The Portuguese Kids and the Perils of Ethnic Comedy

Portuguese immigrants in Vancouver, BC.Proud Portuguese immigrants in Vancouver, BC, circa 1960
Photo credit: Frank Trigueiro


“The Portuguese are the unknown people. We are lost in this vast country. No one knows we are here. To be Portuguese in America is to be a stone dropped in the middle of the ocean.”

—Charles Reis Felix, in Da Gama, Cary Grant and the Election of 1934 (Tagus Books)

I once wrote that one of the largest obstacles we face as Portuguese North Americans is the inability to claim an identity and culture that are defined by those of us within the community, rather than how mainstream society defines us.  But what if one of our own chooses to represent us in a manner that stigmatizes our ethnicity?   To be more specific, does ethnic comedy at our expense constitute a kind of betrayal?

An American-based comedy troupe known as the Portuguese Kids performed a week ago in Vancouver. I didn’t attend the show but I’ve seen the group’s online videos so I’m familiar with their brand of comedy: ethnic humour that typically involves amplifying and exaggerating negative verbal, physical and intellectual stereotypes.

Little of their online material is funny or original; much of it deals with broad generalizations about Portuguese immigrant culture and the conflicts between generations shoving up against each other in a boxing ring of clashing values and social attitudes.  It’s all so familiar: the jokes where every woman is named Maria, where paycheques are prized over career or academic success, where a cerveja in the closely-guarded quintal is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, where women are portrayed as gossipy moustached harridans, their men as hen-pecked, plaid-wearing oafs, and their children as eye-rolling, rule-breaking survivors of  thrown slippers and malapropisms.

I understand that this particular group is simply expressing an affectionate caricaturing of the Portuguese immigrant community in an attempt to recall the “old times” and share similar childhood experiences.  Their comedy may serve to remind us of our beloved grandparents, or growing up in a Portuguese neighbourhood, or because it gives us the opportunity to love something about ourselves or how our inclusion in a particular tribe makes us feel. It’s a shame though that these skits seem to relish in portraying our immigrants as dollar-obsessed brutes hopelessly stuck in dated traditions and spouting peculiar home-spun beliefs.  Much of the comedy veers towards the disrespectful and absurd. Don’t we owe it to our parents and grandparents to show a little dignity?  If the same comedic material were performed by 5th generation Irish Americans, or Asians or another immigrant comedy group instead of by a group of Portuguese American men, would we be laughing? Eh, probably not.

But like I’ve said, I wasn’t there.  I’m basing my comments on their online video segments, not their live shows.  I imagine those who attended didn’t over-think the ramifications of ethnic humour as I am prone to do these days. Self-deprecating humour about one’s culture or ethnicity can be a source of identity and pride but it can also cause a great deal of harm. For some of us, travel, work or education broke the cultural scripts that we had been ingrained with growing up but it seems we can’t go very far without coming across outdated stereotypes about our ethnicity or who we’re “supposed” to be.

Some people express surprise when I tell them I’m of Portuguese origin. “Really? I thought Portuguese people were —-.” Fill in the blank. I’ve heard it ALL over the years and much of it left me feeling less than proud — and invisible.

Worse, it was through literature and later, popular culture, that I became even more aware that the Portuguese had a poor reputation among the general populace. From Twain (“The community is eminently Portuguese–that is to say, it is slow, poor, shiftless, sleepy, and lazy.  The people lie, and cheat the stranger, and are desperately ignorant…”) to Steinbeck, from Hollywood to television (Nelly Furtado’s stint as “Tia Maria” at the 2007 Juno Awards didn’t do us any favours), the Portuguese are represented as rude, lazy, ignorant and promiscuous. How did this happen? What can we do to change these perceptions? I think it begins with us.

Successful North Americans of Portuguese ethnicity owe it to themselves to use their public platform (be it through literature, art, music or even comedy), to educate and inspire our community rather than spread ignorance, reinforce embarrassing stereotypes or encourage self-mockery.  The articulation and reinforcement of Portuguese immigrants and their children as simple-minded buffoons unfortunately limits everyone, not just those of Portuguese ethnicity.  And I have to wonder if ethnic humor within our community doesn’t make people outside the community feel they have implicit permission to make the same jokes or believe the same stereotypes—or as Anne-Marie Ross of the Prodigal Lusophone says, simply ignore us.

She writes:

“They [the Portuguese Kids] do incredibly funny imitations of their immigrant parents as they were raising children and working in this odd landscape of America. “What better way to celebrate the Portuguese culture than to laugh and remember your childhood? they ask in their bio. And yes, what better way?

When I read that, however, a chill comes over me thinking of my mission of breaking past the guns, germs, and steel about why nobody outside the community understands who we are….Here’s my downer for the day: this humor is still an inside joke. It’s Portuguese comedy for other Portuguese people, mostly people who had immigrant parents. It’s barely even for the immigrants themselves!!”

Unlike yours truly, Anne-Marie thinks the Portuguese Kids comedy troupe is funny and would like to see the group’s popularity grow outside the community. (Please God, no.) However, she then wonders why the Portuguese barely exist in the American landscape. “It’s not because there aren’t enough accomplished people here of Portuguese origin,” she writes, and adds tongue in cheek, “They’re just too busy and not focusing on what it takes to get some notoriety in America.”

All kidding aside, I would argue that the Portuguese Kids’ brand of ethnic humour is a form of notoriety since it perpetuates and reinforces a long-existing stereotype of the “dumb Portugee.” If Twain were still alive, he’d be laughing. At us, not with us.

So stop already. Rewrite the scripts, the skits, the parodies—everything that disparages our ethnicity. Give us comedic material we can be proud of, something we can laugh at that doesn’t reinforce embarrassing stereotypes or encourage self-mockery. Give us comedy that honours our immigrant stories, the stories that bind us together, that connect us to the incredibly deep and rich history of our ancestors. Give us a little Portuguese pride, people.

Am I getting my cuecas in a twist over nothing?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that we are still an unknown people—sometimes even to ourselves—and that what we say about ourselves to ourselves is important.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.

119 thoughts on “The Portuguese Kids and the Perils of Ethnic Comedy

  1. Interesting post. I’ve been to a Portuguese Kids show but couldn’t relate to a lot of the jokes even though my parents are from the Azores. They probably would have hated the comedy too. They had a lot of pride and worked hard to assimilate into the mainstream American culture without losing their traditions..

    I don’t think we’re an unknown people. There are quite a few Portuguese Americans in media, politics and entertainment. Maybe they need to speak out more about their ethnicity?

  2. I think what Fernanda is saying is that we have so few role models, so few Portuguese North Americans of note, that those with the loudest voices end up representing our ethnic community. Also, it’s a sad truth (at least here in New Bedford) that the Portuguese immigrant community is more likely to attend a comedy show than pick up a book written by a Portuguese-American writer or attend an art exhibit featuring works by Portuguese-American artists.

    • Yes, I’m concerned with our public image to a certain extent but I’m probably more concerned with how we perceive ourselves. I think it’s true that people in general (not just Portuguese immigrants!) are more likely to attend a comedy show than read a book or visit a gallery.

    • I agree it’s a shame, that we can’t point to more Portuguese in the “public eye” displaying the kind of qualities we’d prefer to see, instead of perpetuating outdated and embarrassing stereotypes, but at the same time we have choices. We can choose which entertainers to promote and support for example. But as far as popular culture is concerned, the Portuguese are barely represented, and when we are, we’re portrayed in rather insulting ways. And I don’t know why either.

  3. Their music parodies are funny but for the most part the Portuguese Kids serve up low-brow immigrant bashing. Steve Lopes the Portuguese Fireman does the same kind of shtick. One one hand, I like to support all Portuguese Americans working in the arts, but I really wish our “comedy” wasn’t so damn embarrassing. And Nelly Furtado lost me as a fan with that Tia Maria routine. Man, that was just shameful.

    • I’m still a huge Nelly Furtado fan although I prefer her earlier work.

      And yes, that Tia Maria skit was something else. I wonder whose idea it was to portray the character in such a way?

  4. Fernanda, I respectfully disagree. Every immigrant group confronts negative stereotypes in the U.S., they are all misunderstood by the mainstream, and they are all invisible. Can you tell me much about the Armenian-American experience? What about the Basques? Are you sensitive to the struggles of the Hmong people in America? I would say that the Portuguese fare quite well in American culture. When I tell people I’m Portuguese, I always get a positive response. My view is that Americans today have a mostly positive view of the Portuguese precisely because we don’t get mixed up in identity politics whining about being misunderstood, looking for the respect that is due. We;ve earned that respect. Portuguese tend to assimilate quickly, work hard, and contribute to their communities. I doubt that many Americans alive for the past 50 years know or care about Mark Twain’s view of the Portuguese. Because we have earned the respect of our countrymen, we can now laugh at ourselves secure in the knowledge that this is a rite of passage for all immigrants. Jewish comedians, who we now revere in American culture, faced all the same objections about airing the dirty laundry of their communities. Francis Ford Coppolla and Martin Scorcese, two of the most celebrated American filmmakers of all time, were vilified by Italian-American groups for their films which “glorify” the Mafia. We now view those films as crowning achievements of American culture. I don’t put the Portuguese Kids in the same category as Coppolla or Scorcese, or even Mel Brooks. They are a scrappy sketch comedy group with some funny routines, and some that miss the mark. Their real significance is their pioneering work in satirizing the Portuguese-American immigrant experience. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this for a long time. It’s a sign of self-confidence in your culture that you feel free to mock it. Veering toward the disrespectful and absurd, which you lament, is precisely what makes it funny. Are you fond of respectful and fully plausible comedy? Perhaps you could cite examples…Most of us laugh at disrespectful, absurd comedy that contains kernels of truth we recognize from our experience…I realize that ethnic humor is not for everyone. I grew up loving Don Rickles who lambastes EVERY ethnic group without mercy. My dream to hear Mr. Rickles make a Portuguese joke in Las Vegas with me in attendance…

    • George, I respect your opinion but I remain unconvinced. True, all minority groups are ridiculed at some point (and having grown up in a diverse multicultural city I’m well aware of this) but in this piece I’m specifically referring to the negative portrayal of the Portuguese immigrant community in popular culture. And it’s a community I’m very proud to be a member of which is why I’m speaking up about what I see to be a grave error in judgment on the part of the Portuguese Kids’ and their brand of comedy which paints all of us with the same brush.

      Behind all the slapstick, satire and exaggerated imitations, the Portuguese Kids’ skits are a poignant reminder of the discrimination many of our immigrants faced when they first arrived in Canada. When those childhood memories of discrimination or shame or the feeling of simply not fitting in are turned into embarrassing comedic material, it feels like a kind of betrayal.

      I wonder if our differing perspectives are due in part to the fact that I’m a Vancouver-born Portuguese-Canadian and you’re a Portuguese-American. Immigration from the Azores to Canada began in the 1950s whereas in the States, the Portuguese have been settling and assimilating for many generations. You folks have had time to laugh at the jokes—we’re still shedding our sombre melancholic cloaks. (And yes, I’m perpetuating a stereotype but in my case it’s true—and it’s not shaming anyone…)

      • Fernanda, I say again, this is a fascinating discussion I’m grateful to be a part of.

        You are correct to point out that our views of the Portuguese Kids have a lot to do with our differing backgrounds. I grew up with a bit more, but not much more, privilege than most Portuguese Americans as my father was a physician and I went to private schools. Both my parents, now deceased, were from the mainland. I grew up in Massachusetts and Florida, on the periphery of Portuguese communities, but never fully engaged in them. I majored in Portuguese at NYU, but my interests always lay more in Portuguese culture than in Portuguese American culture. So in some ways, I come at this issue as an outsider. I feel more comfortable in Portugal than I do in, say, the typical Portuguese club here in the U.S. So my sensitivity to the offensiveness of the Portuguese Kids surely differs from many others. I think it’s quite valid to object to them. I have my own objections, but they center more on the fact that I don’t find most of their routines very funny. I did enjoy a few of them, however, and I was hopeful that they would elevate their game. I’m still hopeful. I see them as a natural, early step in the progression of an immigrant community to assimilate in the U.S. (I don’t include Canada only because I don’t feel competent to speak for Canadians)
        Flannery O’Connor was often criticized by other devout Catholics for not portraying Catholics in her short stories in a more favorable way. Her response was that the novelist’s work is not portray people as they should be, but as they are. To tell the truth. Comedy has the same responsibility. People laugh at (and with) the Portuguese Kids because they recognize their own experience. To the extent that the Portuguese Kids fail to present truthful portraits of their subjects, they’ll fail. And sometimes, truths are to be found embedded in absurdity, and even disreputable material. As Stephen King says, if you want to be among polite company, then you shouldn’t be a writer.
        I think it’s okay to dislike the Portuguese Kids for their antics. The proper response would then be to not watch them, or create a response in the culture..I happen to be rooting for them.
        Perhaps we can agree on one thing: Fernando Pessoa was a better satirist and we should all read him! I’ve laughed many times at his writings…profound, sad, transcendent, and yes, funny. Which is why I was so moved to see his grave at the Jeronimos…only Portugal would bestow national honor on such a quirky genius. We can take pride in that…

        • If you like satire, you must like António Lobo Antunes. Nobody writes stories of angry satire as well as he. Pessoa is a little too cerebral for me although there’s no denying his sense of humour. I’m referring here to his participation in Aleister Crowley’s “suicide” at the Boca do Inferno in Sintra.

  5. George, this is neither here nor there but I’m not a fan of Don Rickles. Jewish comedians who trade in self-stereotypes do so much damage to the image of Jews. Though they denigrate only their own group, they’re guilty of promoting dangerous racist attitudes. (And I have to question if so-called Jewish comedians actually practice their faith because Jewish law prohibits speaking and listening to language that might harm others.)

    • J, we may have to agree to disagree. Ashkenazy Jews are, by any measure, the most successful immigrants in the history of the United States. They arrived here a century ago with nothing and were met with nothing but scorn. In a couple generations, they managed to enter the professional class. They are now fully integrated in our culture, and when PBS wants to raise money for a pledge drive, they never fail to deliver Jewish comedians. I don’t see how they have damaged the status of Jews in America. Self-deprecation is a sign of confidence and I would add, refinement. Jewish comedians from Milton Berle to Woody Allen have elevated this to high art. I doubt that the racist Jew haters are bright enough to plug into that sort of culture…The Portuguese, who have their own profound links to Judaism, would do well to emulate the Jewish experience in America: relentless hard work, education, and HUMOR. This is an entirely plausible aspiration as the Portuguese people I grew up with had an exuberant, life affirming, sarcastic, biting, and resplendent sense of humor, one that I have been waiting desperately to see displayed in mass culture. I started to witness some of this about 7 years ago watiching “O Gato Fedorento” and “Vai Tudo Abaixo” on RTP via the internet. The Portuguese Kids may not be comic genius on the level of Mel Brooks, but they’re not a bad start. Of course, what’s funny to me won’t be funny to others, and I won’t try to persuade anyone to laugh when they don’t feel like laughing. My advice to those who disapprove of the Portuguese Kids is not to watch them and/or create or support the sort of comedy you feel is appropriate. In the 70s and 80s, there was a wonderful show on PBS from Miami called “Que Pasa U.S.A.?” It was a bilingual family sitcom about Cuban Americans. It was hilarious, showing three generations in one household. I wish someone would replicate that show with a Portuguese cast….I know there’s a fine line between “laughing at” and “laughing with.” We should be confident enough in our own transcendent Lusophone culture that we allow artists ample room to explore our particular experience…There will be missteps along the way, to be sure, but as my mother, who wasn’t aware she was quoting Pessoa, was fond of saying, “Tudo vale pena quando a alma não é pequena.”

      • “ …the Portuguese people I grew up with had an exuberant, life affirming, sarcastic, biting, and resplendent sense of humor, one that I have been waiting desperately to see displayed in mass culture.”

        I would love to see this too. Perhaps you’re right, we have to start somewhere and the Portuguese Kids and others of that ilk could be seen as paving the way for a new generation of entertainers. But again, isn’t it possible to deliver comedy without delving into ethnic or racist humour? My biggest problem with ethnic humour is that it’s often so demeaning.

        There are varying points of view regarding ethnic humour but I tend to agree with the academics who believe that jokes using unflattering ethnic stereotypes serve to cement stereotypes in the public mind, thereby perpetuating prejudice and racism. The fact that a stereotype is said in jest does not make it any less damaging.

        In the words of Sigmund Freud, “we constantly deceive ourselves about the reasons why we laugh.”

        I laugh at cow jokes. Why? Er, I’m not telling.

        • Fernanda, your quote from Freud is so profound, I could think about it for days…it stopped me dead in my tracks as most great truths do. Surely my reasons for laughing at (with?) the Portuguese Kids are not pure. I must be less idealistic than you since that doesn’t bother me too much. But maybe it should. I’ll take a good laugh wherever I can get one–cow jokes,chouriço jokes–and I’m not telling why either!
          In any case, I’m grateful for this conversation. From the silly to the sublime and back again! Actually, the entire topic is quite important…

    • I question how many of you all have or are involved directly in the Portuguese Communities NOW or growing up?????
      Do you attend the Festas?
      Do you organize events to gather the Community together?

      Well, I do and I did.
      It’s easier to swallow the criticism if there were the same people critiquing that were involved directly with the community.

      • Diana, you’re seriously veering off-topic here and everywhere else.

        But hey, I’ll answer your questions. I grew up in the Portuguese community, speak Portuguese fluently, attended the festas (still do!) and even organized a fundraising event for the Portuguese community in Victoria. However…it was a fundraising event attended by “overly-educated” Portuguese people so perhaps that doesn’t count. Judging by your comments below, those of us with a little education and who enjoy reading (and hanging out with other readers, oh my!) do not belong to the community and therefore haven’t the right to voice our opinions.

        I saw the Portuguese Kids in action. I was not impressed but so what. I do appreciate this discussion for raising some very interesting questions. For one, who gets to define what it means to be Portuguese in North America? People like Diana and the Portuguese Kids, or people like Fernanda and “her community”?

        • I would like to think that we all–including the Portuguese Kids–have a role in defining OUR community.

      • Diana,
        I can’t speak for all of us, but many of the readers of this blog are VERY involved in Portuguese community-building and are high-profile leaders and educators in the Portuguese-American community. You’re making a lot of false assumptions.

        Fernanda, thanks for opening the doors to this discussion. I discovered you via the Azorean Profiling piece you wrote a while back. I printed the pdf to share with the elderly Portuguese folks in my ESL class. They loved it. Just goes to show that you don’t need “book smarts” to appreciate the value of literature.

        • Thank you for sharing the booklet with your students. Azorean Profiling was written by Professor Onésimo Teotónio Almeida thirty years ago. I found it fascinating reading myself.

          • I sent the pdf to my mom who was born in Pico. She immigrated to California sixty years ago when she was a teenager. She thought the stereotypes were funny but true! I’m half-Portuguese and have enjoyed reading all of the discussions here and elsewhere on your blog. I’ve applied to the portuguese studies program at UC Berkeley and am looking forward to learning more about the Portuguese culture.

      • Diana,
        Most of my readers are people who contribute or work, in some capacity, in Portuguese-American and Portuguese-Canadian communities. There are professors of Portuguese Studies departments, teachers of ESL who work in the Portuguese community, people who organize festivals, readings and conferences for the Portuguese community, and others like me who are involved–both here and with the Portuguese overseas–in promoting the writing and literary achievements of Portuguese North Americans and Azorean writers. Some of my readers are graduates or professors of Portuguese Study departments and they have an incredible amount of knowledge about Portuguese culture, literature, history and traditions. (And I love that they share their knowledge on this blog!)

        I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are committed to and deeply invested in the Portuguese community.

  6. Unfortunately, racist and ethnic jokes will probably always be a part of life. Yet, even if we laugh, we need to be cognizant and honest with ourselves about the fine line between harmless fun and harmful stereotypes. I think the Portuguese Kids comedy veers awfully close to ugly stereotypes about immigrants in general—not just Portuguese-Americans.

    And a note to George: comedy can be funny without trading on ethnic or racist humor. A good example would be Ellen Degeneres.

    • Rita, we have more to fear from oppressive political correctness than from “offensive” comedy…Ellen would no doubt agree with me on that…If the Portuguese Kids are just trading in stereotypes, they won’t get very far. I’ve seen nothing from them that anyone could call racist. Maybe you could cite an example?

      • I was generalizing about ethnic and racist humor, not saying that the Portuguese Kids themselves are doing racist skits or jokes.

  7. “Jokes about identity are often rife with generalizations and insulting portrayals of groups of people. Like all forms of folklore, jokes are powerful vehicles for meaning, and the messages contained within ethnic jokes can often be dangerous and damaging.” – Folklorist and anthropologist Michael Lange

    That pretty much sums it up for me. I don’t appreciate the “dumb Portuguese” jokes because here in Toronto, there is a 40% high school drop-out rate for students of Portuguese-Canadian ethnicity. I don’t think we can afford to laugh at skits that (truthfully) poke fun at the ignorance sometimes associated with people “fresh off the boat.” I have relatives in New Bedford who walked out of a Portuguese Kids show last year. They didn’t want to expose their teenagers (who are half-Portuguese) to what they saw as negative portrayals of the older generation.

  8. Mr. Medeiros, have you ever poked fun at the ones you love? The Portuguese I grew up with saved their most biting satire for the ones they loved the most….We shouldn’t be defensive about our faults…it’s a sign of weakness. Our faults are a measure of how far we have come in the New World.

    • Biting satire is one thing, buffoonery is a whole other animal. The Portuguese Kids need to step up their game and stop with the one-note comedy routines that do nothing but leave us thinking the worst about our perceived “faults.” I would actually appreciate intelligent and sophisticated ethnic comedy provided it didn’t regurgitate the same old tired stereotypes about the Portuguese immigrant community.

      • And one more thing, if my brothers and cousins had ever imitated or “poked fun” at our parents in the same way the Portuguese Kids imitate their elders, we would have met with the belt! It’s ironic that the older generation are now actually paying for the “comedy” we could have given to them for free thirty years ago!

      • Joe,
        I don’t feel worse after watching them, just a little perplexed. I would think that the audience for their humor is limited somewhat by their material. There’s a place for intelligent and sophisticated ethnic comedy in our community but we may have to wait a while–a long while. In the meantime I’m going to check out the shows recommended by George Reis.

  9. I didn’t intend to be the sole defender of the Portuguese Kids as my admiration for them is limited…I doubt they’ll rise above being a specialty ethnic act, though I wish they could transcend that….In any case, I find this to be a fascinating discussion!

  10. Who are the men in the photo? They look familiar.

    I was at the Portuguese Kids show in Victoria two weeks ago. I wasn’t impressed by their comedy but I couldn’t relate to a lot of their material either. (Or maybe I didn’t want to relate to their material.) At the risk of sounding racist, I would almost call it “ghetto humour.” The jokes are aimed at a very specific demographic: uneducated, older Portuguese immigrants who didn’t seem to mind being ridiculed by a group of loud young men. Haven’t we come further along than this?

    • I probably shouldn’t identify all of the men without their family’s permission but I can tell you that the handsome man on the far left is my father, Fernando Goncalves!

  11. I am jumping in late in this wonderful and lively discussion, but here’s my “dois escudos” worth.

    Last October, the Portuguese Kids came to Toronto. My cousins went to watch them. I would have gone, too, but I had a trip booked to the Azores during that time, and while I was visiting family back home, watching the breathtaking views of the ocean and looking for Portuguese books at Gil’s and Solmar in Ponta Delgada, my cousins, back in Canada, were treated to lots of laughs about their experiences as immigrants from the islands (we all came to Toronto from São Miguel when we were children back in the late 60’s).

    Before the Christmas holidays, we all got together and my cousins were excited to show some of the videos of the “Kids” to those of us who were not lucky enough to see them live. While my cousins laughed anticipating the jokes to come, their children (ranging in ages from 23 to 10) stood by with blank gazes, unable to decipher the humor. No matter how hard my cousins tried to explain to their children why this was so funny, they just could not get it; they had no reference or cultural context that could allow them to tap into the humour. My cousins gave up trying to explain themselves to their children, and continued to laugh at the jokes; but I was sad to see that my cousins’ children had lost interest and found refuge in their IPods. Another attempt to make them proud of their Portuguese heritage had failed.

    The jokes and skits done by the Portuguese Kids represent a very finite and narrow interpretation of the experience of Azorean Portuguese immigrants from the 1950s-1960s to Canada and, I can only assume, of those who went to the USA much earlier. The jokes resonated for my cousins (and for me, too, I can’t lie) because we are the only generation that had direct contact with that time and place of immigration. We understand the jokes because we lived through them. But, at best, they show an impoverishment of spirit which is an embarrassment to anyone not in the “in” of the jokes. And newer generations of Luso American/Canadian children need something more substantial to learn about their rich heritage.

    There is a place for humour in our society. We do need to laugh at each other and at ourselves but there is a distinction between humour that simply stereotypes and perpetuates a simplistic understanding of a people or culture and one that has learned to laugh and poke fun without putting down. I remember watching All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and other shows that did just that. They were funny, they explored the stereotypes, we laughed at and with Archie Bunker and George Jefferson, but these shows, while entertaining, also taught us to rise above ignorance and challenged our views about race, sexism, and so on.

    We, those of us who live either in or out of the Portuguese North American communities, but who know better, because we are educated and have reaped the benefits of our parents’ hard working ethic when they arrive in North America, without knowing a word of English, striving to be strong, to assimilate, to give their children the best that their new country could offer them, have a responsibility to offer our new generations of Luso American/Canadians something more than low humour to celebrate our ethnic heritage. In a humble small way I tried to do just that. Several years ago, I wrote my own story of “Coming to Canada” as a gift for my family upon the celebration of our 40th anniversary arrival in Canada. I had copies made for every one of my cousins and for each of their children so that each of them could read something authentic and real about the experience of the generations who came before them. Yes, give them something to laugh about, for sure, but make them proud of their heritage.

    • “We, those of us who live either in or out of the Portuguese North American communities, but who know better, because we are educated and have reaped the benefits of our parents’ hard working ethic when they arrive in North America, without knowing a word of English, striving to be strong, to assimilate, to give their children the best that their new country could offer them, have a responsibility to offer our new generations of Luso American/Canadians something more than low humour to celebrate our ethnic heritage.”

      YES! If we’re to keep our kids involved in our traditions, we need more than low humour to celebrate our ethnic heritage. It doesn’t hurt to laugh at silly imitations but I do expect more from the generation following me.

  12. Articulate and profound as usual, Emanuel! Your observations, especially in regards to the younger generation, are spot on.

    Congratulations on being a finalist in the Writers’ Union of Canada 20th Annual Short Prose Competition!

  13. So glad to see this, Fernanda, and I have shared it widely and in the Presença Facebook group. I have felt that there was some benefit to the Portuguese Kids in the way that they have, however crudely, linked far-flung communities together under some kind of attempt at a collective identity. But after I saw some of their representations of women in the online videos I could watch no more.

  14. Thank you for your support, Oona.

    I don’t want to come across as the Comedy Police but at that same time, I won’t grin and bear it for the sake of community loyalty. As Emanuel so eloquently states, we “have a responsibility to offer our new generations of Luso American/Canadians something more than low humour to celebrate our ethnic heritage.”

    My hope is that the Portuguese Kids comedy troupe will read this and realize that some of their material could be turning off the very people they should be reaching: second and third generation Portuguese Americans. After all, Portuguese immigrants won’t live forever.

  15. Wow! Great discussion, thanks for putting it out there, Fernanda. I was going to stay out of it but have decided to delve in after all.

    Like Emanuel, I’m an immigrant myself, having come to Canada with my family in the ’60’s. I don’t take offense at immigrant humour, especially if it’s about Portuguese, by Portuguese. It would be different if it were another ethnic group poking fun at us. I agree with George that a culture that is secure in its identity is able to laugh at itself. I’ve only seen a couple of the early Kids skits; I thought some of them were hilarious and I laughed myself silly. My family does not fit most of the stereotypes they portrayed but I still found them funny. I didn’t go to see the Portuguese Kids when they were in town, though – it’s not really my thing.

    I have no trouble being accepted in my different circles as a Portuguese person. This includes people in my academic and work life and in my writing world as well as neighbours, friends, and anyone I meet. My pride is evident whenever I speak of my background and I’m always asked about elements of my culture by people who are genuinely curious. My children (who were born in Canada but are now also proud Portuguese citizens) thought some of the Kids stuff they saw was funny but most of it went over their heads. I think that’s the great thing about progress and a culture that accepts diversity – those stereotypes won’t make a lot of sense to the ‘younger’ generation. And that’s fine. It should be humour with a limited lifespan. Some of us who went through the immigration thing think it’s funny – is that really so bad?

    As for whether this is ‘low brow’ humour or not, who cares? I don’t always go for highly intellectual entertainment. That would be boring. I like the fact that I can feel comfortable around my people, whether they have PhD’s or no formal education at all. We share a love of our land and a zest for life that brings us together. And sometimes we like to laugh at silly stuff. That’s what will help convey our culture to others, not comedy routines.

    It’s too bad that some people will judge our culture based on stereotypes or on ethnic humour but if they do, we probably wouldn’t be able to convince them otherwise, no matter what.

    I choose to take a less serious path sometimes. It’s fun to laugh, especially over a glass of nice Portuguese red wine!

    • Very well said, Esmeralda. I agree with you wholeheartedly. You have the attitude that made immigrants successful in the New World. We didn’t find success by being defensive and suppressing speech. That didn’t work in the Old World and it doesn’t work here. What I’ve found so interesting the last few years is the emergence of Portuguese comedies like “O Gato Fedorento” and “Vai Tudo Abaixo,” which spawned “Homens da Luta.” I wish the Portuguese Kids aspired to that level of audacious comedy…In that sense, the Old World has surpassed the New….

      We need both low culture and high culture. And the Portuguese always had both. (The modern fashion of blurring the lines between high culture and low culture never appealed to me much.)

  16. Haven’t seen any of the specifically-women-related stuff, Oona. That might take it into a whole different realm for me…..

  17. I don’t know where you get the information about that we are portrayed as uneducated and poor, sleepless sheepishly and lazy.
    Clearly they l know nothing about our culture.
    Most people I have gone to school and work and socialize with know that the Portuguese Working way is hard and determined and prideful.

    So perhaps, those who may be over educated and giving us these lack lustre characteristic need to get their heads out of their books and socialize with us instead of their own kind.

    Seems to me that the comedy act isn’t the ones responsible for the negative portrayal ..so much as questioning our place in the world because our parents immigrated to North America but rather those that are the offspr

    • Spring that question themselves.
      My family and friends worked their asses off.
      I’m proud to be Portuguese descendent.
      More people o know are rather than always questioning their value compared to a North American bread citizen from North American parents.

      • Hello everyone,
        There have been many instances where the Portuguese community has been misrepresented, often negatively, in popular culture. For example, Steinbeck paints a derogatory view of California’s Portuguese pioneers in Tortilla Flats, a view that was shared by others of his time. We read the book in high school English thirty-some years ago. A group of us (all Portuguese) decided we’d write our final reports on Negative Stereotyping in Tortilla Flats. We all got As and the teacher chose one of us to read the reports to the class. The best way to combat ignorance is through education. Thanks for the article and to those who have shared their views on this topic.

        PS. Not a fan of the Portuguese Kids although I believe their motives are good if somewhat misguided. The Nelly Furtado skit was far worse in my opinion. There isn’t any excuse for sexist comedy on the small screen.

    • How can one be “over-educated” Diana? For shame.

      If you read her piece, you would know where she found the portrayals of our being “uneducated and poor, sleepless and lazy.” Those are not her words–and that is not her viewpoint.

      I don’t know Fernanda personally but I do know from reading her other blog posts that she’s passionately interested in exploring the heart, mind and psyche of the Portuguese. And she seems very proud of her Azorean roots. With this latest post, she’s asking us to think–not mindlessly follow the masses like Pessoa’s sheep.

      • I am not sure where and who Fernanda has been talking to that would Stereotype as the “uneducated, poor and sleepless along with lazy”. I “ASSUME” they are reading to much and being overly BOOK SMART than STREET SMART.
        It’s a better balance if you have BOTH! JUST LIKE our Portuguese Parents and Grandparents are………Amazing isn’t it? NOT REALLY.

        MY comment about perhaps the over educated are stereotyping us all under these less than luster descriptions, was simply stating that maybe not all those who are in her circle, may have taken their heads out and had something correct to describe us as.
        That is just called SIMPLE IGNORANCE!
        Most of the older generation graduated with only a Grade 4 Education.
        That was the norm in those days and they learned up to grade 4 what North America was teaching in Grade 8 – 12 most of the times.
        Just because they are not picking up Books to read, doesn’t mean they don’t know their own history or the culture.
        It doesn’t mean they don’t know how to read.
        It definitely doesn’t characterize as the very inaccurate descriptions.
        AND I don’t know what circle you hang out with Rita, but I can definitely tell you that ALL the Portuguese I know………….. DEFINITELY DO NOT mindlessly follow the masses like PESSOA’S SHEEP. That is as offensive as the other descriptions and that came from you directly not someone else’s description.

        I have NEVER been ashamed or felt the need to defend my culture….My Portuguese. EVER. SO…………………… if you are in a circle that requires you to do so, may I suggest a change of circles.
        It’s way funnier on our side with the Portuguese Kids:).

        Critics jobs are to critique.
        There isn’t a single category that isn’t exempted from criticism.
        But, I find that MOST, not all critics are negative and are carrying a grudge of some kind.
        But, the freedom of speech allows them to vocalize and my freedom of speech allows me to clarify the ignorant comments.
        THAT’S the Portuguese in me.
        I don’t follow.
        I stand up and speak out.
        LIKE 99% of The PROUD AND HARD WORKING, EDUCATED AND LEADERS in our Portuguese Community.

        • Oh my goodness. Did you not read the article? It was Mark Twain who characterized the Portuguese he met on his travels through the Azores as: ‘slow, poor, shiftless, sleepy, and lazy. The people lie, and cheat the stranger, and are desperately ignorant.’ And he died over a century ago so I’m pretty sure Fernanda never spoke with him.

          Please stop twisting what Fernanda–and the rest of us–are saying to suit your own agenda. If anything, it’s Fernanda who’s trying to defend our culture. I don’t know where you’re getting this idea that she is vilifying our community. We may not all agree with her in regards to the Portuguese Kids comedy, but this is an important discussion. So calm down and participate like a rational intelligent member of our community instead of foaming at the mouth.

          • FIRST of all: I personally know Fernanda, since a young child and am NOT demeaning her opinion.
            Lets get that straight because you have twisted my opinion into something completely different!
            Fernanda not only quoted Mark Twain, but has herself as she said, felt that she has needed to defend her culture to others.
            I was not foaming at the mouth or not intelligent nor do I have some sort of an agenda.
            So perhaps you, Dona Rita, may want to take a step back and be as cordial and respectful of others opinions, as Fernanda has been in the EVERYONE’S opinions in this blog.

          • I don’t think our culture needs defending…it needs protecting–from people like Diana! The Portuguese are a proud, strong-willed people but in certain communities we’ve faced a lot of discrimination (like so many other immigrants).Try growing up Portuguese in small town America in the 1970s. There was such a perceived stigma in being Portuguese that some of us tried to pass as Italians and kept a low profile. Which made things worse in my opinion because our community then became seen in a less than flattering light thanks to the Portuguese people who ended up representing us by virtue of being LOUD and ignorant. I’m proud of my Portuguese heritage, but sometimes I’m ashamed by the words and actions of my own peeps. (But I think the Portuguese Kids are great dancers!)

        • I don’t perceive anyone here as carrying a grudge, Diana. Criticism is valuable because it challenges us to develop and grow beyond previously-held beliefs. I, for one, believe I may have to lighten up a little. (Esmeralda, pass me the wine!)

          I didn’t know who you were at first but I’ve been told you were one of the people involved in bringing the Portuguese Kids comedy troupe to Vancouver. I hope you understand that my perspective on their brand of comedy is not a reflection of my respect for you and your own efforts in keeping our culture and traditions alive.

    • Diana,
      I’m not even going to address your writing skills–but do you know how to READ? You write: “Clearly, they know nothing about our culture.” Exactly!! That is what Fernanda is addressing in her article. Don’t you get it? She has raised valid questions about Portuguese self-identity, widespread misconceptions by those outside the community, and then, horrors, asks us if ethnic comedy a la the Portuguese Kids is potentially disrespecting our immigrants. That’s it. Stop finding insult where none is intended.

      Has Fernanda–or anyone else–said that she believed our people to be lacking in work ethic or pride? Has she criticized our immigrant parents and grandparents? Has she dis-respected non-readers or those without a university education? It seems to me, and likely everyone else here, that you’re the one holding onto feelings of inferiority. I don’t like how you have hijacked this discussion with your belligerent comments and how you have attacked people for being “book smart” as you so eloquently put it. I’m a third-year student in a Portuguese Studies program and probably know more about our culture–our traditional culture–than you could ever hope to know.

    • Where does she question our place in the world? And why do you presume we’re not involved in Portuguese community events or socializing with other Portuguese? I live, work and play in the Portuguese community here in Cambridge. And I read books. Trust me, neither my nasty book habit nor my enjoyment of intelligent conversation gets in the way of enjoying my family and relatives.

      No, that particular comedy act probably isn’t responsible for any negative portrayal of the Portuguese in North America but Diana’s conduct and language on this public forum has certainly opened a few eyes.

      • Diana clearly didn’t understand that Fernanda was addressing our image in popular culture and asking whether ethnic humor was contributing to our misrepresentation. The poor girl stumbled upon this blog and has now left. No need to keep beating a dead horse.

        • Unfortunately, Diana is not a “girl.” She’s a middle-aged woman here in Vancouver’s Portuguese community who should have read the article and stayed on topic. Instead she chose to attack people for being “over-educated” and accused us of lacking pride in our culture even after her mis-interpretation was CALMLY pointed out by one or two others. Diana could have calmed down, re-read the piece, and then apologized to the readers of this blog for her mistake. But she didn’t because she had a bone to pick with the writer of this piece. I don’t believe her anger and scorn had anything to do with protecting the the Portuguese Kids from criticism.

          • Jessica (and everyone else continuing to chime in on Diana’s comments),
            Let’s all move on from this nonsense and stay on topic please. I’m at a point now where I’m thinking of deleting all comments, including Diana’s, which have disrupted our discussion.

          • I can no longer remain silent on the Diana controversy due to an official request just in from the Portuguese Consulate in Mombassa. Full disclosure: Diana and I had a brief but torrid affair in 1978. I was in Malta on assignment for the Milwaukee Journal and Diana was working for the Belgian intelligence service. When I first met her at the home of the cinematographer Jacques Brel, I was immediately taken with her encyclopedic knowledge of horse racing, Persian sonnets, and artisanal cheese making. Her hair was perfect. That night, I couldn’t sleep so I made 7 cubic feet of marmelade from my grandmother’s recipe. I presented the marmelade to Diana the following evening in the moonlit garden of the local Orthodox monastery. She gave me a minor skin infection which is now pretty much cleared up. Lovemaking was an adventure with Diana. She always insisted I eat a bifana during foreplay, and as she approached climax, she would bark at me. “Sempre em frente! Sempre em FRENTE!!” In quiet moments, we mapped out our future together. We planned to hitchhike across Rhode Island supporting ourselves by selling surfing lessons and tie-dyed Portuguese flags. We were young and idealistic. She taught me to play poker and shoot squirrels. One day, after we wept together at a Woody Allen film (I don’t recall which) she looked at me meekly and said. “The magic’s gone.” She booked a seat on the next Concorde flight back to New York, a city she had never seen before to begin a career as a food stylist. I asked her, “What’s the rush?” She replied, “Tudo vale pena quando a alma não e´pequena,” and then she slapped me with a feather. I still have that feather. In New York, she went on to win a James Beard Award for my marmelade recipe but never gave my grandmother or me credit. She still has my Greek fisherman’s cap I’m told by people who know. Diana was by far, the finest maker of salad I have ever known. I wrote a song for her which subsequently became a major hit for Paul Anka: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPw5WiABUOA

      • Roy Viera here. I just wanted to make it clear that my comments were directed at Diana, not Susan.

    • Diana,
      The writer of this post asked if ethnic humor and self-mockery was harmful to our image–our public image and our self-image. She questioned the portrayal of our culture in books, media and entertainment and asked, why are we, a proud people with a rich history, so often depicted as lazy, ignorant or promiscuous. She asked whether we should feel demeaned by such things as ethnic humor or silly Tia Maria skits. She asked her readers, and we responded thoughtfully, some with alternate viewpoints, others in agreement with her views.
      This serious discussion was hijacked early on by a person who obviously didn’t understand the conversation and instead took offense where none was intended. Yes, Ms. Viveiros has strong views on ethnic humor as performed by the Portuguese Kids. As the Vancouver agent for the Portuguese Kids, you could have lent your support of the comedy troupe (as some of us did) with a thoughtful comment of your own. Instead, you chose to illustrate a far more serious issue in our community: illiteracy.

  18. I agree with what Esmeralda and George have said. I, too, agree that it’s important and healthy for us to laugh at what’s funny about our ethnic communities. I realize that the “Kids” are trying hard to bring to light the funny core of Portuguese North American immigrants. They have a right to do that; I don’t think any of us would try to censor their comedy. Freedom of expression is a gift. However, I think that what Fernanda is challenging us to think about is whether or not their comedic expression represents us well to a wider audience; be it younger Luso American/Canadians or, even better, those outside our communities.

    There are examples of good comics who do ethnic humour well; for example, Russell Peters http://www.russellpeters.com/, who jokes brilliantly about his East Indian background. He manages to balance hilarity with truthfulness. He celebrates his ethnic background without condescension and he has the ability to draw in a wider audience. Listening to his monologues, you laugh but you also learn about the quirkiness of a community different from your own. We can aspire to both by challenging those in our communities, like the Portuguese Kids, who are taking the time to showcase our ethnic peculiarities to the wider world.

  19. Hello there. My name is Derrick, and I am a Portuguese Kid. I would like to throw my two cents into this conversation, and maybe shed a little light on who we really are since there seems to be a lot of talk from a lot of people who have never seen us live. Yes, we are on YouTube, and while I will admit we use those videos as a promotional tool, it’s not very fair to judge us solely on what you see on the internet. But in your defense, if it isn’t appealing on YouTube, then you may not be so inclined to catch us live. But I digress. While I’m not an authority on all things Portuguese I can say with the utmost confidence that I have met more people of Portuguese descent in more cities, states, and countries than anyone on this forum, including the writer of this article. We have shaken hands with politicians, well respected chefs, writers, teachers AND landscapers, construction workers, factory employees, and they can all laugh at the funnier side of growing up Portuguese. Why can’t any of you? Maybe you didn’t grow up like we did. And by we, I mean our fans. Yes it’s true as one of the commentators pointed out that Portuguese are “more likely to attend a comedy show than pick up a book written by a Portuguese-American writer”, but does that warrant vilifying the comedians? Is it our fault that people haven’t picked up that book? Is it our fault that reading may not be that important to the Portuguese culture (after all, Portugal suffers from a high illiteracy rate, which stinks, but that’s another conversation for another time). Does that make the majority of Portuguese people dumb for wanting to laugh? We are not the loudest, but we have made an impact on the Portuguese communities we perform in. And it’s always positive. “I haven’t seen our club this packed in years”, or “you’re bringing the youth back to our community” is just a couple of great things we hear often. The Portuguese are a people of tradition and those traditions are dying but we’re helping them stay alive. You may not find us funny and that’s okay but sometimes it feels like we’re the only people on the block including the youth in what we do and it shows. It’s an amazing feeling when a parent comes up to us with their 9 year old for a picture and says “my son wants to learn how to speak Portuguese because of you guys”. Maybe, just maybe, if they learn to read and write Portuguese because of watching us they’ll one day pick up the Portuguese version of The Lusiadas, by Luiz de Camões and read it. Not bad for a bunch of “dumb Portugees.” It feels even greater when someone comes up to us fighting back the tears because what we did reminds them of a deceased parent or grandparent. Yes, we stereotype sometimes but what we represent at the core is accurate. When we’re on stage and we say “Your Daddy graduated the 4th grade” we’re not saying Daddy is proud of that. What we’re saying is “Look at what Dad accomplished with a little education and a hunger to better his life”. And that is something to be very proud of. We’ve always said from the beginning, Portuguese people are not above being poked fun at. What makes us more special than Mexicans, Italians, Jewish, or Irish? Are they not a proud people? I know what makes us special and I see it at every show. Old, young, and everything in between. And to the writer of this article, maybe it bothers you that an older person would go to our show with their kids and grandkids and actually pay to be made fun of, but that’s where you’re wrong. We do not make fun of the Portuguese, we celebrate our culture and people. Even some of their faults because no one is perfect, but in our opinion, laughing at something is better than pretending it never existed.

    • Derrick,
      I haven’t seen your live show, but I’ve enjoyed some of your videos. I’d say they’re hit or miss, so I’m not your #1 fan. However, I have no doubt that you and your group are pioneers. It takes a lot of courage to be a pioneer. As I’ve said here, the Portuguese Kids are a sign that our community is maturing, becoming confident enough to laugh at itself. And for that, I salute you. My hope is that you guys will continue to grow as artists and go for a bigger audience without losing your Portuguese character. I also hope that other voices, especially those who take a different approach from yours, join in to offer their own views of our experience. If you help make that happen by your pioneering work, then we will all be in your debt…Until then, you can expect to take more heat, but that comes with the territory of a pioneer. And I’m not saying that just to get comped at your next show!

    • Hello Derrik,
      I can see that you’re very proud of your role in connecting Portuguese immigrant communities in North America.

      I’m not going to address everything you’ve said but this one line caught my eye: “Does that make the majority of Portuguese people dumb for wanting to laugh?”

      I think you’re missing the point–or perhaps my own writing needs clarification. My blog post isn’t meant to serve as a comedy review–although I did critique your skits. I want to understand–and question–WHY we, the children of Portuguese immigrants, are laughing at this material–and if, by laughing, we are causing harm. I, for one, find much of your comedy disappointing and lacking in integrity. I want to support you, but can’t for so many reasons.

      Neither I nor anyone else should be policing or censoring your work so I apologize for saying that you should be rewriting your skits. I do hope you’ll continue to hone your craft as you and your colleagues grow as entertainers.

    • Derrick, you’re portraying a very limited perspective on our culture. I think that’s why some of us are insulted by some of your routines. Our community is so much more than goofy stereotypes and high-school level skits. But go ahead and ignore everyone’s constructive criticism. I know there’s room for a Portuguese Russell Peters to step in and perform in a way that doesn’t make us cringe. As Fernanda and others have pointed out, the Portuguese have a long, rich history that can be tapped for comedic relief.
      PS. There’s a lot more to Portuguese literature than The Lusiadas.

  20. I like the Portuguese Kids because they bring humor and awareness to and about the Portuguese community. They draw crowds of Portuguese folks AND general audiences. All laughing and discussing Portuguese culture.

    That said, I have only seen their Christmas song and the Portuguese-Style song. Like MOST comedy, their brand of humor relies on stereotypes. If comedians stuck to praising people and honoring and being respectful, there would be no comedy.
    That is not the nature of the Portuguese Kids but the nature of comedy. It often calls attention to grumbles, complaints and stereotypes. People laugh when someone slips on a banana peel; they do not laugh when someone earns a graduate degree. For many people who live outside of Portuguese communities, the Portuguese are an unknown quantity. We are lumped in with other ethnic groups or completely misunderstood.

    Comedian Russell Peters uses comedy and stereotypes as a technique to create unity, insulting every ethnic identity, including his own East Indian background. He says European Portuguese sounds like Brazilian Portuguese as if deaf people were pronouncing it. Then he demonstrates. Rather than being offended, I was delighted that he addressed Portugal in a comedy show where he seemed to discuss every ethnicity in the world. Joking about our failures and misconceptions and stereotypes is a way to bring communities together. It is also a way to educate.

    Last Sunday on MadMen, Roger Sterling said to Don on a plane trip, that he should be braver, take more chances. He said, “I’m Vasco de Gamma,” and Don said, “Who am I?” and Roger said, “Oh some other Mexican explorer.” Was that bad? yeah. It was demeaning to Portuguese and to Mexicans to be lumped together instead of identified as different cultures. BUT, was it valuable? You bet. It was another opportunity to discuss ethnicity and what the Portuguese explorers accomplished.

    The best comedians make fun of themselves and bring about social change. A popular column in Los Angeles is called “Ask a Mexican” and the writer takes questions from readers in an attempt to educate and have a dialogue. For example, “Why do Mexicans swim in the ocean with their jean on?” or ” Why do Mexicans like The Raiders and the Dodgers?” Under the guise of comedy he uses stereotypes as an opportunity to educate.

    And I realized the other day that the Portuguese community at least in Calif. is not well enough known to even HAVE stereotypes people can talk about or question. Like it or not, often times the general population gets to know an ethnic culture FIRST through stereotypes or food or even swear words.

    If I had a column called “Ask a Portugee,” I think I may get questions like, “Is Portugal a city in Argentina?” Or “Do they speak Spanish?” Then, the dialogue would end because a general population does not know and is not curious enough about the Portuguese to make fun of them! Which somehow seems to be the entry point in acceptance and understanding.

    • For those who want a more varied diet of Portuguese comedy, and understand at least some Portuguese, I have a few suggestions based on what I’ve found over the years. I would be very grateful if anyone could offer their own suggestions for comedies in or about the Portuguese, because I’m always looking for more…

      1. A Canção de Lisboa A world-class comedy made in Portugal in 1928 featuring the legendary Vasco Santana and Beatriz Costa. A recently expelled medical student frantically tries to keep up appearances while his rich aunts from Tras-os-Montes are visiting him in Lisbon. I’ve seen this dozens of times and it never fails to make me laugh. A true classic.

      2. O Gato Fedorento A Portuguese version of Monty Python made about 6 or seven years ago, I believe. Brainy, literate, well produced comedy sketches delivered by a troupe of very skilled comedic actors. When I first stumbled across this show online, I thought to myself, “I’ve been waiting for this show since forever!”

      3. Vai Tudo Abaixo Much edgier than O Gato Fedorento, this sketch comedy program appears to be mostly the vision of one man, a comedian named Jel. He has a punk rock sensibility, and is a gifted songwriter and savage satirist. His work is as edgy as anything you’ll see on American television. Some of it is quite shocking and even disturbing, in the tradition of the very best satire. This show goes way beyond political incorrectness, which is what made it so thrilling. A real accomplishment. Easy to find on YouTube from the SIC network in Portugal.

      4. Homens da Luta is one of Jel’s creations that grew out of Vai Tudo Abaixo to become something like a performance art piece that uses the idiom of Leftist Portuguese protest music of the 1970s to comment on the country’s current crisis. Very sophisticated satire and well worth your time. You’ll learn a lot about Portugal and tap your toes at the same time. They poke fun of many aspects of Portuguese society at the same time.

      5. A Comédia de Deus (God’s Comedy) One of the strangest, most perverse films I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t begin to describe everything that’s going on in this film by João César Monteiro, so suffice to say that it’s a profound comedic rumination on Portugal’s place in modern Europe. Told through the perspective of an incredibly anal ice cream shop manager. This film will infuriate you at times, but I would say the payoff is worthwhile. Not for the faint of heart, or for those looking for light entertainment. It’s some sort of masterpiece, even though I was scratching my head often as I watched it. Available on DVD with subtitles, I believe.

      • I need to add one more: Odisseia, the recent tv series on RTP. A sort of postmodern series about “nothing,” it follows two young men on their search for Portugal and themselves via a roadtrip. Witty, unconventional, dry humor. I don’t think this show has much precedence in Portugal, but I could be wrong about that…I would LOVE to hear other people’s impressions of this series.

      • This is fantastic, George. I’m familiar with O Gato Fedorento (my dad watches it religiously) but I had never heard of the others. Thanks for sharing!

        • Sure, Tony! Let me know what you think when you’ve gotten the chance to see some of these…

      • Thanks, George, for sharing this. I’m especially intrigued by A Comédia de Deus. I hope it’s available through Amazon.

        • Yes, Fernanda, I believe it’s available on Amazon. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though, it’s quite perverse, but in a soft, Portuguese way I dare say….I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about it and any other comedies from Portugal. I’m usually an audience of one for these things…

          • George,
            You say that you are an audience of one when it comes to watching these shows. Well, I think at this point you could probably invite us all for a Portuguese video comedy Fest celebration in Brooklyn (I know that I’d come) and have a big party. I had never heard of the shows you have mentioned and I feel deprived. I love comedy, but my knowledge of Portuguese comedy has been limited, you guessed, to watching the Portuguese Kids on Youtube. Glad to know that there’s so much out there to discover. I can’t just keep watching Little Britain over and over again when I need a jolt of “way out there” comedy.
            Thanks for sharing.

          • Emanuel, you read my mind! I would feel privileged to host you and anyone else in this forum for a Portuguese comedy fest here in Brooklyn. Now that you’ve gotten me to think about this, I think it could be fun to start a Facebook group of people interested in deciphering Portuguese comedy on this side of the Atlantic…What do you think?

          • George,
            I think you should give it a try. Since I am not on facebook, I might even be persuaded to open up an account just to keep up with your “show and tell” of good Portuguese comedy.

      • Thanks for sharing this, George. Vai Tudo Abaixo is brilliant. My cousins and I are hooked on the program.

      • Primeiro que tudo desculpa o meu testemunho ser em português em vez de inglês mas há já uns anos que o inglês deixou de ser a minha língua principal e passou a ser a minha língua secundária da qual pouco pratico e como reparei que parecem estar familiarizados com a língua portuguesa considerei que não vos faria muita confusão.
        Na minha opinião acho que há lugar para todo o tipo de comédia e se realmente o tipo de comédia que é protagonizado pelos “Portuguese Kids” vos faz tanto repudio há uma solução simples … não a vejam … agora que ela representa uma fação da população açoriana que foi principalmente para o este dos Estados Unidos disso podem ter a certeza … podem não gostar … as situações podem não ter ocorrido nas vossas casas mas aconteceram de certeza na casa de muitos emigrantes … e porque não rir da situação? Acho que para melhor aceitar a crítica dos outros ou até mesmo a troça dos outros temos que começar por rir de nós próprios.
        É um estereótipo? Claro! É engraçado? Claro, principalmente porque lembra aos filhos desses emigrantes de situações absurdas do passado. Agora se vai denegrir a imagem dos portugueses? Claro que não! Há tanto descente de portugueses que hoje em dia ocupa um lugar de destaque na política, cultura e desporto da américa do norte que não são uns momentos de diversão com situações do quotidiano dos primeiros emigrantes que vão enfuscar a presença dos portugueses na América do Norte.
        Posto isto e só um senão, quando se refere ao “Vai tudo abaixo” como sendo um exemplo da boa comédia que se faz em Portugal ( e não o vou contrariar por isso) também há lá momentos de comédia que tem estereótipos caso do Rico e do Reco que retratam toxicodependentes e o Black Skin que sinceramente não sei bem quem interpreta (um racista negro?) … ou mesmo no Gato Fedorento quando retratam as senhoras do interior de Portugal a darem a sua opinião sobre assuntos políticos (claro com a sua piada e já me ri muito à custa “delas”).
        Quanto há falta de literacia dos descendentes de emigrantes, até por acaso falei nisso hoje com pessoas que estudaram e refletiram sobre esse assunto e acho que vai muito mais para além do facto de verem comédias com estereótipos ditos errados … há uma questão social muito vasta que está por trás o que levaria muito tempo a discutir.
        Bem aqui está a minha opinião. Sou filha de emigrantes açorianos que foram para o Canadá no final dos anos 50 e que regressaram à sua pátria e eu também adotei os Açores como minha casa.

        • Anne Armas has added her voice, expressed in Portuguese words, from the other margin of the Azorean immigrant’s landscape, and by doing so, has complicated the binary of this discussion for me (in a good way). Although it was interesting to read her perspective on the topic of ethnic humour, what made me stop and take notice was her closing paragraph: “Sou filha de emigrantes açorianos que foram para o Canadá no final dos anos 50 e que regressaram à sua pátria e eu também adotei os Açores como minha casa.” It made me think that if I had to write a similar statement, mine would have to be this way: I am the son of Azorean parents who immigrated to Canada in the late 60’s, who did not return to their homeland, and I adopted Canada as my home.”
          Her experience of reversed immigration made me realize that we, on the North American shores, remain islanders at heart, and regardless of the advantages of our modern connectivity through the world of social media, we still carry the burden of insularity and misunderstanding. We are, hopefully, building bridges to each other by meeting on-line and trying to make sense of who we are and what is important to define our “Selves” as social, cultural beings.
          Each “Luso” (and let’s remember that the lusophone community is not confined to North America) carries a rich diversity of identity and perspective. Each of us is trying to find ways to remain connected to our roots; for some it means participating in the local community by attending the numerous festas, religious or secular, or getting involved in social programs; for others, it means supporting local artists, watching TV programming from RTP and other Portuguese channels, among many other choices. We find our connection point based on temperament, interests and inclinations. This is not something to be judged or to measure in a scale of superiority. It just is.
          For me, literature is the place of the imagination where I can find comfort in connecting with my Azorean roots; even though I have lived in Canada for most of my life. What drew me to follow Fernanda Viveiro’s blog almost two years ago was the title of her homepage: “The Literary Interests of a Late-Blooming Lusophile”. For the first time in my life I had found something that resonated with my interests in literature and Portuguese culture. This does not mean that I am above enjoying good comedic display, even if “low brown” at times, or simple good old fashioned fun. But there are lots of places where I can get that. When I come to Fernanda’s blog, I am looking for something unique; a different perspective, based on literary offerings. That’s what her blog is, for me.
          I highly recommend, as essential reading, “Nas duas margens: da Literatura Norte-Americana e Açoriana” by Adelaide Freitas . I don’t know how readily accessible this book is in North America but her essays and articles are provide a rich discussion and understanding of the Azorean/Luso American literary landscape.
          I also recommend Vamberto Freitas’ blog, Nas duas margens http://vambertofreitas.wordpress.com/, as an important forum for those interested in learning about Azorean literature and culture. I wish I had a copy of his latest,, O Imaginário dos Escritores Açorianos (2ª edição), Ponta Delgada, Letras Lavadas Edições, 2013.
          I don’t expect that everyone will be as excited about books as I am and that’s ok. But at least I have an option of how I can connect meaningfully with the language of my birth, where even the sounds of the spoken words, whether in dialogue or in the privacy of my mind, provide comfort to the little boy who never forgot his island home.

        • Prezada Sra. Armas,
          Tive imenso gosto em ler a sua mensagem. Achei muito lúcido e persipicaz sua defesa do uso do estereotípo cômico. Situando os Portuguese Kids na tradição do Zé Povinho, não me parece que eles estão a fazer mal nenhum. Eu só queria que eles pudessem aperfeiçoar um pouco a sua técnica. Para quem queixa deles, ofereci aqui algumas alternativas …A solução para um elemento cultural que não se agrade é fazer ou buscar uma resposta ou alternative na mesma cultura, e não tentar silenciar qualquer voz, quanto inculto que ela seja….Na minha opinião, sendo filho de portugueses que emigraram aos EUA nos anos 60, os Portuguese Kids, apesar de serem grosseiros e ainda não bem formados artistas, mesmo assim marcam uma etapa importantíssima no desenvolvimento da nossa communidade. O momento em que somos capazes, depois dos grandes esforços dos nossos pais estabelecerem-se na América do Norte, de rir de nós próprios é um sinal de amadurecimento dum povo que passou duma vida só de trabalho para um povo que também contempla a sua condição em todos os seus aspetos, sejam bonitos, feios, eruditos, ou grosseiros. Um sinal de confiança em si mesmo, derivando-se duma cultura que já superou obstáculos muito mais assustadores que qualquer estereotípo usado para efeito cômico. Estamos a passar pelo caminho que passaram todos os emigrantes nos EUA. Os judeus, que chegaram aqui em condições pessimas, mil vezes piores que as nossas, entraram rapidamente, numa geração, na classe profissional e nunca abandonaram a sua tradição de auto-critica severa que informou sempre os grandes comediantes que hoje todos nos veneramos. Os Portuguese Kids estão muito, muito longe de atingir esse nivel de arte transcendente, e duvido que eles sejam capazes de chegar lá, mas não duvido que sejam pioneiros a mostrar o caminho para que outros exploram esse mesmo território.

        • A propósito, o maravilhoso Black Skin, e o seu grande companheiro Salazar, é uma das mais engraçadas figuras cômicas que já vi há muito tempo. Trata-se duma critica do facto de que sào precisamente as maiores vítimas duma politica, seja da esquerda ou da direita, que podem tornar-se os maiores proponentes dessa mesma politica. Verdade profunda e universal…e nas mãos do Jel, uma verdade extremamente risível!

          • Anne,
            Thank you for adding your perspective on ethnic comedy and stereotypes to this discussion. You’ve raised interesting questions of your own in regards to the stereotypes portrayed in comedies produced by the people of Portugal. And please don’t apologize for communicating in Portuguese. Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac said it best when he described the Portuguese language as última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela: “the last flower of Latin, wild and beautiful.”
            Both George and Emanuel have responded to your post with such eloquence and perception that I can only stand back and weep with envy. Aah, the power of words.
            Anne, you refer to the lack of literacy among some of the descendants of immigrants and its corresponding social issues but as you’ve pointed out, this would involve a lengthy discussion—one far too substantial for this blog. And as you know, to discuss the topic in any depth would require input by Portuguese from all walks of life and from all over North America since our communities are so diverse. What is true in San Francisco may not be true in say Montreal or New Bedford.
            George uses the Jewish community in North America as a prime example of a community that has flourished, succeeded and celebrated their culture despite horrendous obstacles and great discrimination. If all we have to worry about are rude observations by dead writers, rude skits by international singers and rude comments by misinformed people, we can probably afford to laugh at ourselves. But let’s not forget, there’s a fine line between poking jabs and poking daggers.

  21. Thanks for chiming in, Millicent. Your Mad Men anecdote perfectly illustrates our “visibility” in popular culture. It’s vital to the growth of our community to challenge gross assumptions and limiting stereotypes and we can’t do that by accepting the status quo.

  22. Fernanda, I admire your courage (and your moderation skills)! Seems like this was a conversation that needed to happen—thank you. Let’s aim high.

  23. It’s been a long day of fascinating exchanges on a topic that, as much as it shows our diversity and unique experiences of being Portuguese, brings us together to agree on one thing: we are all proud of having the cultural identity we call Portuguese and we want it known out there, whether it be through literature, TV shows, movies, art, and music, that we have much to offer, not only to each other, but to our friends outside the Portuguese milieu.
    Whether we are from the immigrant generation or already born in North America; whether we speak Portuguese more fluently than others or even if some of us don’t speak it at all anymore, we are united in our desire to showcase our heritage in the best possible light to the world outside of “us”.
    What I have observed from reading all the comments today (and they are still coming) is that we are all passionate about our roots and, each in our own way, we want our heritage to shine: for some, by offering the world a glimpse of our stereotypes by the gift of comics like the Portuguese Kids (those who can make us laugh also have the power to heal and unite through humour); for others, like Fernanda and her regular readers, who cling to the power of words , by writing our stories as a way to best show who we are to the world.
    Regardless of how we are going about shouting our “ Portugueseness”, what really matters is that so many of us thought it important to engaged in discussion today over a very simple question: What are we doing to make ourselves, as a diverse Portuguese nation far from the homeland, a viable source of pride for the future generations of Luso American/Canadians to come. They, and I go back to the children, need us to show them the way.
    This weekend, Toronto is having the annual Portugal Day Parade. I am excited about going this year. I have invited the younger generation of my family to come down and watch. For most of them, this will be the first time they will see the Parade and they responded to my invitation with excitement and curiosity. Why they haven’t been coming before is a question best left for another discussion, but they are now of an age where they have become interested in learning more about their ethnic roots and I am hoping that we will all have a great time at the festa; the way their grandparents’ and parents did when we all still lived close by in Toronto’s Little Portugal many years ago.
    But I also want them to know about the recent exhibit of The Portuguese in Toronto 1953-2013, a rich display of our history in this city, showing at City Hall. I want them to see that they can, and should, be proud of their background. Many people are working hard to showcase our community. I even hope that one day they will pick up a book by a Portuguese writer, too. Writers have much to say and their contributions to the understanding of who we are can be an invaluable contribution to the discussion of Quem são os portugueses, anyway?

    • YES! More than anything else, ‘we are united in our desire to showcase our heritage in the best possible light to the world outside of “us”.’

      I don’t believe we need to censor everything that doesn’t meet our collective “standards” but we all need to do our part to exemplify the values we were raised with by our parents. We need to combat comedic stereotypes with stories of success and recognition.

    • Emanuel, you’ve captured the feeling of this discussion with your words, “…we are united in our desire to showcase our heritage in the best possible light to the world outside of “us”.
      And yes, everyone’s contribution to this discussion over the last two days has been invaluable. Not all of you agreed with me about the potentially harmful effects of ethnic humour and whether we need to challenge gross stereotypes and assumptions in popular culture–but most were able to add to the discussion with keen observations, thoughtful responses–and a sense of humour. And clearly, this was a conversation people were interested in having. Seventy-nine Facebook shares and 1104 visitors in just two days as of 15 minutes ago.

      • Fernanda, I salute you for starting this conversation, which I found to be instructive in many ways I hadn’t expected. Muitos parabéns!

  24. I’m Portuguese, third generation, raised in Newark and working in Boston. Anyone who says that the Portuguese are not discriminated against has simply not traveled beyond their back yard. There is so much discrimination and ignorance about the Portuguese that I’m constantly correcting people’s assumptions (No, Portugal is not in Spain. No, we’re not Hispanic. No, we don’t have arranged marriages. No, we’re not a third-world country, No, we’re not “owned” by Brazil, etc.). My boss saw the Portuguese Kids recently. He was given tickets to the show by a client. Everyone in the office was laughing at his stupid impersonations and chiming in with rude comments of their own until they noticed I wasn’t laughing. “You aren’t Portuguese, are you?” Ah, yes I am. “Sorry, we didn’t know…your name’s not Portuguese.” My grandparents anglicized their name when they immigrated. “Well, we’re not laughing at you. You’re not like the rest of them.” Uh, thank you?
    What’s infuriating is that my boss, born and raised in the midwest in the middle of nowhere, is basing his opinion on the stereotypes he’s heard or read over the years and now, on this comedy group. The Portuguese Kids aren’t responsible for my boss being a jerk of course. But those who say ethnic humor is harmless and that we should lighten up already, are wrong.

    • Lisa, that’s a compelling story…You’re on the front lines of this much more than I am. In New York City, the Portuguese are so under the radar, the negative stereotypes have more to do with what’s going on with the financial crisis in Portugal than with what’s going on here…I’ve encountered the same sort of geographically dopey questions you have, though…I shrug it off….I think there are advantages to obscurity sometimes ,and I shudder at the prospect of the Portuguese just being the next group to wade into the swamp of identity politics. We know who we are, and that’s pretty much okay with me.

      I choose to focus on those outsiders who value the Portuguese. Like Jean Anderson, who many years ago wrote “The Food of Portugal” with such affection for our traditions that I had to contact her to say thank you. Or Datus Proper, a former American Foreign Service Officer, who wrote a wonderful book “The Last Old Place.” It’s a love letter to Portugal that is so literate, so filled with carinho for the history and character of the Portuguese. Those two authors, and there are many others, make up for all the dopey people like your boss…

    • That must have been humiliating, Lisa, but I hope you were able to rise above their comments.

      The Portuguese immigrant community has such a well-deserved reputation for being hard-working, honest and authentic people–so why the negative stereotypes among the general population? And why is discrimination seen in some cities but not in others? Millicent posted (above) that for many people who live outside of Portuguese communities, the Portuguese are an unknown quantity. “We are lumped in with other ethnic groups or completely misunderstood.”

      This is especially true if you’re living in a small American town (as I am now). In filling out a medical form I was required to tick off a box under ethnicity. White, Black, Hispanic, Native Indian, Asian, East Indian and Pacific Islander. I drew a new box and wrote down Portuguese. The nurse glanced at the form and said, “Oh, you’re Hispanic. I’ll correct it.” The poor woman was subjected to a (polite) two-minute lecture on Portuguese ethnicity.

      • Coitada…I feel sympathy for a regular old garden variety American faced with the job of categorizing us…. Portuguese are Iberian but not Hispanic, Latin but not Latino, Southern European but not Mediterranean…and most perplexing of all, we’re obsessed with a Norwegian fish! Que confusão!

    • Lisa, I’m not a fan of ethnic humour either and I consider myself to be thick-skinned when it comes to this type of thing. Even the “good stuff” can be used to hurt or put down another human being and most of us aren’t prepared with a smart comeback when we need it most. Your employer acted unprofessionally.

    • Lisa, I just wanted to say quickly that your story really resonated with me. I had many similar experiences living in both Provincetown and Boston (although not in NYC). I’ve been privy to shockingly disparaging conversations about the Portuguese along the same lines as what you heard. The speakers realized either too late or not at all that I am half Portuguese. Part of me can’t believe that this is still happening in New England after 150+ years of Portuguese settlements there and wonders what’s wrong with the place, while another part of me knows that it’s up to us to speak out and try to change our image.

  25. This is an important issue for me because I teach at a high school in Newark. Some of my students are Portuguese and they are often subjected to teasing and disparaging remarks by non-Portuguese. We’re currently discussing ethnic humor and stereotyping and the comments/beliefs verbalized by the non-Portuguese students are alarming to say the least. Their assumptions (learned from family members or picked up at school) clearly affect the confidence level of my Portuguese students. It’s true that most teens experience some teasing as they grow up but there’s a difference between lighthearted jokes and words said that intentionally demean another person’s ethnic background.

    • Hi Jacqueline,
      Teachers are such important role models for Portuguese youth. I applaud your sensitivity in discussing these issues in the classroom and hope your students will learn to appreciate the similarities and differences between them.

      I didn’t grow up hearing jokes or demeaning comments aimed at my ethnicity although I was teased–and often mimicked–because of my accent (English was not my first language). However, the East Indian immigrants at our school were tormented over their ethnicity and often victims of cruel pranks devised to humiliate them. I understand it’s a very different situation now for the children of these first immigrants due in large part to assimilation and anti-bullying campaigns.

  26. Anne Armas has added her voice, expressed in Portuguese words, from the other margin of the Azorean immigrant’s landscape, and by doing so, has complicated the binary of this discussion for me (in a good way). Although it was interesting to read her perspective on the topic of ethnic humour, what made me stop and take notice was her closing paragraph: “Sou filha de emigrantes açorianos que foram para o Canadá no final dos anos 50 e que regressaram à sua pátria e eu também adotei os Açores como minha casa.” It made me think that if I had to write a similar statement, mine would have to be this way: I am the son of Azorean parents who immigrated to Canada in the late 60’s, who did not return to their homeland, and I adopted Canada as my home.”
    Her experience of reversed immigration made me realize that we, on the North American shores, remain islanders at heart, and regardless of the advantages of our modern connectivity through the world of social media, we still carry the burden of insularity and misunderstanding. We are, hopefully, building bridges to each other by meeting on-line and trying to make sense of who we are and what is important to define our “Selves” as social, cultural beings.
    Each “Luso” (and let’s remember that the lusophone community is not confined to North America) carries a rich diversity of identity and perspective. Each of us is trying to find ways to remain connected to our roots; for some it means participating in the local community by attending the numerous festas, religious or secular, or getting involved in social programs; for others, it means supporting local artists, watching TV programming from RTP and other Portuguese channels, among many other choices. We find our connection point based on temperament, interests and inclinations. This is not something to be judged or to measure in a scale of superiority. It just is.
    For me, literature is the place of the imagination where I can find comfort in connecting with my Azorean roots; even though I have lived in Canada for most of my life. What drew me to follow Fernanda Viveiro’s blog almost two years ago was the title of her homepage: “The Literary Interests of a Late-Blooming Lusophile”. For the first time in my life I had found something that resonated with my interests in literature and Portuguese culture. This does not mean that I am above enjoying good comedic display, even if “low brown” at times, or simple good old fashioned fun. But there are lots of places where I can get that. When I come to Fernanda’s blog, I am looking for something unique; a different perspective, based on literary offerings. That’s what her blog is, for me.
    I highly recommend, as essential reading, “Nas duas margens: da Literatura Norte-Americana e Açoriana” by Adelaide Freitas . I don’t know how readily accessible this book is in North America but her essays and articles are provide a rich discussion and understanding of the Azorean/Luso American literary landscape.
    I also recommend Vamberto Freitas’ blog, Nas duas margens http://vambertofreitas.wordpress.com/, as an important forum for those interested in learning about Azorean literature and culture. I wish I had a copy of his latest,, O Imaginário dos Escritores Açorianos (2ª edição), Ponta Delgada, Letras Lavadas Edições, 2013.
    I don’t expect that everyone will be as excited about books as I am and that’s ok. But at least I have an option of how I can connect meaningfully with the language of my birth, where even the sounds of the spoken words, whether in dialogue or in the privacy of my mind, provide comfort to the little boy who never forgot his island home.

    • Great suggestions, Emanuel. I’d also recommend another one of Vamberto’s essay collections, BorderCrossings: leituras transatlanticas, if you don’t already have it.

      Note: I launched this blog in April 2012 so it hasn’t been two years yet.🙂

      • Thanks, Fernanda, I don’t have this one but the title is really inviting. I must get back to Ponta Delgada for a book shopping spree. Much more fun than buying books on-line.

  27. Fernanda, your point reminds me of Dave Chappelle, a truly brilliant comic. He walked away from a $50 million deal precisely because he started to fear that he was giving small minded people reason to laugh at his community rather than with him. A wholly legitimate concern…I wonder if I would have been as principled and perceptive as he was…. In any case, I’m glad you raised this point even though our perspectives differ. You’ve done us all a great service by raising the question.

    • I’m ashamed to say I had to Google Dave Chapelle as I had never heard of him before now. I watched a Youtube video of his interview on Inside the Actors Studio and I was impressed with his authenticity–and with his mother’s achievements..

  28. FROM THE ARTICLE: “I understand that this particular group is simply expressing an affectionate caricaturing of the Portuguese immigrant community in an attempt to recall the “old times” and share similar childhood experiences. Their comedy may serve to remind us of our beloved grandparents, or growing up in a Portuguese neighbourhood, or because it gives us the opportunity to love something about ourselves or how our inclusion in a particular tribe makes us feel. It’s a shame though that these skits seem to relish in portraying our immigrants as dollar-obsessed brutes hopelessly stuck in dated traditions and spouting peculiar home-spun beliefs.”

    I found this blog through my cousin’s Facebook and thought that people might be interested in my thoughts. I took my girlfriend, who is Asian, to the Portuguese Kids event. We laughed at some of the skits, especially me because they reminded me of my uncles and grandfather (who I love and respect very much). After the show, my girlfriend said something that surprised me. “It’s probably a good thing my parents didn’t come with us after all. I don’t want them getting the wrong impression of your family before they meet them.” My girlfriend grew up in a city without a Portuguese community so she knew next to nothing about Portuguese people before we began dating. Her comment made me realize that for a lot of people, we are kind of unknown even though we might feel visible as Portuguese Canadians. I understand that what Fernando is saying is that it’s important to know if we’re hurting our image through ethnic comedy especially since we don’t have a lot of other entertainers out there representing our culture to outsiders.
    All the Portuguese I know in my neighbourhood watched the Junos in 2007 only because we wanted to see Nelly Furtados performance which was terrific. But her Tia Maria routine made us feel embarrassed, and I remember my aunt, who was really angry, saying, Why is it that if you see a Portuguese character on television or in the movies, she’s either a waitress or a puta? There was a time when the only black person you saw on television was a bad guy and the only Asians were dry cleaners or restaurant people. But they have changed that through their own involvement in the media. At some point, more of us will be involved in the arts as producers, screenwriters, actors or entertainers and we’ll have the power to portray our culture with all of its diversity. Here in Canada, we have a sitcom show, Little Mosque on the Prairie, which explores stereotypes and misconceptions on both sides using comedy that educates while it entertains. One day, we’ll have that too and then the words of a dead guy or a comedy group or a goofy skit by a singer won’t matter because those things will pale in comparison. I’ll be starting classes at the Toronto Film School this fall. Thank you for writing the article and for inspiring me to look at my new career.as an opportunity to create positive change. Maybe it will be me who produces the first Portuguese comedy sitcom in television.

  29. Robert, thank you for your perspective. And good luck with your career dreams. I would love to see a Portuguese family sitcom (or better yet, a drama!) on television.

  30. Hi, my parents are from Lisbon and Santa Maria and I was raised in a Portuguese neighborhood in eastern Canada. I used to travel throughout Canada and the US for work and came across a lot of odd or ignorant comments about my ethnicity. I now live and work in Hawaii and Portuguese immigrants and their descendants here receive nothing but the utmost respect. I’m reading History of the Catholic Mission in the Hawaiian Islands, and the Portuguese are mentioned as being “by far the best immigrants who have ever been brought to these shores.” Why the Portuguese don’t receive the same recognition in American books or television is beyond me. And as for Steinbeck, I suspect he was jealous of our success as ranchers and dairy farmers in California!

    • Gaspar, your remark reminds me of what my wife, who is Peruvian, asked me one night last December at dinner in Lisbon: “The Portuguese have so many wonderful things–food, culture, history! Why don’t they promote themselves more to the world?” I replied, “If they promoted themselves more, they wouldn’t be Portuguese, they’d be Spaniards.” Lisbon’s top celebrity chef Jose’ Avillez recently made the point that Portuguese gastronomy compares favorably to Spanish, but that the Spanish set about to market themselves 20 or 30 years ago to promote their food culture to the hilt. The result today is that Spain is probably the world’s top food destination, if you believe the foodie press. But try to find a bad meal in Portugal. It takes some effort. It takes much more effort to find a bad meal in Portugal than in Spain, I’m told by those who’ve tried both…What’s my point here?? Well, I think there’s something in the Portuguese character that recoils from self promotion. I’m not sophisticated enough to know the cause for this, but I don’t necessarily lament it either…Of course, I have to say I’m not competent to speak for Azoreans, so I’d be interested to hear their views. My sense is that they are more willing to wear their pride openly without always apologizing as my relatives on the mainland always do, “Somos um pais tão pequenino…” I have to admit to admiring the Portuguese reticence to chest thumping pride. As an old altar boy, I’m more content with healthy shame…

    • Gaspar, I think it’s possible that the hard work and success of the Azoreans in Calfornia’s ranching and agricultural communities may have generated jealousy or distrust.

      You may be interested in reading Sixty Acres and a Barn, by Alfred Lewis. Here’s a teaser from the jacket copy: a “captivating, coming-of-age story of Luis Sarmento, an immigrant from the Azores who finds in America tolerance, prosperity, and emotional fulfillment. This fascinating slice of immigrant life in California dairy farming explores in lyrical, realistic, and insightful prose the obstacles faced by those who live in insular enclaves between cultures.” It’s a beautiful story, simply told.

      If you prefer humour, I’d recommend Land of Milk and Money (Drama. Scheming. Cows.) by Anthony Barcellos. I’d love to see this book adapted for the small screen. JR Ewing and the folks at Dallas, you have nothing on this crazy family.

  31. Da mesma maneira que em Portugal a comédia inteligente “As Obras Completas de William Shakespeare em 97 minutos” já tiveram milhares de espectadores, o mesmo podem The Portuguese Kids fazer com a historia de Portugal. Será isso muito trabalho? Talvez nem tanto se lerem a “História Concisa de Portugal” de José Hermano Saraiva que, para além de ser um revelação de factos históricos menos conhecidos são factos engraçados. Outro livro de comédia sobre a revolução é “Coca-Cola Killer” de António Vitorino de Almeida.

    • Instilling comedy into a condensed rendition of Portuguese history is a fabulous idea, Jose Fonseca!

  32. What about Russell Peters and his ethnic/racial jokes? I like the guy…He is mocking the stereotype and in doing so he is also pointing to some “”truth” about the group/s in question. The stereotype does come from a certain reality not to say that that is all the “group” is. I think overly politically correct art in any form or overly “filtered” communication is not that healthy… It leaves unsaid what may need to be discussed in the open so that people can confront each other and clarify/speak back about it or even reflect about the ridiculous nature of their position and views. I find Canada overly politically correct and by being so it kills open/genuine discussions…I often feel that everyone is so careful not to make any remark that is related to race or ethnicity that we seldom have any genuine communication and in fact sometimes fail to address issues in certain communities that are problematic but which are seen as “culture” and “tradition” and therefore should not be touched, as if culture and tradition are not social constructs based on power… The reality is that every group has aspects that are not so positive and those aspects should be brought to the surface, exposed and if needed, changed. Of course Portugal was/is a profoundly classist country where divisions and stereotypes related to class was/is common. Lobo Antunes and Saramago address many of those especially relating to the figure of the “criada” and the peasant. I do think of course that art should also be profound and deconstructionist by questioning the stereotype so that we can come out of it doubting that very stereotype/truth and seeing things under others prims, in less absolute terms, that is. I sometimes also think that the Portuguese (in Portugal and North-America) have this extreme need to be recognised and I sometimes wonder if that is not related to the great “narrative” or our past history that depicts us as the GREATEST and which Salazar milked like a fat cow. We may have “saudade” of that era and perhaps it is time to move on….Or do we yearn to be colonialists again?! Saramago and Lobo Antunes discuss this a lot in their writings. Anyway these are just some random thoughts after skimming through this blog….they are by no means all my thoughts on the many matters mentioned here and in the blog.

    • Irene, you’ve touched upon numerous truths and given me a lot to think about especially in regards to class divisions in Portugal. I’ve just begun reading Saramago’s Raised From The Ground which addresses those very things you mention. Oddly enough, the book has been compared to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

      • Fernanda, yes that book deals with the class issue quite well and I think it has just recently been translated into English (one of the last to be translated I believe). When I read the Grapes of Wrath (in Portuguese) as a very young girl living in Portugal, I loved it precisely because of that power Steinbeck has to expose the injustices and the class struggles, to touch humans so that (hopefully) they start seeing things under a different light. Another book by Saramago that addresses the issue of the “criada” and the many ridiculous stereotypes Portuguese society has created about that figure (and women in general) is O ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis. This novel deals precisely with the responsibility that art should have toward society, the responsibility to affect and change reality, in this case to deconstruct myths pertaining to class and gender. Reis (the pessoan heteronym) is in fact mocked and presented as a poet who failed to use his art/his writing to change society, and who, like Horace and other poets and writers throughout history, perpetuates myths about women in his art, thus failing to see and appreciate real women, women like Lídia Martins, the maid at Hotel Bragança in Lisbon, with whom he has an affair but could never marry because she was the maid. This real Lídia, with flesh and bone, engaged in real and manual work (again another metaphor for the class struggle in the book) is contrasted with the ideal Greco-Latin Lydia that Reis and his classic counterparts have written about, who basically is a figment of their “male” imagination, a “non-reality” and yet a “reality” in men’s heads which has prevented them from loving and appreciating real women, from being engaged in the reality that “pulsates” in front of them (this is a problem still today!). Reis prefers to live in his head which has been “populated”/fed with inadequate, stereotypical ideas about women, conceptions that have little do to with the female nature. His aloofness and un-engagement is severely attacked by Saramago and on the grander level of the novel it serves do show Saramago’s position about the responsibility of art in general, the responsibility to serve as a vehicle to ameliorate society and deconstruct false and erroneous identities.

        • It’s been at least fifteen years since I’ve read The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. You’ve inspired me to take the book down from the shelves and read it again. Some of Saramago’s books demand a certain knowledge of Lusitanian history (admittedly not a strength of mine) although I absolutely loved The History of the Siege of Lisbon. A mild-mannered proofreader who changes one word in a historical text–and then begins to rewrite his own history? Love. Beware of anything masquerading as fact seems to be the subtext of many of Saramago’s novels.

  33. I just wanted to add that I have not seen The Portuguese Kids show and therefore my comments above were not specifically about this show…

  34. “The best people posses a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable–they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

    After reading this blog, I dedicate the above quote to Ms. Diana Simas, as well as the Portuguese Kids. Clearly, you are victims of character assassination and merit the apology of every “well-educated” Portuguese/being who took the time, and put forth the energy to share their opinion on what it means to ‘save face’. Please be reminded, that for every “one” dissatisfied client, there are fifty who are satisfied. It’s been often said that laughter is good for the soul. In retrospect, The Portuguese Kids, are to be congratulated for their drive and determination in bringing people together in one commonality–enlightenment. Ms. Simas is to be congratulated for her efforts, which have drawn thousands to appreciate the light and clean comedy of, The Portuguese Kids.

    Born in the Acores and raised in Canada, one of the first things I learned in the field of psychology, is the following: to be offended, is a matter choice. I for one reiterate my thoughts…

    Portuguese Kids, thank you for making me laugh, at the expense of no one! Your skits do not exemplify any notion of hypocrisy, and I commend you for being genuine. I, for one, am not in the least bit offended.

    With all due respect to Ms. Fernanda Viveiros.

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