I have personally discovered a whole new genre of cultural self-expression on YouTube. And I believe it has been around awhile, ever since my brother and I filmed our Portuguese grandparents doing silly stuff (like singing Bob Hope songs to any waiter who would listen, GRANDPA!! Those bartenders in Cascais aren’t thanking you for any memories!!). We in the 1990’s however, had no YouTube to disseminate such private evidence of insanity.
Now everyone with an iPhone and a Portuguese grandparent can be a channel unto him or herself. There are rapping grandmas, singing grandmas (and this is not Amália as your grandma….yeeessh), and observational videos of grandmas. As in “the Portuguese grandma likes to preen herself near but not at the picnic table at a festa, while talking to Mrs. Pereira, whom she detestes since the debacle at the beauty shop! Brought to you by Mutual of Omaha…..” I just made that up. It’s just old ladies at picnic tables. There is an entire subgenre of old women being asked to say http://www.YouTube.com. Why? No really, WHY???
I apologize that this woman looks like she’s eleven. Yes, I realize she’s Brazilian. Shut up.
The best of all of them is a veritable YouTube library (which has been featured on Portuguese TV) by Jeffrey of Popsick Productions. Jeff might look like a Canadian Millennial with an iphone too many, but he really does capture the heart and soul of the comedic intergenerational tension within Portuguese diaspora. As in Grandma really isn’t surprised or too sick of his shit, but she’s all about waving her arms and letting Jeff know what he REALLY should be doing.
Azorean by way of Toronto, Jeff’s grandmother is the subject of his 2-3 minute vignettes. In most of them, Jeff is annoying her to the point of exhaustion with some silly but harmless construct, like making noise while she’s trying to balance her soup bowl or singing the Folger’s theme song when other people in the house are trying to sleep. Grandma comes out with the speed and alacrity of a Pac Man ghost monster to whack him back into place, but at the same time, we’re just left both laughing and crying as we recognize the similarities to our own grandmother’s gestures, nightgowns, black smocklike uniform, and doilies precipitating from every heavy piece of wooden furniture. Sure, that’s hardly my Gramma, but it’s kinda like…. home.
There is a tension here; the boy Jeff is about to become Jeff the Man. On the cusp of adulthood, which no one is really ready for, lot less the precious male grandchild of a Portuguese grandmother, our Grandmother here appears to be feeling some tension that her charge is still, shall we say, boyish…..
Perhaps I judge the Popsick’s manhood too harshly. A lot of comments on YouTube cut him down for showing great disrespect to his grandmother. But I doubt his grandmother is not a conspirator. I’d be shocked if she was some total bumpkin who thought Jeff’s light box was there to steal her soul. Come on. She knows full well why she’s the hilarious butt of Jeff’s practical jokes. There is also a certain amount of affection in the videos- she is never in a negative light; it’s more like looking at unposed family pictures, the ones that don’t make it into the frames. It’s an edited, setup, slice o’ life that reveals something about who we are.
I am not a wiz at the history of humor in Portuguese literature and filmic representation. But I am a wiz at making Portuguese people to whom I’m related laugh until they pee. And they are NOT just laughing at my language skills. But I am going out on a limb here saying that absurdity in our humor IS OUR Humor. From my grandfather running into a French throughfare screaming “I am the Bastard Son of David Ben-Gurion” to a houseful of papa secos, randomness is king. We are the random ones. And why I am so amazingly random finally makes sense. Or maybe I’m giving Jeff too much credit. Oh…. well.
It also makes me a bit sad. This will never work when my Portuguese-born mother becomes a grandmother. I can see her. She would just roll her eyes.
Being Chato* is Our Birthright!! Shine on, Papasick!
*It’s a word meaning boring, or flat, or exactly what Jeff was being when he kept repeating the Folgers theme song.