Ivan Aristeguieta: the upstart Venezuelan bringing spice to Australian comedy

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Ivan Aristeguieta: the upstart Venezuelan bringing spice to Australian comedy

Words by Zachary Snowdon Smith

“Creating something and then sharing it and seeing the reaction – I think it’s a bit similar to stand-up,” says Aristeguieta. “That feedback creates a moment of pleasure that’s beautiful. My thoughts are constantly on recipes and jokes.”

Aristeguieta has notched up awards at the Sydney Comedy Festival and Adelaide Fringe with a cheerful and boisterous act with an outsider’s perspective. Taking on traditions like spaghetti on toast, smashed avocados and Bunnings sausage sizzles, Aristeguieta shows Australian audiences the absurdity lurking everywhere in day-to-day life.

“I think having the view of an outsider is a privilege, a beautiful thing,” says Aristeguieta. “But I know I will keep thinking a bit more like an Aussie. Maybe one day in the future, if there’s a case of ball tampering in cricket, I will feel very offended. At the moment, I just go, ‘Hmm, this is interesting.’”

Aristeguieta’s grandfather was a passionate fan of bullfighting, owning one of the most extensive bullfighting libraries in the world. Aristeguieta loved his grandfather, but now agrees with the Australian consensus that bullfighting is inhumane. His new show, Matador, finds the humour in the tug-of-war between tradition and modernity.

“I remember growing up in a place where there were bull heads on the walls,” says Aristeguieta. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a matador, but then, when I grew up, I realised it’s cruel and violent. When you become an immigrant, you change a lot. You find yourself asking, ‘Who am I? Who am I today?’”

His act may be rowdy as a pub on Grand Final Day, but Aristeguieta crafts his routines as carefully as a chef works on a new dish. After the Matador tour, Aristeguieta will perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – his first hour-long set in front of a non-Australian audience.

“The craft of stand-up depends on how well you can make people see the world the way you see it, so they can laugh with you,” explains Aristeguieta. “The trick of stand-up is getting people to see the joke from your perspective. If you have to explain the joke, you didn’t do it well.”

Aristeguieta is a seeker of duende, a kind of creative inspiration that the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca described as “the mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.” When a comedian feels the duende, he can reach audiences even across cultural gaps.

“Bullfighting is a delusional search for duende,” says Aristeguieta. “The matador is looking for that irrational emotion, the desperation to create something beautiful. Comedians say, when you do well, you kill, and when you don’t do well, you die. That’s the jargon that we use. So, somehow, I have ended up being a matador.”