San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Comedians Tour Costa Rica

Performing comedy in English in Costa Rica is a pretty daunting task, but, for the second year in a row, three young comedians from New York City gave it their best shot. Over the course of the past week, stand-up acts Josh Filipowski, Mike Ennis and Gabe Pacheco performed seven shows in eight nights across Costa Rica, hitting both coasts and the Central Valley.

Last Friday night in the Central Pacific beach town of Jacó, the group performed for a crowd of about 30 at the delectable second-story restaurant Lemon Zest, overlooking Jacó’s main drag. Though the roof wasn’t jarred from its foundation by raucous laughter, the group showed promise for what they hope will become careers in the elusive comedy field.

Filipowski, who organized the event, opened the show and served as emcee. Having lived in Costa Rica a year, he concentrated much of his act on Tico culture, language and the experience of being a Gringo in Latin America.

He touched on the origin of the often-used Tico word “mae” (roughly translated as “dude”), quipped about the notion of naming his dog “Tranquilo” (“Relax”) and referred to a somewhat infamous Jacó bar as the “prostitute prom.” More charming than hysterically funny, his observations did garner some chuckles from the foreign-resident crowd that could relate to the extranjero experience.

Filipowski was followed by Mike Ennis, who performs stand-up in New York City and whose resume includes a “Law and Order” TV credit. Ennis’ set was laden with self-deprecatory remarks about his weight – he referred to himself as a “deflated muffin” – and jokes about his deafness in one ear. Ennis, like Filipowski, had his moments of good material, though he didn’t quite bring down the house with his set. His final comment earned him his biggest laughs of the evening: Recognizing the waning crowd interest, he shrugged and said, “Well, enjoy your food.”

The show saved its best act for last, as comedian Gabe Pacheco was able to reel the crowd back in for the final 30 minutes of the show. Pacheco’s confident delivery and infectious stage presence ameliorated any crowd indifference, as all eyes turned to him as he riffed on himself, making fun of his Mexican heritage and Jewish appearance, and recounted an instance when he was working at a fast food restaurant and had to serve his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Pacheco seemed to enjoy himself onstage, and the crowd followed, with the hit-and-miss night ending on an irrefutably high note.

“I’m glad I stayed until the end,” an audience member said after the show. “(Pacheco) was really funny and kept me interested in his stories. You can tell he’s a pretty talented guy.”

This was the second Costa Rican Comedy Festival organized by Filipowski, who put together the first in March of last year. Filipowski, who is returning to the United States shortly, said he is unsure whether or not a third festival will be held in 2011.

“It’s a ton of fun to do this here,” he said. “I love Costa Rica and doing comedy, and it’s been great to have two of my friends here to travel the country and make people laugh. I hope to come back here as many years as we can.”

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