There's nothing more culturally specific than humor, experts say. By understanding the sense of humor of a place, you can better understand the local culture.
That makes the success of Argentine comedy group Les Luthiers all the more extraordinary. Throughout their four decades of existence, they've managed to tap into a common sense of humor across Latin America and the Iberian peninsula. So people across the Spanish-speaking world were saddened over the death of Daniel Rabinovich, one of founding members of Les Luthiers. He died August 21, 2015, at 71 years old from a heart condition, which had affected him for some time.
Perhaps one of the reasons this comedy group's popularity transcended borders, including the Atlantic ocean, was their use of the Spanish language as a source for laughs. Far from slapstick humor, mockery, sexism and dirty jokes that are very characteristic of Hispanic comedy, Les Luthiers made use of wordplay and music, and referenced diverse themes such as psychoanalysis, math and epistemology.
Here is a memorable monologue in Spanish from Rabinovich, in which his very sophisticated wordplay – misreading words in a biography of fictional composer Johann Sebastian Mastropiero — left the audience in stitches more than once:
As the name suggests, the group Les Luthiers makes their own instruments, which really are the fruit of their imagination and artisan work. Such is the case of their musically modified typewriter called the “dactilófono”:
Les Luthiers humor could also transcend language barriers. The jokes and laughter of the shows came not from only the words, but also from music and sometimes as far reaching as math. Many YouTube fans have dedicated their time to translating scenes from famous shows into English for international audiences, challenging the old principle that humor does not translate well:
Mónica Maristain, from Mexican journalism outlet Sin Embargo, collected Rabinovich's most endearing moments, which tell a good part of his history:
Era el más especial en un grupo formado por tipos súper especiales y su muerte fue la de un ser cercano, la de un pariente al que sabíamos enfermo y al que, sin embargo, no estábamos muy dispuestos a dejarlo ir […] Recordémoslo. Y volvamos a reír. También a llorar, por esta enorme pérdida.
In a group of special people, he was the most special. His death is like that of someone close to you. That of a relative who we knew was sick, who nevertheless we were not ready to let go of. […] Remember him and we'll once again laugh. Also cry for this enormous loss.
Cultural figure like cartoonists and comedians Liniers, Montt y Soto came together to pay tribute on Twitter and YouTube:
Despertarse y que te rompan el corazón. Gracias, Daniel. #Rabinovich pic.twitter.com/PSCLyxzOsb
— Liniers (@porliniers) August 21, 2015
Wake up heartbroken.Thank you Daniel.
No podría llorar por Daniel Rabinovich. Me hizo llorar de la risa tantas veces, que con eso basta.
— alberto montt (@albertomontt) August 21, 2015
I could not cry for Daniel Rabinovich. He made me cry from laughter so many times that it was enough.
In the following video, cartoonist Soto draws Rabinovich as an angel doing in heaven what he used to do on earth: humor and music.
The rest of the group is continuing on with their show Viejos Hazmerreíres because, according to the members’ explanation, that's what Daniel Rabinovich would have wanted — to continue making people laugh.