Really?! Yes – there is a political satire show aimed at young people, and it’s not Los Rayos Gamma™ 2.0. En Serio is broadcast on channel 30 (Play TV) in Puerto Rico, Sundays at 6pm, and through their website.
It’s inspired mainly by successful American political satire shows – blending Stephen Colbert’s irreverence, Jon Stewart’s social commentary and Bill Maher’s panel discussions, and adapting those influences for a young Puerto Rican audience with topics of interest and local guests. To date, En Serio’s studio has hosted a healthy mix of politicians, bloggers, analysts, musicians and activists.
With the show's first season officially over, we sent some questions to En Serio’s anchorman, Alejandro Díaz, in order to learn more about his experience with the show and its production process. The resulting interview is a great way to familiarize yourselves with the show before the start of its second season, scheduled to begin during this month (September 2011).
Global Voices (GV): For those who haven’t tuned in yet, what is ¿¡En Serio!?, and where can you catch the show?
Alejandro Díaz (AD): En Serio is a political satire show produced with the intention of reporting the weekly news in a humorous way, thus setting us apart from traditional media and their manner of reporting, which never breaks the surface. You can tune in on Sundays at 6pm, on channel 30 (on local Puerto Rican television station Play TV). You can also watch us on Mondays from 6pm through our website achoenserio.com [es], where all of our episodes are uploaded.
GV: How did this project come into being? Was it always meant to be broadcast through both TV and the Internet?
AD: It was our producer’s (Juan Marrero) idea. Juan came to me with the concept more than two years ago, but it wasn’t anything tangible. None of us thought it would materialize. Last summer, we attempted to start working on the show, made exclusively for the Internet. But our lack of discipline kept us from even writing a script. Last February, Juan calls me up and tells me that the owner of local channel 30 (Play TV) was interested in the show – that he wouldn’t censor us, and that he would allow us to put all the episodes online. It was very important for us to be able to upload all episodes to the Internet because our target audience spends more time online than in front of the TV set. Besides, there aren’t that many shows that do that sort of thing in Puerto Rico.
GV: Do you have any academic background on media production? Who or what inspired you to make a show about political commentary, discussion, and satire?
AD: I have no academic background on production, but I’ve worked in many production projects. My father was a publicist for years, and I used to help him out in the sets for his ads. I also worked with my brother in some short films he made. I never expected to work in production, and I wasn’t interested in being in front of the cameras either, but Juan’s idea got me really motivated. I’m a fan of politics, but I’ve never been fond of how they treat political topics on our island. I used to get embarrassed when my friends turned on my car’s stereo and it happened to be tuned to AM radio.
GV: How many people are involved in the show’s production? How long does it take to make an episode?
AD: Right now, there’s 5 of us, and it takes us 5 days to make a complete episode. On Wednesdays we meet up to discuss the most relevant topics and to decide which of those have the most potential for comedy. This meeting is very important because it is where we decide the angle from which we will report each news piece, and we are at disadvantage because we’re the last show to discuss any topic on a typical news cycle since we air on Sundays. On Thursdays and Friday mornings, I write the script. We record the monologue and panel discussion on Friday nights. On Saturdays, our art director (Alfredo Bermúdez) works on all the required images and edits the recordings from his home. By 6pm on Sunday, Alfredo has a finished show, and we do the interview live.
GV: How do you decide whom to invite to the show, either for an interview or a discussion panel?
AD: We try to have young people that ascribe to different societal and economical ideologies (conservatives vs. liberals) for the discussion panel. We’re not interested in partisan debates because they’ve proved to be of no use at all as a solution to anything. Besides, there’s WKAQ [es] and RadioIsla [es] for that. In the next few months we’re going to try new things with the panel. We want political discussions to be more humorous without losing substance. We also have a discussion panel about films, plus other pending panels about sports and music. Some of the guests are friends of ours, others have been referred to us. We’ve even met some of them through Twitter.
I have to admit I don’t have a set system when it comes to choosing guests. Usually, Juan comes up with a name, then I come up with another, until we come to an agreement. The difficulty in getting a hold of them factors into our decision.
GV: Which is the most difficult: the monologue, the interview or the discussion panel? Which part of your job is your favorite, and why?
AD: The most difficult is the monologue. Preparing it takes the most time in the production stage, and it’s an emotional investment. That’s why I think it’s my favorite part as well. Seeing the final product and hearing the audience’s reactions and laughter is very gratifying.
GV: Who would you like to interview in the future? Is there anyone you wouldn’t interview?
AD: I’d like to interview Alejandro García Padilla, since he conveyed interest in coming to the show before announcing his candidacy [for local governor], but we don’t exist for him anymore. Apparently, channel 30 is below his level now. I confess that I’d also like to interview Ruben Sánchez [a local TV and radio personality] and spend the entire interview interrupting him [as he does frequently on his interviews].
GV: Who constitutes the show’s audience? What are you doing to make the numbers grow?
AD: Our audience is composed of young people – students and professionals interested in local and global politics. We’ve worked to make our audience grow by handing out flyers in places where they gather. We’ve also been reviewed by local newspapers, and our press releases have been published. Another medium that has covered the show is the Puerto Rican blogosphere.
GV: I imagine you watch shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher… Do you have a favorite? Who has the best monologue, in your opinion?
AD: Of course I watch them! They were the inspiration for this project. My favorite, even though I know some of my colleagues think otherwise, is Jon Stewart. Stewart has achieved what I aspire to: a balance between comedy and information. Stewart is the happy medium between Colbert and Maher. He’s not as serious as Maher, nor as silly as Colbert. For most young people, these shows – along with the Internet and social networks – are their main news sources. That is what we aspire to be.
We want to be one of the primary news sources for Puerto Rico's youth. Behind our cynicism and satire are actual facts that help keep our audience informed.