Time Out Barcelona
"My Spanish teacher created a monster."
The American comedian Rachel Arieff, after five years of success with Anti-Karaoke – a ceremony of confusion in which rock fans take the stage to perform their favorite songs with more face than back – presents a new comedy show: a Planeta Catalunya, on the last Thursday of the month at the Café Teatro Llantiol, her life in this small country goes through the humorous steamroller.
Obligatory question: how did you end up in Barcelona?
I lived in Los Angeles. I came on vacation, I fell in love and decided to try living for five months. I've been there for six years. We could have already had an unwanted child!
After so much time here, what do you think of the clichés about Catalans? Unfriendly, greedy...?
Well, I'm Jewish, so I don't have any reference points about being greedy! I cannot generalize, but as a town it does have general characteristics. You are tolerant and elegant. Closed? Yes, but for you that is a source of pride and almost bragging. It is true that when you make friends with a Catalan it is for life. If I don't die while waiting! In the time you make friends with a Catalan, I could have made friends with ten Chinese or fifteen Dominicans!
In the show you say, "if you're an immigrant, it's better to exaggerate what people want to hear." Do we lack self-esteem?
Yes! I don't know if it's because of history or because of Franco's repression. But you are masochists. And that's funny. Even sexy! Here people put up with unbearable things. Like Renfe... Or like me!
Do we transfer this lack of self-esteem to relationships?
Even this question reflects a great lack of self-esteem! I've never thought that way about Catalans. You are very refreshing to me. What impressed me most when I got there was that the men were very chivalrous; They didn't rape me with words or dirty looks when I passed by on the street. In America, sex and violence are mixed, they are puritanical and ashamed of sex. There women have to cover up their femininity to survive. They become mini-whores or models, but they do not enjoy being women.
Why did you focus the new show on Catalonia?
For an alien who comes, distinguishing between what is Catalan or Spanish, European or Mediterranean, is very complicated. Because it seems like another planet to you. I have a lot of material from my culture shock.
And when you discover that there is a small language that is the official of the Government, I won't even tell you...
When I got there I didn't know the culture and I didn't have any references. He couldn't even speak Spanish... If you speak in a language you don't master, you always look like an idiot. I really want to present an issue called "Linguistic Humiliation". It is my language program, how I learn to live here. And, by the way, it does not include Catalan. Humiliating myself in a language I don't speak is satisfying enough for me. There are people who enjoy the feeling of knowing two languages at the same time, but I'm more monogamous with languages.
You often make fun of the hypocrisy of governments. You're going to get sick of it here, aren't you?
Planeta Catalunya is not a very political show. I am very afraid of the Generalitat. They can cover the show's posters with stickers from those of "En Català!" They are very tough, with the sticker thing. Although in the xos my goal is to be Ártur Mas's churri. And this is personal. I already have permission from my husband.
So hurry up, because if he doesn't win the elections...
I could really cheer him up! But people expect me to bash politicians, and I'm too self-absorbed for that. It will be more into sex and humiliating things.
By the way, after six years of Anti-Karaoke, have you seen anything similar in the United States?
No! This format works best here, where classic rock isn't so burnt out. There it's associated with the redneck who beats you up at school and does it with his sister.
-By Ricard Martín