Europe’s finest up-and-coming comedian is worthy of Ali G in his satirical creation as the head of the fictional ‘Bank of International Settlements’.
It’s not often that a comedian is brave enough to take on a subject as dry as global banking, but Agustin Carstens – a previously little-known performance artist from Mexico – has successfully done just that. For the last several months, Carstens has been touring Europe, remaining in-character at all times, delivering weighty speeches about the perils facing the global economy from an irresponsible younger generation obsessed with digital cash. We were recently able to take in one of his gigs – and were absolutely blown away by his act.
The genius of Carstens is not in his deadpan delivery – a style long employed by comedians, perhaps most notably the UK’s Jack Dee. It is the sheer perfection with which he walks the unlikely line he has chosen. Watching him perform, unsuspecting audiences are left with the distinct impression that Carstens genuinely believes his own message, and are uncertain whether they should be laughing with him or at him: an unsettling but simultaneously riotously hilarious experience. Just as Sacha Baron Cohen immersed himself in his comic creation Ali G – the ‘gangster from Staines’ who mocked his guests and their desperation to come across well to the public by inducing them to agree to his own shocking or ridiculous views – so Carstens takes the role of Head of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) to a new level of post-ironic satire.
‘Carstens is simply superb as the “Head of the BIS”… His figure is larger-than-life, his demeanour entitled, his message strident, his tone increasingly desperate – his comic creation faultless.’
– Cassius (writer and entertainment critic)
During the course of his ‘presentations’ – delivered to journalists and groups of notable figures from the world of finance and economics – Carstens never once slips out of character, as he harangues the world beyond the cameras about the dangers of digital money and the new economic paradigms it represents. In doing so, he poses the wickedly funny question to the nascent industry he addresses: ‘How dare you try to muscle in on the profits of injustice the banks have monopolised for a hundred years?’
Take this excerpt of one of his most recent interviews, given to the journalist of a major Basel news outlet (the journalist, naturally, is unaware of the comedic nature of Carstens’ endeavour, tacitly accepting the existence of the fictional BIS and thereby flaunting his ignorance of the global economics it is his job to cover). ‘My message to young people would be: Stop trying to create money! … Young people should use their many talents and skills for innovation, not reinventing money. It’s a fallacy to think money can be created from nothing.’
With a nod to South Park’s Mr Mackey (‘Crypto is bad, mkay?’), Carstens pleads with the youth of today to give up their naive ways of creating money from nothing. And, like Mr Mackey, who ignores his own classroom diatribe and plunges himself into a lifestyle of drug-taking, Carstens smoothly glosses over the hypocrisy of the world’s central banks, for whom he is the central figure. With the effects of the Global Financial Crisis still undermining the prosperity of ordinary people – and precisely the younger generation he lectures bearing the brunt of the pain they are innocent of causing – the head of the BIS knows better than anyone that central banks have hardly acquitted themselves well. But ‘Central banks are trusted,’ he comments – his composure never once faltering with so much as a smirk at the irony.
It is this incisive, biting wit framed by his utterly convincing delivery that makes Carstens the rising star he is and the comedy great he is destined to become. From his evident depth of knowledge of economics (from which he naturally cherry-picks only the most convenient facts for his message) to his imposing physical presence and image as the stereotypical bankster, his commitment to his character is absolute.
Agustin, we salute you!
You can read more about Europe’s #1 financial comedian on Carstens’ website, at https://www.bis.org/author/agustin_carstens.htm.
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