“Propaganda Machine”, an annual sketch comedy show, is proving to be an ideal showcase for a cast of 15 comedians who have the flair and energy to perform in 20 hilarious sketches over 90 minutes through June 29 at the Villain Theater in the Little Haiti district of Miami.

Written by a team of comedians headed by Villain Theater co-owner Peter Mir, “Propaganda Machine” has been popular fare at the Villain Theater for the past three years. The current version of the annual “Propaganda Machine” show has been running weekly each Saturday night since early May.

Villian Theater co-owner Peter Mir (center) with entire cast of “Propaganda Machine”, running now through June 29 at Villain Theater in the Little Hait district of Miami. Credit: Stephen Panos

“What makes the show work so well is the dedication and teamwork involved by the cast to prepare the skits, the costumes and preparation for the many characters created on the stage,” said Mir, who co- founded Villain Theater in 1995 with fellow comedian Jannelys Santos.

Many in the cast have been working in “Propaganda Machine” for several years and first met Mir and Santos by taking comedy classes at Villain Theater to adapt themselves to the fast pace and comic timing that is fundamental to the success of each performance.

After watching a recent performance of “Propaganda Machine” with over 60 people in attendance, one can see so many similarities in the fast pace and visual comedy in “Propaganda Machine” to the television comedy series “Saturday Night Live” and live shows at the “Second City” venues in Chicago and Toronto.

Acting as host, comedian Thomas LaMountain opened the show with a monologue that connected immediately when he said “I’m not from Miami, that is why I am polite” before continuing with many one line jokes for the first few minutes.

From left to right: Comedians Thomas LaMountain and Alex Cacciamani in the “Am I In The Wrong Game Show” sketch in “Propaganda Machine”, running now through June 29 at Villain Theater in the Little Haiti disrict of Miami. Credit: Stephen Panos

Following his monologue, LaMountain went backstage and joined each of the cast members to perform the sketches in pairs and trios. Many of the sketches had so numerous hilarious moments and scenes that it was hard for anyone in the audience to stop laughing. Part of the reason that the skits proved to be so funny is that many universal themes and familiar situations were in the show. For example, in a sketch called “Bible Broadcast Lounge”, the comedians parodied the antics of famed television evangelists and their desire to deem as “good Christians” only those followers who donated large sums of money. One of the lines “Christ is not coming back because you are not sending enough money” and the discussion about buying a “Jesus Plane” drew nonstop laughs.

Another sketch had a game show format titled “Am I In The Wrong?” featuring LaMountain as host asking contestants who is in the right or wrong as in the scene about a staff worker forgetting to mop up one spot on the floor. The humor in the sketch came from the host, who is married, manipulating the contestants and the audience into accepting his many extra-marital affairs.

Some of the sketches were funny because of situations that were unique in Miami.   For example, in a sketch about the impact of a devil and his followers, the devil (comedian Michael Cunill) said Miami is his ideal city because “I made the commissioners corrupt, I made the drivers refuse to signal when turning and I made the buses and Metrorail slow and unreliable.”

One sketch about homelessness in Miami had a homeless man charge $40 to carry a woman over a wet puddle in her path. When the woman asked if the homeless man could break, a $50 bill, he said “no” to much laughter.

From left to right: Comedians Tarek Turjuman and Alvaro D’Amico in the “Genie sketch” in “Propaganda Machine”, running now though July 29 at Villain Theater in the Little Haiti district of Miami. Credit: Stephen Panos

A memorable sketch was a modern take on the “Genie and the lamp” fable. The genie (comedian Tarek Turjuman) tells the lamp rubber (comedian Alvaro D’Amico) he can only have one wish, but when he asked the genie for world peace or to solve the Middle East conflict, the genie said that only his babysitter can solve those problems and granted only a wish for his personal need. The audience laughed heartily when the genie brought on stage the item that the lamp rubber wanted.

Other memorable sketches included “an all-night work session”, “a battle of two Jesuses who wanted to return to Earth from Heaven”, “a blind date”, “an all you can eat Spanish sushi bar”, among others.

Along with references to local Miami landmarks, one of the sketches (“a birthday party”) involved physical comedy involving celebrating a birthday party with LeMountain taking a cake in the face.

From left to right: Comedians Alvaro D’Amico, Christina Arguelles, Michael Cunill in the “Devil sketch” in “Propaganda Machine”, running now through June 29 at Villain Theater in the Little Haiti district of Miami.

Adding to the sketches were many funny looking costumes, visual gags displayed on a screen and even the use of chains in which cast members were moving clumsily along the floor.

The hard-working cast of comedians in “Propaganda Machine” who excelled both on and offstage are Phillip Agnew, Cristina Arguelles, Alex Cacciamani, Chachi Colon, Michael Cunill, Alvaro D’Amico, Melissa Ezell, Eric Hallock, Thomas LaMountain, Allison Mccoin, Peter Mir, Matthew Mur, Leo Rising, John Rodriguez, Tarek Turjuman and Jannelys Santos.

One notable feature in Villain Theater is the low price of $10 for each ticket with no obligation to buy food or drinks, making Villain Theater more affordable than other South Florida comedy clubs.

“We want to make sure that everyone from all incomes, especially students, can enjoy a funny, entertaining show. The high quality of shows plus our price has contributed to our loyal audiences,” said Mir.

 Along with “Propaganda Machine”, Villain Theater also offers weekly standup comedy shows and numerous comedy classes over the year. Most of the shows feature students who graduated from the classes.

“Propaganda Machine”, a sketch comedy show featuring 15 comedians in 20 comedy sketches will be performed each Saturday night from 8 p.m.- 9:30 p.m. until June 29 at Villain Theater, 5865 NE 2nd Ave. In the Little Haiti district of Miami. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at villaintheater.com or by calling 786-391-2241.

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