Joaquín Reyes: «Celebrating the Festival of Letters for more than 70 years says a lot about Tomelloso»

On August 30, Joaquín Reyes will go on stage at the Marcelo Grande de Tomelloso. And he will not do it with his show, as our readers know, the man from La Mancha is going to be the Maintainer of the LXXI Festival of Arts and Letters of Tomelloso. When he announced the appointment, the mayor, Inmaculada Jiménez, assured that Reyes fit perfectly with this year’s motto, “Art, Word and Land.”

Joaquín Reyes studied Fine Arts in Cuenca and is a screenwriter, writer, director, cartoonist, actor and comedian. Who does not know this Albacete born in 1974? Since “La Hora Chanante” with Ernesto Sevilla, Raúl Cimas, Julián López, Carlos Areces and Pablo Chiapella, he has been the benchmark for humor from La Mancha. He has worked on television, he has made movies, all without leaving the stage. In 2011 he published “Themselves”, a selection of his best vignettes and in 2021 he published “Rise”, a hilarious novel.

The journalist —a little embarrassed before such an overwhelming resume— finds a close, attentive and humble person. Joaquín Reyes is sincere in an interview in which we mainly talk about culture and in which La Mancha is absolutely present.

—What does it mean to you to be the Maintainer of the Fiesta de las Letras?

—I was very excited when they proposed it to me, because of the personalities who have preceded me, because of the prestige that the Fiesta de las Letras has and also because of being from La Mancha. As you know, we have made the idiosyncrasy of this land the seal of our humour. I feel very happy, really.

— The Festival of Letters is a hallmark of Tomelloso. For more than 70 years, we Tomelloseros have celebrated our festivities honoring letters, art and culture. It’s strange, given these times, that it lasts, isn’t it?

—Culture is not something that is taken care of in principle, in general there is a deficit of it, but on the other hand there are incentives like this one. It is very pleasing that a town suddenly wants to celebrate literature or painting and that, furthermore, there have been so many people from Tomellos dedicated to arts and letters. It surprises and says a lot about Tomelloso.

—I guess you know that Tomelloso is a rare place where, apart from jokes, writers and artists proliferate like mushrooms. We even call ourselves “the Athens of La Mancha”…

—Without a doubt there are very illustrious tomelloseros such as Antonio López or Félix Grande and his family, to whom this year’s Fiesta de las Letras is dedicated, and many more.

—When the mayor announced that you were going to be the maintainer of the festival of letters, she assured that Joaquín Reyes fit in with the slogan of the celebration “Art, Word and Land”, what do you think?

—It is very flattering that you are identified with those three concepts. Of course, it is true that we have used many expressions and the personality of this land for humor. We didn’t do it in a planned way, but something that came about like this, initially because we thought these expressions or words were very funny. Manchego humor is also part of a genealogy, José Luis Cuerda, Millán Salcedo or José Mota, of which we are part.


Let’s start with the art. Comedy, for the Greeks, was unequivocally one of the fine arts, is it still today?

—I believe that comedy is highly valued, at least the public does so. The biggest blockbuster movies are usually comedies and people go to see them in the theater. The public appreciates her, because it helps her to escape from her problems and move forward. Comedians in general are loved, we notice that affection… Another thing is if comedy gives you prestige or if there is a grievance with respect to drama in terms of awards or recognition, but that is another racket.

—You have also dedicated yourself to illustration, perhaps the poor sister of the plastic arts?

—Yes, because illustration is a popular art, often ephemeral that is not made to last. But there are great artists in illustration such as Toulouse-Lautrec who brought poster design to the category of art. In my case, illustration is something that fills me a lot. I like drawing so much. It is a facet that I continue to cultivate because, in addition, drawing or illustration has nothing to do with what I do for the public, with my side as a comedian. It’s all more intimate, that’s why I value it so much.


—And, he has also directed I don’t know how many episodes of so many series, starting with La Hora Chanante.

—I think I’ve been very lucky, I’ve been commissioned projects in which I’ve been able to develop my ideas. I feel very lucky in that sense. In my case, all this has arisen almost by chance, that is said of being in the right place at the right time. Obviously, I have taken advantage of the opportunities that have come to me, but it has been like that. In the end, silly, I’ve been making humor for twenty years, as a screenwriter, as an actor, directing… but I think it’s been more because of the trust that people have given me than because of my initiative. In such a difficult world I consider myself a person who has been very lucky.

—Regarding the word, apart from earning the beans with it, you have recently written a novel, “High”, right?

—That’s right, a novel where the protagonist is a comedian from La Mancha. There are in “High” two places, the town and the city, physical, but also symbolic. The protagonist wants to get rid of him from the town because he believes that in the city he is a different person, famous and admired. La Mancha is present and has a very special role at the end of the book. That La Mancha landscape and that return that, in the end, we all make to our roots.


—And it’s not autofiction…

—No, no, it’s not autofiction. What happens is that the coincidences and references are obvious. There are many things of mine, and also of other people in the protagonist. I work with fantasy, that’s my material.

—Does the land to which we belong, in this case La Mancha, make us be one way or another?

—I believe that the people of La Mancha do have some characteristic that defines us. We are sarcastic and we have humor very present. We are also humble, we do not show our chests, and we live in a landscape that is not particularly beautiful; the best is the paisanaje. Although, of course, there are very beautiful places and that is clear, La Mancha is that flat, flat and not exuberant place. But it is very rich in expressions, in words and it has people with a lot of humor. It seems that we are dry people, but then we are very hospitable. What happens is that since we see the one who arrives coming from afar, it seems that we are evaluating him.


—Let’s see what you think, Cuerda found out and you certified, that we people from La Mancha are not as bland as we seem.

—It is true that Manchego humor was not identified. I’m not saying that we have put it on the map, before there has been a lot of humorist from La Mancha and a lot from La Mancha who has dedicated himself to comedy. Without going any further, Don Quixote, the first modern novel, is set in La Mancha and is a satire. But it is true that there are more recognizable humors such as Andalusian or Catalan. We are in the middle of the plateau and people did not know very well what we were like. In our case, more as a matter of quantity than quality, because many of us have gone out, people said, “Oysters, there are comedians from La Mancha!”. Of course, we have a lot of breeching, we are very sly. I like that a lot.

—You have parodied 150 characters from all fields… And some of them have been famous.

—All those parodies are made with a Manchego accent, something that is still an abstraction. The normal thing is that when you imitate someone you do it physically and also in the way you speak. I came up with this idea of ​​making all the characters from La Mancha, without any pretense, simply because I thought this game of contrasts between form and background was fun. And look, I’ve been doing those parodies for twenty years and they’re still commissioning me for “El Intermedio”. In addition, the makeup and characterizations are very successful, in fact, Nacho Díaz, who is the person with whom I work from the beginning, has two Goyas in makeup.


“Have you gotten used to being stopped on the street?”

—Of course, people are very affectionate and being stopped on the street for your work is something that doesn’t happen to a property registrar. We must not lose perspective, we must be clear that it is the affection of the people that makes this work worthwhile. As in everything, there are degrees, there are those who have such a great fame that they don’t even let him walk and that, anyone can understand that he is very tiresome. But our fame is very nice and bearable and people are very affectionate with us. I can’t afford to be rude to people, honestly.

—What projects is Joaquín Reyes involved in?

—We are finishing an animated series for HBO, “Pobre diablo” with Ernesto Sevilla and Miguel Reyes. The three of us are going to make another series and a movie, so we have quite a few things.


—And lastly, what are you going to talk about on August 30?

—I would like to talk about literature, La Mancha and humour. Of what you have proposed to me, “Art, Word and Land”, three concepts with which I identify a lot. I hope you have fun too, I’m not going to tell a story, that’s all that’s missing. That is my intention, also when I wrote the novel what I wanted was to amuse the reader. I really value people’s time and that’s why I’m very grateful that someone dedicates it to reading what you’ve written.