FICG: The fire, art and chemistry of Liniers & Montt

As a child, Liniers was still called Ricardo Siri and he was an artist with bad luck: his parents gave him such a good childhood that he did not generate those necessary traumas that shape the darkest and most transgressive creators. Although there were small sparks that redirected the Argentine towards drawing, he tells before a crowded auditorium at the Guadalajara International Film Festival during the show Liniers & Montt: Illustrated Stand Up. One boring afternoon, he and two of his cousins ​​made paper boats following the instructions in a magazine and filled the bathtub with water to have a good naval battle. The result was disappointing. So his cousin came up with the idea of ​​smearing the float with alcohol and setting it on fire. By the way, they almost burned down the house too.

The boat made with the pattern of the magazine, defends Liniers this Saturday in June, is the Academy: a design that thousands of people have repeated ad nauseam before. Fire is innovation, groundbreaking: art. The cries of his mother when she discovered them, the criticism. As he speaks, a huge screen behind him shows black marker drawings of a burning ship that his partner-associate-accomplice-friend, fellow illustrator Alberto Montt, has sketched while he was telling his story. And the audience, of course, laughs.

Liniers and Montt, in the Placido Domingo Hall during the presentation of the show ‘Stand Up Illusrado’Robert Antillon

The next morning, Liniers appears in his hotel lobby wearing a Twin Peaks t-shirt, bushy gray beard, large glasses and an old brown leather bag: the artist’s official look indie. After a while Montt also arrives, with a shaved head, a striped shirt and a slow pace. They are the two sides of the same coin: Montt (49 years old), Ecuadorian-Chilean, has a darker and more corrosive vein; Liniers (48 years old), Argentine, declares himself an optimist who still hopes to one day recover the Walkman with a Rolling tape that was stolen from him when he was a teenager. Montt speaks calmly and Liniers shoots words as if he were a hyperactive child. Montt suffers from anxiety and Liniers has a carefree air.

Both are two of the most recognized illustrators in Latin America. Montt, who now lives in a medieval village in France, created the award-winning Daily Doses blog. Liniers lives in Vermont, United States, publishes one cartoon a day and is the creator of the comic strip Macanudo, with the unforgettable character of Enriqueta. In 2018 he won the Eisner, something like the Oscar for comics. On Monday and Tuesday they will also perform in Mexico City, with all tickets sold for the second day.

There are people who generate an undeniable chemistry between them. Liniers and Montt get on stage and the darts begin to fly. Satire, acidity and black humor occupy the entire space of the theater and electrify the atmosphere while these two laugh at each other at anything and for anything. They insult each other with the confidence of old friends. “One of the graces for us is to have a good time, if you don’t laugh this [señala a Liniers] it’s not funny at all. When there is a game between the public and us, it becomes very fun”, says Montt.

Alberto Mont jokes while Liners draws throughout the show.
Alberto Mont jokes while Liners draws throughout the show.Robert Antillon

The show goes like this: Montt begins a monologue about his intestinal problems or his relationship with his daughters. Liniers draws everything, simultaneously. Then, the roles change: Montt illustrates and Liniers begins his speech. A formula that is sustained by the complicity between the couple; between words and strokes; between humor and vignettes. And the public, of course, laughs.

“Chemistry is very hard to come by. You need a combination of half complex things”, says Montt. The two explain the triumph of their show, precisely, in the duality between them, in that special relationship that manages to infect the public with their laughter. It’s like a game, they say, that is built on stage and with the audience, who are challenged at various times.

In the third part of the show, they both sit down and draw at the same time. It’s time to talk about cinema, but in his own personal and delusional way: a theory about how the Titanic could have been saved from sinking if Leonardo DiCaprio had let Kate Winslet’s character commit suicide at the beginning of the film; a subplot of starwars showing the recalcitrant racism of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia against the Wookiees…

—Does drawing live change a lot in the quiet of the studio?

“Yes,” Montt replies, “we are intelligent in slow motion.

—In the show the drawings are expressionist yes or yes—, adds Liniers.

Portraits of the cartoonists Liniers and Alberto Montt, regarding their visit to the 37th edition of the International Film Festival in Guadalajara.
Portraits of the cartoonists Liniers and Alberto Montt, regarding their visit to the 37th edition of the International Film Festival in Guadalajara.Robert Antillon

They started doing the show in 2015. Liniers had just toured with the singer Kevin Johansen. He drew live while he played. He and Montt came up with the idea of ​​adapting the idea to a stand-up. The first show was in Mexico City, in a small room. They liked it, the public too, and they continued. “It became an excuse to see each other, since we met and became friends we have never lived in the same country, we have to do these things to get together and chat”, jokes Liniers, collaborator of The weekly country either The New Yorker.

Since then, the show has evolved. Although they usually follow a few lines as a base, they do not work with a script. “The dynamics of the show is a lot of improvisation and what comes out at that moment, that’s why everything is so stupid, there is a good part that we are laughing at what we do and we don’t know if the rest is funny. Since we don’t have a script, since we’re not professionals at this, the drawings always change. And if the drawing changes, the whole dynamic changes”, explains Montt.

They never rehearse together. Sometimes what the other is going to do is a surprise. Although there are some monologues that do repeat: those are polished over time and performances. They start out simple and expand on it, adding nuance, squeezing the anecdotes until they get all they can out of them. During the pandemic, like the rest of the world, they had to stop. But they wanted to continue doing comedy. “That’s when you need it the most. It is like an escape valve”, says Liniers. Then they started recording life is amazinga podcast in which they talk about any topic, like two friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time and meet for lunch.

At a given moment of Stand Up Illustrated, Montt talks about Will Smith’s slap in the face of Chris Rock at the last Oscars and the recent attack on comedian Dave Chapelle in the middle of a monologue. She has opened the great debate that has haunted comedy in recent years: the limits of humor. “I ask that if someone is offended by a joke, they hit Liniers,” Montt laughs.

“Anything goes in humor?”

“Just like in the movies or the theater.” There are people who take humor as aggression. I don’t want to make racist jokes, but I can talk about race. With black humor you can’t stay with the first reading, normally what you say is the opposite of what you mean. Context is everything,” says Liniers.

And there are people who think that the bullying it’s humor,” Montt points out.

Liniers and Alberto Montt, in the Placido Domingo Hall of the Santander Performing Arts Ensemble.  During the 37th edition of the International Film Festival in Guadalajara.
Liniers and Alberto Montt, in the Placido Domingo Hall of the Santander Performing Arts Ensemble. During the 37th edition of the International Film Festival in Guadalajara.Robert Antillon

For them, art is like a “tangle” that must be unraveled. With many layers, something you have to think twice, not to stay with the first interpretation. A couple of months ago, Montt drew a cartoon in which a brain says to a clitoris, “You feel like the star, but I do a lot of the work, you know?” Someone took offense and replied that he, as a man, could not draw a clitoris. “There is a big problem with the obsession millennial to silence speeches”, considers Montt. Liniers agrees with him: “It is a generation that is understanding that art is making autobiography. And no”. Art is fusion, like cooking, they defend: it drinks from a thousand sources, from a thousand cultures, and that is how it is enriched.

The show is ending. Liniers stands up, tells the last anecdote and farewell, hugs Montt while the Rolling Stones play. You can’t always get what you want. The next day, tired, they will do this interview, they will pose putting faces to the photographer, they will eat with some personalities of the city, they will sign books, they will rest. Mexico City awaits you: fire, art and chemistry.

subscribe here to newsletter of EL PAÍS Mexico and receive all the informative keys of the current affairs of this country