January 15, 2022 8:43 am
When an actor makes a joke, he has to say it with a straight face. This is one of the fundamental rules of comedy according to David Zucker, American director and screenwriter among the authors of one of the funniest films ever, The craziest plane in the world. If there is anyone in Italy who seems to have made this lesson his own, it is Valerio Lundini. The Roman comedian, host and author gave a good shake to the world of Italian comedy with his broadcast A piece of Lundini, aired for the first time in September 2020 in the late evening on Rai 2 and renewed in 2021 for a second season after the success of audiences and critics. He came to success after collaborating with Lillo and Greg and Nino Frassica. Describing his style is not easy, because it is very contaminated by various languages, but nonsense and surreal are certainly the two most present keys in his way of doing television. A type of comedy that might seem niche, but which actually managed to make its way into the general public, as also demonstrated by his forays in Sanremo and in the program dance with me by Roberto Bolle.
“I’ve never been a fan of comedy programs, but I had a passion for the cinema of Mel Brooks and the trio formed by Jim Abrahams and the brothers David and Jerry Zucker. As a child I was used to seeing comedians on TV as people that the presenter treated like morons and I thought: ‘But I would never want to be like this’. In their films, on the other hand, there were serious people like Leslie Nielsen, who came from dramatic roles and could have been my father. I admired their composure, the ability to be funny without making strange faces “, says Lundini in connection on Zoom from a hotel in Pesaro, where he is on tour with his theatrical show The mansplaining explained to my daughter (which will be in Rome on 15, 16 and 17 January and will continue until the end of the month). “I’ve never liked big dick characters like Jim Carrey, I’d rather die than make faces he does. Making people laugh for me means taking real people and not specks. It always bothered me that The craziest plane in the world and similar films were called crazy, everything else seemed crazy to me, ”he adds.
Sitting in the hotel room, Lundini is about to leave for Bologna, the next tour date, and is wearing a black sweatshirt with a phosphorescent yellow writing, “Migozima”. “It looks like a Japanese thing, but in reality a barber from Trieste gave it to me, in Trieste dialect it simply means ‘I’m cold’,” he explains. “It’s strange: I see on Instagram that all the famous people on TV give crazy things. Usually they only give me T-shirts, and once a mortadella, which for heaven’s sake was very good “.
How does it feel to carry out a tour during a pandemic? “By now I’ve got used to the context, it already seems like a miracle to be able to do the shows. People have masks, that’s weird, but maybe it’ll make it even stranger to go back to the theater when this is all over, if it ever ends. I was in London a couple of months ago and the public doesn’t wear masks there, I was disoriented ”.
But regarding the audience of his shows, Lundini also noted another thing: “In those I did before gaining experience on TV there were certainly fewer people, all between 25 and 30-40 years old. Now, however, for some reason that I myself find it hard to explain, the extracts from my program have spread among super-young people, as Elio called them, who maybe just watch my stuff on the internet, without even turning on the TV. I happen to find myself in front of people of nineteen or twenty who may have never been to the theater before except with their parents. It is surprising”.
What effect does this have on Lundini’s writing? Does it ever happen to him to think of a sketch as a function of its use on the internet? “A piece of Lundini it was conceived from the beginning to be a decomposable program, to create situations that did not close. The way the internet rehashes certain things, on the one hand, is positive because it gives them a second life. Once you saw things on TV once and they stayed in your head for two years, now it is inconceivable that something can no longer be replicated. At the moment the main life of these sketches is on the internet, the TV seems to be just a preview. At the same time, however, the effect meme it’s dangerous: think of Lillo, who during Lol he said two or three times’ I know ‘Lillo’ and it seems that in his long career he has only made that line, ”he replies.
About Lol, the Amazon Prime comedy program that made a resounding success in Italy, is it true that they asked him to join the cast of the second season? He doesn’t answer, he turns around: “I won’t be in Lol 2, that’s all I can say ”. And the third season of A piece of Lundini, it will do? Also on this he avoids answering: “I have a lot of fun with Emanuela Fanelli, Giovanni Benincasa and the other people who work on the program. Thanks to Patch then I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people like Max Pezzali. The fear would be to ruin everything because I run out of ideas, which is my great fear. But actually, if I think about it, I have several things to do in mind. Anyway let’s see, I still don’t know if it will be done or not ”.
One of the most interesting things his show did was deconstruct the genre of the TV interview, turning it into a moment of pure nonsense. Where did that idea come from? “I was inspired by the things I saw in the afternoon on television and on the internet. It wasn’t so much a parody, most of the interviews were about things I really wanted to ask guests. For me the best were those with characters I didn’t know very well, like Carlo Cottarelli or Sandra Milo. I was often really uncomfortable with them, and this made them even more interesting ”.
And how do you live them as an interviewee? “A little bad, actually. I always think I don’t have much to say. Sometimes they ask me ‘What was your childhood like?’ and I’m not sure what to answer. I had a normal life, in Rome, I went to school and in the afternoon I stayed at home, I watched TV, I had some friends. I’m afraid that if I tell too much about myself I will disappoint the reader. Or in interviews like these I get anxious because how much effort the interviewer has to do to transcribe everything. And then, once they are published, I never reread them, because I’m afraid of looking like a fool, of being misunderstood. It’s a bit like Zerocalcare’s cartoon on quotation marks, you know? Once an interview came out with the phrase: ‘I only enjoy it because I look crazy’, something I’ve never said in my life ”.
Music is also very present in Lundini’s comic universe: from the curtain on “fucking rock” with Måneskin to the one on trap with rapper Carl Brave. Among other things, Lundini has been pianist and keyboardist of the fifties rock band Vazzanikki for years, who wanted to A piece of Lundini both atOtherFestival in 2020. “I’ve always been passionate about music. I started playing as a child because Santa Claus brought me a small twenty-note piano. And I learned to play Sheriff of the Oliver Onions by finding the notes by ear. I took a few classical music lessons when I was a kid, then I just started playing things like boogie woogie. In high school I wanted to start a 1950s rock band, but without the internet it was impossible to find a double bass player. In the end we managed to put together a group, the VazzaNikki. We had fun, we did American rock’n’roll and our own songs, and for me it was a lot of ground when it comes to being on stage. And then we could divide the bullshit we talked about on stage by five ”.
And what music does he like? “I was born in 1986 and I trained in the nineties: my reference date is 1997, which has produced great albums such as Be here now by Oasis, the first one I bought myself in a record store, and Urban hymns of the Verve. I wasn’t much of a Nirvana school, I was more into britpop. I have been a fan of Oasis for years, they did hilarious interviews and wrote great songs, not only the best known, but also small hidden treasures like Let’s all make believe, the b side of the single Go let it out”.
When he speaks, Valerio Lundini seems to weigh heavily on words, as if he was always afraid of getting the wrong message across. He is kind and helpful, but also cautious, scrupulous. He always mentions dates and names with great precision. He seems to have prepared himself as if he had to write this interview himself, as if it were a sliver that came out of his program and still wanted to try to dominate it as much as possible. In the meantime it is a little late, he has to leave for Bologna. But first he is keen to say: “Thank you, good work and good transcription. I hope it won’t take too long ”.