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El Mundo Today keeps Spanish satire alive and kicking

A satirical duo are making sure the po-faced defenders of Spanish culture have plenty to worry about.

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Child's play: having a laugh at Miró's expense. Photo: elmundotoday.com.

Who said Spanish satire was dead?  Well, I did, for one. Discouraged by the disappearance of TV latex puppets Los Guiñol and their real-life counterparts on Caiga quien caiga, and disheartened by the lack of laughs afforded by El Jueves magazine, it seemed to me the satirical landscape looked worryingly barren.

But things suddenly looked a good deal rosier when I came across a string of news-related-but-not-quite-real headlines on website elmundotoday.com: “He shot at a wild boar, thinking it was his mother-in-law”, or “Argument over Dostoyevksy sparks Latin Kings gang fight”, or, more topically, “Congress approves law of the jungle”.

El Mundo Today is run by Xavi Puig and Kike García, whose regular “news” bulletins take an absurdist view of Spanish news and culture, but with a deadpan delivery. The Latin Kings fight, as the site tells it, began due to a disagreement between members of the violent Latino group over the influence of Dostoyevsky on Friedrich Nietzsche.

“The goddam arseholes smashed his head in for saying that Stendhal is more important as an influence because, of Dostoyevsky’s work, he’d only read a translation of L’ésprit souterrain,” laments one traumatised witness of the altercation.

This kind of news item is a close cousin of the work of Chris Morris, the British satirist behind Brass Eye and The Day Today and the inventor of headlines such as “What now for man raised by puffins?” El Mundo Today’s story about a Basque man called Patxi who has been added to the periodic table could have come straight out of Morris’ warped imagination. The Onion is another obvious reference point, although while the self-deprecating Puig and García insist the US website and newspaper is “a lot better than what we do”, they deny any influence.

But whatever its roots, El Mundo Today is hilarious and a refreshing antidote to those who take Spanish news, media and culture too seriously. Its creators have revealed little –if any– grand motive behind what they do and if anything have insisted that it’s just a bit of fun. “Robots, babies and old people are funny – what’s more, old people always like nice in photos,” they told TV station La Sexta in a short interview, as they tried to explain their inspirations. But their articles and clips (the site now features low-budget TV sketches) often take aim at particularly Spanish targets.

“The little boy who painted Joan Miró’s pictures has died” is a headline that will strike a chord for anyone who has guiltily muttered “a kid could do that” when regarding the oeuvre of the great surrealist. And the apology issued by Madrid’s famously vacuous regional broadcaster Telecinco for “accidentally” showing eight seconds of a serious documentary instead of its usual diet of moronic celebrity title-tattle speaks volumes about the state of the country’s television.

When asked by La Sexta what kind of real-life headlines make them laugh, García replies:  “What the economy minister said: ‘Everyone should be optimistic about 2010…except the unemployed’ – we would never come up with that because it’s just too good.”

With gaff-prone and corrupt politicians to aim at and a politicised, erratic media reporting the nation’s happenings, the well of inspiration is indeed bountiful for any aspiring Spanish satirist right now. But in another interview, cited by blogger Agustín Fernández Mallo, Puig reveals perhaps the main reason why his and García’s “mundo” works: “We want to be funny without doing the ‘I’m a funny guy’ thing – and that’s an attitude that is conspicuous by its absence in this country’s humour.”

Long may they run.




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Published: Oct 22 2010
Category: Culture
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=1557
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