose tastes reflect that. It's great that Eddie Izzard is now championing comics and raising the profiles of non native comics ability to offer so much in a second language like English. What first attracted us to the idea was not the idea of language ability but it is bringing their different culture into the comedy, best demontstrated by the Dutch via the AUCC and Hans Teeweun who have taken their unique style to Edinburgh on a few occasions. I remember the brilliant Micha Wertheim put in a brilliant hour at the Fringe full of quite absurdist humour on the burden of the handicap, but somehow it was easier to enjoy from a Dutch comic who comes from a country where the disabled are well treated.
But in the end the basic comedy market principles apply, and until artists have sufficient recognised profile in English language they are a tough sell. we watch with great interest to see how they do in the Fringe as they appear, more and more every year whether Izzard endorsed or not. The punter has to know the comic in the language he is performing in to put their hand in their pocket. So many dynamics in that decision.
We want to encourage comedians to come from across Europe and help us develop a market in BCN for their own language and we will create unique shows where comics can come together in English, this is the idea and what our multilingualism label means!
In 2010 we hosted along with a host of English shows that included Andrew Maxwell and Marcel Lucont we had Sanjay Shihora (Ger/Ind), Lasse Nilsen (Swe), Micheal Kossew (Eng) Lina Axelsson (Swe) in town. Some supported Maxwell in a Gala show but everyone took part in a late night really memorable Marcel Lucont’s Cabaret Fantastique where a high-spirited Kevin Bridges even showed his face. See video below
That is what Barcelona Comedy Festival is really about, people performing solo shows in their own language and then coming together to be part of unique shows in English and party up a bit. Barcelona has a few 'distractions**' that can limit the audience and we must compete with those distractions**.
We hope in the future to develop more comedy tourism and so more shows but in the meantime no one should get offended when we spell out how it goes down
**the largely forlorn hope of getting one's leg over