The Portuguese Kids promise humour with an ethnic twist
The Portuguese Kids will be stopping by tonight; prepare to split your sides laughing.
During the long Heritage Day weekend, Portuguese Bermudians will have the chance to celebrate the funnier side of their culture with performances by a popular American comedy group The Portuguese Kids.
Be warned though, this is the not the politically correct version of ethnic comedy. In one skit where a husband and wife debate buying expensive beauty cream for her or beer for him, the wife tells her husband: “But I'm buying the beauty cream because I want to look good for you.” The husband responds: “Fatima, you don't have to do that; that's what the beer is for.”
“When we started performing we didn't think of ourselves as doing “Portuguese” comedy,” said Derrick DeMelo of Fall River, Massachusetts, a city with a high Portuguese immigrant population. “We were called Out of the Gutter comedy and we were performing all over New England. We would periodically throw in a couple of Portuguese things whenever we played local.”
Then one day the group realised they were packing theatres based on those Portuguese comedy routines.
“At the end of day there aren't a lot of people doing Portuguese comedy,” said Mr DeMelo. “We thought long and hard about it, and it was pretty clear people come to our shows because they wanted to see the Portuguese stuff.”
So they obliged and changed their name to The Portuguese Kids. The group consists of: Mr DeMelo, Jason Casimiro, Brian Martins, and Al Sardinha. All of the performers are second generation Portuguese Americans. Mr DeMelo's parents are from the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, and the others have parents from Sao Miguel in the Azores.
“We trained at the Improv Asylum in Boston,” said Mr DeMelo. “One of the things our instructor said from the beginning was that we would never get a job in it. It would never become our livelihood.”
She was wrong.
The Portuguese Kids became so successful they were able to leave good day jobs in areas such as information technology, and teaching, to devote themselves fully to making people laugh.
“We became this really big fish in a small pond,” said Mr DeMelo. “We are very fortunate that we struck while the iron was hot. We were quick to adjust to online websites such as MySpace and YouTube and that has helped us a lot.”
Mr DeMelo said one thing about their shows was that audiences filled up with Portuguese speaking people from different parts of the world including the Azores, Madeira, mainland Portugal and Brazil.
“Rivalry between people from these different Portuguese speaking areas is ingrained in Portuguese culture,” said Mr DeMelo. “We try to erase a lot of that. We bring everyone together and a lot of other acts can't say that.”
Some naysayers might complain that some of the Portuguese Kids' routines play on cultural stereotypes. Mr DeMelo said once in a while he has heard that from people.
“To those people I would say, are you worried about the stereotypes or does it hit too close to home,” he said.
Mr DeMelo said the Portuguese people in his community were blue collar, traditional people who usually had jobs as factory workers or landscapers.
“We are not ashamed of that,” he said. “We wear that on our sleeve. Our fan base are kids of immigrants.”
He said they had a great time last year performing in Bermuda, and the show went over well.
“We are always a bit nervous going to a brand new country,” he said. “But Portuguese people are Portuguese people no matter where they are, for the most part.”
He said they only found out that there was a Portuguese community in Bermuda about three years ago.
“We never knew it existed,” he said. “We thought lets shoot for the stars. We hadn't travelled outside of New England.”
They contacted Vasco da Gama Club President Andrea Moniz-DeSouza and found her open to the idea of hosting their performances.
The Portuguese Kids will be performing tonight and tomorrow night at the Vasco da Gama Club.
Tickets are available at Vasco at 51 Reid Street across from the Music Box and are $50 for members of Vasco and $60 for non members. Call 292-7196 for more information.
For one of the Portuguese Kids' sketches online see www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJgKiEIDMhA