By Lupita Peimbert
(Latino) – The moment John Leguizamo entered the stage, he took over. He had the audience at the Berkeley Rep Thursday night laughing and clapping on and off for 90 minutes, no intermission, during “Latin History for Morons,” one of his shows about growing up Latino in the United States. Granted, the audience was mostly made of members 35+, of the Generation X and Baby Boomer-Berkeleyans and Bay-Areans.
Enlightened enough and multicultural-savvy, this audience knows about Latinos and so they get it; they can laugh at the jokes and see the funny in what was said.
Back to Leguizamo…he took the audience on his hands, making sure they learned and laughed, or laughed and learned, whichever came first.
How does this Latino comedian keep the momentum going for such a long time? He starts talking, gesturing, making these and those funny sounds, moving, walking, and jumping. Oh my! I do not know how he keeps going –and since I didn’t get to interview him, the question goes unanswered at least in this online publication.
Energy at a 150% and filled with a good dose of cultural relevancy, Leguizamo presents Latin history and culture to help to solve a family issue, his son not knowing about his ancestry. Although somewhat superficial in content, Leguizamo’s show brings to light a bunch of facts about Latino contribution to the United States, but also about the importance of Native Americans –and that includes the Aztecs and the Incas, he said. He also shares that his wife is Jewish, and by mentioning it, he points out to the fact that mixed families in many states are the norm, not the exception.
Being Latino can be just a piece of the puzzle, identity-wise.
A prominent Latino performer, Leguizamo is a man who exudes “funny” in every gesture; the cleverness of his phrases cannot make you do anything else but laugh. The excess in dirty jokes, however, feels unnecessary and vulgar –even experienced comedians often fell trap to this supposedly comedian-ly resource. As in pus***, pen****and jerk*******, hearing those and related words during a show can turn some people off. It reveals, in my opinion, a tiny lack of creative content, a nervous, blank moment, or perhaps an overused comical element –to the point that it has lost its impact.
At certain moments, I needed more substance. I wanted John Leguizamo to go deeper and speak of current contributions of Latinos, to talk about the accomplished Latino younger generation, to make fun of current Latino predicaments and the mixing of all cultures, and to share a point of view on the two sides of Latino identity: the one that empowers and the one that isolates. But overall, it was a very enjoyable show, and I still smile when I think about it.
John Leguizamo is an expert storyteller, a talented showman and Solo extraordinaire who takes the audience on his hand and moves it with him left and right at the stage. His work also attests to Latino creativity and genius.
As I was watching his performance, I realized I would have loved to be one of his high school buddies to see him in action while growing up being Latino in the United States. He is a natural comedian and one that has plenty of life experiences to convey in his Latino-themed performances.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons plays at the Berkeley Rep in downtown Berkeley until August 14. A special performance for members of the LAM-Network (a group of young professional Latinos) is scheduled for Saturday –and it has many people talking about it! For more information and tickets please go here!
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Writer’s note: On your way out of the Berkeley Rep, don’t miss the Photo-booth and take a picture, alone or in group, for your own social media feeds or to be featured with #LatinHistory4Morons on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It is a fun event, and the volunteers do a great job helping you with props.
Lupita Peimbert is a bilingual content writer and publisher, focusing on art, travel, culture, and life.
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