Latin American talent has energized the global film market with movies like “Wild Tales,” “Instructions Not Included,” “We Are the Nobles” and “Gloria.” Now, a Brazilian comedy troupe has joined the fray, parlaying Internet stardom into a touring legit show, TV and movie deals.
The humor of Porta dos Fundos (which translates as Back Door) skewers politicians, corporations, Rio de Janeiro police, the Ku Klux Klan, James Bond, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Santa Claus and even the Holy Family — in the troupe’s 2013 Christmas special, Joseph frets to the angel Gabriel that his co-workers in the carpentry shop have been gossiping about Mary’s pregnancy. (That sketch prompted a lawsuit from a conservative religious leader, which was recently settled in favor of Porta dos Fundos.)
The troupe’s YouTube channel has 10.1 million subscribers, and regularly gets around 1.7 billion views per day, according to data on SocialBlade.com. Now, after producing nearly 400 sketches on the new-media platform — Porta dos Fundos posts a new sketch every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 11 a.m. — the troupe is ready to step into “old” media with TV series “O Grande Gonzalez” (The Great Gonzalez) for Fox’s local pay-TV channel Canal Fox; and feature film “Porta dos Fundos — contrato vitalicio” (Porta dos Fundos — Lifetime Contract), to be released in 2016 by Downtown, a local company that specializes in distributing Brazilian films.
The group’s five founding partners — Antonio Tabet, Fabio Porchat, Gregorio Duvivier, Ian Fernandes (aka Ian SBF) and Joao Vicente de Castro — uploaded their first series of sketches on Porta
dos Fundos’ YouTube channel in 2012, after the comedians — who all hail from Rio — quit their day jobs as actors, writers or directors at Brazil’s No. 1 broadcaster TV Globo.
“We decided to give up our contracts with Globo to pursue a different type of humor — to do it our way,” Porchat told Variety in an interview at the group’s new and expanded headquarters in Rio’s tourist-friendly South zone.
The troupe’s influences include Monty Python and the Kids in the Hall, though CollegeHumor and Funny or Die inspired how it structured its YouTube channel, said Tabet, the only member over 40.
The group’s polished production values immediately set it apart from other Internet comic productions, and new sketches are subtitled in English and Spanish. Eventually, Fundos’ library will all be subtitled.
Television executives started to take notice, and worked hard to woo the troupe: “We received offers from virtually all (free) TV and many pay-TV networks in Brazil,” Tabet explained. “We chose
Fox, because their offer fulfilled our financial demands and granted us absolute creative freedom.”
In 2014, Canal Fox began airing a 30-minute show of Porta dos Fundos sketches. That deal eventually led to the development and greenlighting of the original 10-episode series “The Great Gonzalez.” Shooting started at the end of June, although no air date has been set for the comic mystery, centered on the murder of the titular Gonzalez. Gabriel Esteves, a regular writer for the troupe’s online sketches, and Porchat co-wrote the script; Ian SBF will helm.
“Lifetime Contract,” meanwhile, is in pre-production and scheduled to start lensing in September or October. The pic sports a screenplay by Porchat, and will be helmed by SBF. “ ‘Lifetime Contract’ will not be a combination of sketches,” Porchat said. “It is a feature film with a beginning, (middle) and end.”
For Porta dos Fundos, there’s no end in sight. It now has about 40 fulltime employees, and its new headquarters houses a studio, as the troupe grows to become a multiplatform production company. Nataly Mega oversees its YouTube channel and legit ops — the group is touring Brazil with comic play “Portatil” (Portable), which it bowed May 30 — while Tereza Gonzalez runs the TV and film production divisions. With such rapid expansion and the new deals, the challenge for the Fundos team is to remain independent and on the cutting edge.
And still looking at things through the Back Door.