One of the odd things about listening to portuguese comedy is not quite being sure what the cultural reference points are. The first time I experienced this was when I was listening to something from Rádio Commercial. Mixórdia de Temáticas? It might have been that. There was a character on it who was talking in a weird high-pitched voice and lisping. My first thought was that he was Spanish because the Spanish lisp their Z and soft C sounds, but that didn’t seem right, and then it hit me he was a comedy gay man. There are… let’s see… *counts on fingers* three types of comedy gay man. The rarest is the scary type – like Uncle Monty from Withnail and I. They’re creeping into your room at night and saying stuff like “I mean to have you even if it must be burglary”, but that wasn’t it.
The second type, and the most common these days, is the sharp-tongued gay man from TV shows who is well-dressed, a great dancer, and with a bottomless well of catty put-downs. He’s usually best friends with the leading woman, maybe sharing her flat, and he is very scornful of her latest boyfriend. Well, needless to say, this type didn’t fit the bill either.
What it reminded me of most Mr Humphries from “Are You Being Served”. Do you know this show? It was inexplicably popular when I was growing up in the seventies and eighties. Well, I say inexplicably, but there was very little else on TV so we didn’t have much choice. Anyway, if you’re my age and British you’ll almost certainly know it, but I think it was sold overseas too, so maybe you yanks will have seen it too. At that time, TV was full of them: Larry Grayson’s screen persona, Gunner Beaumont from “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, and various bit parts in everything from The Dick Emery Show to Carry On. You don’t see many Mr Humphrieses on UK TV these days, for much the same reason as you wouldn’t see a bloke with boot polish on his face calling himself Rangi Ram and saying “youuu blaaaaaddy fooool”: the world has grown up. So hearing this apparent echo from the past speaking Portuguese on Rádio Comercial threw me off balance a bit. Is Portuguese Radio just a bit behind the times? Is there something more intelligent and interesting going on that I’m just not fluent enough to follow? Or was he Spanish after all? Ach, ask me again next year. I might have sussed it out by then.