Ravell said the team of about 20 writers and cartoonists have been discussing how they will handle the news if and when Chávez’s death is announced.
“We have an idea of what we’ll do, but no one is sure exactly how it will happen, so it doesn’t make much sense to prepare,” he said. “The best we can do is keep making jokes and writing our satire on a daily basis.”
Isla Presidencial is just one of the offerings of El Chiguire Bipolar, a political humor site that is Venezuela’s answer to The Onion. But Isla has taken on a life of its own. It was recently picked up by Nuevon, an Internet channel that is part of Electus, a Hollywood, Calif. production company that is behind a new Sofía Vergara reality show and other offerings.
In Venezuela, Isla has found fertile ground online because most private television channels quit making political humor programs for fear of government reprisals, said Laureano Márquez, 49, a well-known Venezuelan standup comedian and writer, who was sued by the administration for a column he wrote in the Tal Cual newspaper.
“This is a sense of humor that makes us reflect and think about our situation,” he said of Isla. “It’s humor that is helping us overcome the tragedy that is this government.”
Emilio Lovera is the standup comedian who does all the voices for the program. While the show is edgy and often puerile (Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto tries to bribe the producers to have an affair with Argentina’s Kirchner, for example) the team always tries to find a balance.
“We have our limits,” he said. “Often we ask ourselves ‘Are we trying to make the audience laugh or simply trying to make a point?’ If we can’t make a point without making you laugh, then it’s out.”
Lovera said Chávez’s absence during last month’s episode made other characters stand out. There’s the lovesick Morales, Juan Carlos I, the king of Spain, who spouts racial slurs, and the pornographic and senseless ramblings of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
“We thought we would miss him,” Lovera said of the Chávez character. “But now we realize he’s not the only one.”