Our Hostess

Photo: Naria Caamaño.

Hi! I’m Rachel Arieff — comedian, cabaret artist, authorflamenco student, and creator of Anti-Karaoke.

I’m also the Anti-Karaoke mistress of ceremonies. What does this job entail? Well, I warm up the crowd, present the performers, keep things moving along, soothe egos, cheerlead, do a little spontaneous coaching, and throw in a couple numbers of my own here and there.

It’s one of the best “jobs” I’ve ever had.

To find out about my comedy and cabaret shows, check them out here.

How did the Anti-Karaoke come to be?

I’ve been performing a long, long time. Originally from the U.S., I began doing stand-up comedy in Austin, then New York and Los Angeles. Some of my contemporaries from back then are big stars today: Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Judah Friedlander, Chelsea Handler, Fred Armisen, and Brody Stevens, among others.

I worked hard trying to move up the showbiz ladder, but so did a lot of people. In fact, many of them worked harder than me. I never quite fit into the mainstream comedy clubs. The kind of comedy that was popular at the time wasn’t quite my style. Stand-up comedy was even more male-dominated and heteronormative back then than it is now, and my taste in comedy was more eccentric and personality-based, so I often found myself at odds with what was generally considered funny. On the other hand, I loved some of the real-life characters I’d meet at the open mics, especially in New York City. So rather than try to fit into the comedy clubs, I eventually organized my own, variety-type shows, combining comedy and music, in places like Cantor’s Kibbutz Room or the 1160 Lounge at a Ramada Inn in Hollywood.

In the meantime, while I lived in L.A., I was used to getting together with my fellow comedians to do karaoke. It was just something we loved to do for fun. Of course, being comedians, we could never sing karaoke the normal way; we’d have to get all wacky and creative about it: dressing up, wearing wigs, and doing funny characters. Then in 2004, I left my entire career behind and moved to Barcelona. The first year was great. Then suddenly I hit a depression. What the hell had I done with my life? I missed my talented comedian friends and all our wacky creative outlets so readily available to us in L.A. and New York. Sometimes I wanted to go out to a karaoke place, but the two I went to were awful. The people took it way too seriously and the people running it treated the customers like crap. One of them treated us so badly that it inspired me to start my own karaoke, where people would actually be encouraged to have fun.

But no one in Barcelona — at least no one under 60 — was interested in karaoke. I discovered that young people here thought karaoke was simply uncool. So I decided to create a the kind of karaoke — a karaoke-based show — that I used to enjoy back home. It would be fun, friendly, theatrical and experimental, with great music, not cheesy-sounding karaoke tracks.

It was just another idea amongst many. I decided to call it “Anti-Karaoke” and held about four sessions in the Llantiol Theater. It was a smashing success. People loved it, which took me by surprise. I had expected only other Americans, and maybe some Brits, to show up. But each time, the theater filled up and the beer sold out.Most of the clientele were locals. And they were hungry. Hungry to express themselves! It was a wonderful discovery. Suddenly, karaoke — Anti-Karaoke — had a niche in Barcelona.

Soon the show grew too big for the Llantiol, so the Anti moved to Sidecar Club — a genuine rock-n-roll club. The show kept growing. The local press started covering it. The national press followed. Easy Jet and Ryan Air magazines recommended the show to their travelers.

Over time, it grew from a strictly hard rock/heavy metal, predominantly male crowd to a diverse, international following that shared the same love of rock and roll, and appreciation of a great show. Today, the Anti-Karaoke is not dominated by any one group of people, and that is part of its beauty. It’s a place where women, gays and lesbians, and people from any country, age, occupation, or walk of life can walk in and feel a part of something special. It’s where famous people come to chill out — sometimes taking to the stage, sometimes staying in the crowd — and where struggling artists get to polish their vocal stylings or crowd work. It’s where people with jobs they hate or bad family situations come to vent and feel a little bit soothed by the audience hearing them.

It’s been ten years. And it’s been one hell of a journey.

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