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It’s now 2021 and things are pretty much the same. Yes, we managed to secure the right to free and safe legal abortion. Yes, many businesses have reopened … but, at least on a personal level, things have stayed more or less the same. As the “essential woman” that I am, I go to work, I go to the gym, I eat, sleep and… well, that’s it. Not much more than that. The boring parts of my everyday life are marching on, while the things that I really want to do are still prohibited or fill me with pandemic paranoia. As Marge would say, “at times like this, I guess all you can do is laugh.”
Luckily, the public TV network has acknowledged that TV is a service, and every Friday they provide us with a dose of that wonderful drug called Todo x 2 pesos, in my opinion the best Argentine comedy program of the last few decades. So that, at least for a little while, we can laugh again.
“Todo x 2 pesos” translates for “everything for two pesos”. Perhaps you are too young to know this (or too foreign or both), but at the start of the two thousands (as I like to refer to that decade) Argentina was doing “SO WELL” and we were “SO FLUSH” with imports that these stores carrying products of dubious origin and quality began popping up everywhere. Where a (now extinct) two peso bill would buy you all sorts of treasures.
Well, there is a bit of that spirit in the premise of the show. From the fictitious studios of Channel 7 in Miami, hosts Mario (Diego Capusotto) and Marcelo (Fabio Alberti) welcome us to an orchestrated chaos where anything can happen. A string of situations and sketches in the framework of a gloriously nonsensical show that makes fun of everyone and everything. But above all, it makes fun of Argentina, its TV, its star system and its illusions of grandeur. Basically, Todo x 2 Pesos is garbage. But it tries to be garbage. It is our garbage. It skirts the line between shoddiness due to a lack of technical or monetary resources, and shoddiness for pure comedic value.
That’s the thing. Todo x 2 Pesos wants to make you laugh. Without much pretense, without much academicism. It’s trying to elicit that same belly laugh like when you see someone fall over, when you hear a terrible joke, when something is so ridiculous that it overwhelms you.
This might sound a bit familiar to you if you are a Peter Capusotto superfan. Well, Todo x 2 Pesos is the origin of the Capusotto / Saborido partnership, where “Peter” Saborido fulfilled the role of director together with Nestor Montalbano. And if we want to get even more granular, we could trace the origins of both programs in Cha-cha-cha, the show that only a few people liked back in the nineties and over time became a cult hit. And do you know who was on that show (apart from Alfredo Casero, the man who made us cry with laughter and then broke our hearts with his libertarianism)? That’s right, Capusotto and Alberti.
We could say that Todo x 2 Pesos is a clear example of a crisitunity, of being reborn from the ashes of failure. Because the show that we all remember as one of the greatest successes of TV Pública started out as a ratings failure at the channel formerly known as Azul Televisión (what we now know as Canal 9).
In 1999 the program had a short season on that channel and then moved permanently to the state channel, where viewership began to rise. We could call it the Field of Dreams effect (or Waynestock) effect: “If you put it on the air, they will watch it.” From the start of 2000 until the end of 2002, the little comedy program on public television grew until it became the beautifully trashy mega-production that nobody wanted to miss.
The Todo x 2 Pesos phenomenon was such that, at one point, the line to attend a live recording extended past a block and a half. A friend and I used to play hooky at school to go watch it, and we were never disappointed. Because not only were we awestruck by the experience of “watching how TV is made,” we also loved to watch all the actors, actresses and bands that would make appearances. So in addition to watching the program, there was a mini-concert. A lot of musicians appeared on the show: Cerati, La Renga, Babasónicos, Jairo, Adriana Varela. Rock, folklore, tango. All genres were comedy fodder.
Todo x 2 Pesos made an art out of the economy of resources. One of my favorite things is seeing how they used each and every corner of Canal Siete to record. Taking over all common spaces. Making everyone act, from actors to crew members to people from the audience.
And yes, it’s true that some jokes have not aged as well as we would like, but this is true of virtually all comedy. Are we really going to cancel a joke from the past? Do the Carlitos Balá sketches really hurt anyone? I can’t get angry now about the extremely basic jokes they made out of the slur “puto.” I really think that reducing the show to that criticism is more basic than the joke itself. But above all, I believe that we weren’t all born woke. Though we were simply laughing 20 years ago, now we are in a constant state of questioning and examining what exactly we are laughing at, and whether it is still funny.
So friend, do yourself a favor. Give Peter Capusotto’s “father program” a chance (incidentally, if you catch it on TV Publica you can have a double feature, since Peter’s show comes after Todo x 2 Pesos). Let yourself experience this gloriously shambolic show. Sing along with all the songs in the ranking. Allow yourself to be a total boluda with Coti Nosiglia. Try to understand “what happens to us Argentines.” Let Irma Jusid advise you. And always remember: cuidate, querete; ojito, ojete.