A divisive election duel has Brazilians on edge and sometimes depressed, but for comedian Fabio Porchat, it's the perfect time to break out the jokes.
"It's the best time to make people laugh," said the 39-year-old, whose stand-up routine has been a hit in Rio de Janeiro in recent weeks as the country nervously awaits Sunday's runoff between President Jair Bolsonaro and rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
"Nerves are on edge, people are sick of the elections. There is fighting within families ... But when we get together to go to the theater for a laugh, it doesn't matter if you are for Lula or Bolsonaro, we laugh at the jokes, and that is that."
His show, "Porchat's Stories," is on four times a week at a theater in Leblon, an upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, and does not mention politics.
He prefers self-deprecatory jokes revealed through hysterical anecdotes of his travels abroad, such when he got a bout of gastro in Nepal.
"I speak a lot about politics on television, on social media. But, I decided not to bring it up in the theater because I told myself people need to laugh about other things," said the comedian who also presents a show on TV Globo.
On Instagram, where he has more than six million followers, Porchat has gone live on several occasions to talk to undecided voters, "without judging them."
He is open about his support for leftist former president Lula -- and went viral on Twitter Friday with an appeal to Hollywood's biggest superheroes, the "Avengers," for help in the presidential duel.
Stars including Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. -- who respectively play Nick Fury, Thor and Iron Man in the mega-franchise -- answered the call with decidedly Lula-leaning tweets.
- 'A matter of mental health' -
Yuri Marcal, another popular Brazilian comedian, sees making people laugh during such a gloomy and testy period as "a matter of mental health".
"It's never easy to make people laugh, especially at a time like this, with such a polarized election. We feel such a heavy mood. But actually, people need to laugh more than ever."
On Tuesday, the 29-year-old comedian, who is black, surprised his fans with a new YouTube video titled "I don't vote for a thief".
To a Brazilian, the phrase is an immediate reference to the insult that far-right Bolsonaro and his supporters love to wield against Lula, due to graft convictions that were annulled by the Supreme Court.
But upon clicking on the video, you realize Marcal is talking about a Bolsonarista cousin, "the white sheep of the family," who he is trying to convince to vote for Lula.
"That's our role, no matter what era we live in, to make people laugh by taking serious topics lightly," he said.
"I have been getting laughs for years by talking about politics, but also racism," he said.
- Online threats -
Porchat recalls that Brazilian comedians "have lived through worse," referring to the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
"At that time, you had to perform for four or five censors before you could appear in public. One wrong word and you would land up in prison."
However, comedy is not without danger in Brazil.
In late 2019, the headquarters of the production company that Porchat founded in 2012, Porta dos Fundos, was hit by a Molotov cocktail after it released a Netflix show depicting Jesus in a homosexual relationship.
However, Porchat says the threats usually come from people hiding "behind their screen, online. But it's a minority."
Marcal has also received threats on social media, where he has more than one million followers on Instagram.
"Recently, I made a joke about Bolsonaro, and someone said: 'be careful, I know where you perform.'"
© Agence France-Presse
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