Over the last twenty years, Venezuela’s political, economic, and social crisis has forced more than five million people to leave the country. The harsh circumstances forced many Venezuelan professionals to seek employment opportunities abroad. In performing arts, Mexico has represented a significant destination for many artists who seek to boost their careers. Drawing on a digital ethnography, this study describes the professional experience of 11 Venezuelan stand-up comedians who migrated to Mexico City between 2015 and 2018 and identified the main struggles they faced developing their identity work in the new Mexican milieu. Identity work is a growing interest for scholars of media and communication studies and professionals in the media and creative industries, particularly now since the cultural sector requires multi-skilling and de-specialization of labor. Such working conditions increasingly rely on individualization, self-promotional strategies, effective public relationships, and networking. This research provides a significant case of study of public relationships and professional networks, as the Venezuelan comedians studied needed to build these links to develop their careers and earn a living upon arriving in Mexico City. This study argues that to define their identity work and find a balance between authenticity and integration in the new Mexican context, the Venezuelan stand-up comedians reconfigure their self-narratives and aspire to become universal comedians. After the first migration struggles and tensions with the Mexican audience and the comedy industry, the comedians claimed that they had to improve their utterance, understood the local audience better, and strived to tell universal stories. Moreover, they have acknowledged the importance of keeping authentic to themselves and their audience. And finally, they have implemented social media practices to stay in contact with their audience, especially podcasting which has become their primary strategy to create new comedy content and reach new audiences. This study has implications for other creative areas and performing arts in which high levels of individualization, unstructured work environment, and uncertainty are the norm. Additionally, it might be valuable for other comedians, creative entrepreneurs, and the cultural and creative media industry by providing an inside perspective of the nature and type of struggles, tensions, and professional development strategies involved in the stand-up comedy business. Finally, the study offers insights into creative professionals’ development in migration processes, especially under challenging circumstances such as the current Venezuelan political and social crisis.

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Dr. Christian Ritter
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Samuel Hernández Moncallo. (2021, July 31). No Laughing Matters: Struggles in Identity Work of Venezuelan Stand-Up Comedians in Mexico City. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/60509