The Rise Of El Jaguar | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

The Rise Of El Jaguar

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Masked Mexican wrestler El Jaguar cuts quite the figure as he scurries around the venue in his revealing costume, hoping to drum up business in the few minutes before curtain-up.

But he is not who you think he is. The show has very little to do with wrestling – or even character comedy. Instead, behind the paper-thin facade, Derek Flores has created a wonderfully appealing alter-ego, palpably desperate to entertain without, apparently, having much in his arsenal to achieve that. For all his upbeat badinage, his eyes betray a man on the precipice of pathetic.

So with no material, El Jaguar can only offer an hour of crowd work, starting with the usual audience banter questions, before he invites a couple of reluctant volunteers on stage to explore their animalistic side, from which their wresting personas will be created.

If that sounds slight, El Jaguar is well aware of the fact. He tells us to lower our expectations and from the very start graphs out how the gig will progress... down a cliff-face. It’s a joke which he exploits well: in almost every interaction, he exudes a ‘this HAS to work’ wretchedness. The jeopardy seems real; his life is on the ropes, and this flimsy show is all he has, since he’s a disappointment to his father and cannot provide for his son.

In real life, however, Flores is a great and experienced improviser, creating characters out of his audience members and bouncing off their comebacks. Occasionally they are quick-witted gags, but generally it is more conversational, fuelling the seat-of-his-pants feel of borderline chaos that makes the show feel fresh. When the participants he select say or do something stupid, he mocks them affectionately, but he will always be the biggest loser in the room: a grown man dressed so stupidly, trying to make a living from clowning around.

Sometimes the hour’s thin premise leads to lulls, with the interactions going on a little too long, but for the most part Flores – who was formerly part of The 3 Canadians comedy group – keeps the energy buoyed and the silliness coming, for an hour of light-hearted tomfoolery.

Review date: 21 Apr 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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