Skeletons in the family closet? Sexual deviances in your personality? Or maybe deeply hidden entanglements of both? All come to light in the commentary on John Leguizamo’s Live, which looks at a Latin slice of American culture through the eyes of the Spanish Fly himself.
John Leguizamo has established himself as not just a comedian but one of the extraordinary entertainers of our time. His prowess as an actor and stage performer goes without saying, as anyone who has seen his stand-up act or any of his many film roles can tell you. He’s got the rubbery face, relaxed body and penetrating eyes that are bankable assets in the visual realm. But the Live audiorecording demonstrates just what a fluent instrument of comedic expression Leguizamo’s voice really is.
Vocally, Leguizamo is able to portray an array of characters from his vast repertoire that lose nothing by transmittal via the ear instead of the eye. Instead, the medium forces the listener to focus on the comedy in a different way. Voice inflections, word selection, and accents become that much more meaningful, adding to the humor. The comedian is convincing in every role he assumes, be it the nasally overconfident Rapunzel Garcia from down the block, his sighing grandmother, or a dopey homeboy named Xerox (because he repeats everything everyone else says).
On this recording, Leguizamo gives his audience on a primer on the history and culture of Latinos in America. The story starts with the dubious tale of the mating of an Inca princess with a Spanish conquistadore, thus creating the original dysfunctional Latin family. Leguizamo sets up the saga through his memories of the family bedtime story, as told to his younger brother and himself by their strict and surly father. According to Leguizamo, the “Latin Dad” is the role model to whom all young papichulos aspire; a handsome, swaggering figure whose top priorities in life are sex and beer, and not necessarily in that order. He’s not adverse to giving his kids a good beating to keep them in line; shutting them up at night with a nice, traumatizing bedtime story is par for the course. Good old-fashioned machismo is alive — and comically viable — in Leguizamo’s world.
With this and other routines on the CD, such as “Ghetto Prize”, “Single Mom” and “High at Grampa’s Funeral”, Leguizamo turns the lens inward on a number of cultural stereotypes. His commentary touches on subtle truths, such as the fact that a PR (Puerto Rican) is not a Mexican — except for a price; or the way that marriage can ruin a perfectly good romantic relationship.
Little brothers, masturbation, divorce and childbirth all get their turn on this CD, Leguizamo-style. The comic routine is separated by a musical intermission, with Leguizamo serving up two salsa/hip-hop hybrid tunes — “The Night Before Christmas” and “Gotta Get Some”. And as if that weren’t enough, the Live CD is a Mac-and-PC compatible enhanced CD — a bonus for computer users. The enhancements include footage from John on tour at various US locations, which means the disc is not completely bereft of Leguizamo’s grinning visual charms. It offers brief excerpts from Leguizamo live on stage, including glimpses of the comedian’s skilfully demonstrating differnet versions of street dance. The CD is also interactive. It contains the “Spanish Fly Pick-Up Line” game, which lets the person at the keyboard click to choose an appropriate response to a number cheesy pickup lines, delivered by an animated version of Leguizamo. The character is clad in a white Saturday Night Live suit, wears an oversized gold chain, and has enough smug, smarmy overconfidence to rival any real-life lounge lizard. There is also the “Six Degrees of Leguizamo” game, a drag-and-drop brain-teaser modeled on the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” phenomena. The number of correct answer sequences to this game attest to the Leguizamo’s prolific career. Leguizamo also offers more fun and games on his website at iCaramba.com, a content-rich and energetic online community for Latin American.
John Leguizamo Live is a worthwhile CD that scores on a number of levels. The comedian’s humor is compelling and provocative; and darkly and thrillingly spiced with Leguizamo’s unique brand of East Coast flavor. Leguizamo is that nasty boy from down the street, who can be counted on to embarass you in public but whom you fantasize about night. After all, he’s the Spanish Fly, the Papichulo, the guy who’ll say anything to make you laugh. He’s a comic genius, one who has successfully bankrolled his talent for naming and claiming those endearing qualities that make us all human.