Doing stand-up comedy is a hard and thankless job. You travel from city to city, staying in dingy motels where someone probably got murdered. Then you go to some crappy club and try to make 15 drunken yahoos laugh. If you are lucky, you make it big and break into movies. If you don’t make it, you leave behind a string of divorces and stints in rehab. It’s no wonder stand-ups are such miserable bastards. Good comedy comes from pain, and we Latinos know a lot about that. Latinos comedians bring their own brand of misery to the stage. We made this list of some of our favorite Latino comics.
This fool was seriously funny. Greg was most famous for his appearances on several shows on Comedy Central including the popular Comedy Central Roasts and Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil. He toured constantly and was one of the biggest stand-ups at the time of his death. He OD’d on prescription pills in 2010, leaving the world much to friggin’ soon. Here he is mercilessly making fun of Larry the Cable Guy.
Known today for their movies, Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong were popular stand-ups for several years before hitting it big in film. Their comedy albums were bestsellers, even earning them a couple of Grammy nominations. In their act they would do skits including the legendary sketches Sister Mary Elephant, Dave’s Not Here, and The Lowrider and The Hippie. The Lowrider and The Hippie bit would later become their on screen personas. In this video you can see the genesis of Up In Smoke.
Johnny Legz has issues. His act is mostly about growing up poor and Latino in New York with an abusive father. Luckily, he has been able to channel that into a successful career. He has done several successful On and Off Broadway one-man-shows including Mambo Mouth, Spic-a-Rama, Freak, and Sexaholix. His latest show, Ghetto Klown, is currently running on Broadway. In this clip he talks about the aftermath of his parent’s divorce and being spanked with a chancleta, something a lot of us can relate to.
A lot of you may not remember Freddy Prinze, because he too left us too soon. In the seventies, he was one of the biggest comedians around. He was the first Latino stand-up to be really well known following several appearances on The Tonight Show: With Johnny Carson. He parlayed that success into the TV show, Chico and the Man. Unfortunately, he too had problems with drugs and depression and he killed himself in 1977. Why do all the good ones die young, while the sucky ones (Mencia) live forever? Here is Freddie in 1976.
George Lopez owes his entire career to Paul Rodriguez. Paul was the first to discuss life in the barrios of LA, immigration, and Chicano culture. He is one of the most imitated stand-ups in recent history. Every Mexican-American comedian has to intentionally try not to be like Paul Rodriguez, which is a pretty big compliment. Here he is doing his act in El Paso, TX.
Note: You did not see George Lopez or Carlos Mencia on this list for a reason. Though they are very successful, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to include them. George Lopez is just not funny. He also reinforces every stereotype about Mexican-Americans there is. As for Carlos, that guy is a comedy abomination. He is the most notorious joke stealer in the history of comedy, taking material from superior comics (and George Lopez) and mangling it. His entire act is a sham. Duh Duh Duh.