Laugh Track: Andy Cañete

Image by Serena Chan

In many ways, Porn & Pinochet is the perfect embodiment for comedian Andy Cañete. The show has Cañete performing alone, something he’s used to after a decade of doing stand-up; the story transcends borders and goes between Canada and Chile, like Cañete did; and the whole show is an exercise in storytelling, both the funny and the serious. “That’s where the show comes from,” explains Cañete. “The three best emotions — anger, crying, and happiness — all in one.” The Peak caught up with Cañete to discuss his one-man show, how it differs from stand-up, and why he gets emotional while talking about a soccer team.

Your Fringe show, Porn & Pinochet, has been around since 2013. How has the show changed since then?

When you apply to the Fringe, they ask how long your show is. I hadn’t written it yet so I said “around 45 minutes,” then I thought, “Shit, can I do 45 minutes?” I wrote the show, performed it and it killed, but it was 75 minutes. So in that 2013 one, there are certain stories I kept in every show but other parts I’d switch in and out. Basically, the beginning and the end were the same, but there were a lot of times where it’d be like, “Ten years later!” I had to jump a fair bit. It was well-received and well-liked, but it always bothered me because I wanted to do the 75-minute version. That’s what I’m doing now.

There are also certain things I took out of that show, not because they weren’t funny, but because. . . you know how DVDs have the deleted scenes, and you look at the deleted scenes and it’s a good scene, but sometimes within the structure of the movie it doesn’t fit? Of that 45-minute version, I kept about 37 minutes of it.

How has your style of comedy changed since two years ago?

I’m focusing more on the one-man show stuff than the stand-up. It’s a lot more engaging and fulfilling to do this, because it’s a lot more personable. This is way more in-depth and rewarding, and less politics and drama. In stand-up, it’s not always the guy who’s doing the best that’s getting the time; it’s the guy who knows the guy. With the Fringe, there’s just a lottery and you’re in.

Do you think your shift towards one-man shows came as a result of doing the Fringe?

I kept meeting comedians that were doing one-man shows and they loved it, and then one-man shows starting popping up on television. It’s something comics will do and it’s admirable. I was thinking, “This is right up my alley! I tell stories!” And storytelling is tougher now, because there isn’t the attention span that there used to be. If you’re not knocking it out every two seconds, the audience tends to lose it. With the Fringe, there’s no drinking, no phones. They’re all very attentive. With stand-up, if you’re not getting laughter you think you’re bombing. In the theatre, just because they’re not laughing doesn’t mean you’re bombing. I’ve had shows where nobody laughed and then afterwards I got this tremendous applause. It’s a process for me, because occasionally the stand-up thing kicks in for me and I think the audience is hating it.

Is the show more Porn or more Pinochet?

I wasn’t sure what to call the show two years ago and so I went to a “how to market a show” conference for the Fringe, and they said the two things that sell the most on a show are politics and sex. I talk about Pinochet, and I tell a story about porn, so Porn & Pinochet. I’ve gotten complaints that I don’t talk enough about Pinochet, and then I’ve gotten complaints that I talk too much about Pinochet. Some people wanted more comedy, some people wanted more drama, and some people just want one. They can’t tell if it’s a comedy or a drama, and I ask “Can’t it be both?” I’d say probably more Pinochet, but not by much. The porn is a five-minute story, out of a 75-minute show, whereas Pinochet and Chile come in and out.

The play’s been described as a “story about a Chilean growing up in Canada and a Canadian growing up in Chile. But funny.” Does this kind of duality run through your other comedy?

When I started doing stand-up, a lot of my stuff was about Chile and people liked it, but other comedians started complaining and told me, “You know you can do other stuff? You don’t have to talk about being from Chile all the time.” So I started talking about relationships and sports and other stuff. Lately I haven’t talked about Chile in my stand-up at all, but all my early stuff — and some of the stuff in this show — is.

That’s the other thing: I didn’t realize how much it affected me, talking about Pinochet. The first time I performed this show, I wrote everything down and then when I got in front of everybody, my voice would crack. I’d almost start crying before I even started talking about it. I realized I had never really talked about this stuff before to anybody, and then I was talking about it in front of a crowd for the first time. Maybe that’s why there’s less Pinochet. I can’t cry throughout the show, it would look awful. I took a few parts out because I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

How do you strike that balance between the funny and the serious?

I don’t even know. I just do it. There’s a part of the show where I talk about my soccer team and it weirds people out because I get choked up. It’s very personal for me because when I was miserable, it was my happy place. So later on when they do well, I get choked up because I was in Canada and I didn’t get to see them do well. Then I go into me getting my first commercial, and it was a public service announcement for safe sex. So people were choked up and then laughing. I have no idea how I do it. I try to buffer. I’m not going to put sad sad sad; I try to do sad funny sad funny.