Your City Is About To Be Gentrifucked
The Latino Comedy Project returns with a fierce new skewering
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
9:30AM, Wed. May 31, 2017
Change is inevitable, of course, and it’s no less inevitable in a city like ours. But when the change is driven by little but money and greed … when the change, like certain aggressive forms of cancer, is pretty much out of control and destroying many of the communities that once formed that city … send in the LCP?
The Latino Comedy Project, a troupe of sketch artists helmed by the multitalented Adrian Villegas, has done a lot of shows in the past. Popular shows. Funny shows. Shows that also have what's called social relevance, for all that they’re frequently spray-Coke-out-your-nose hilarious.
We christened them “those renowned brown clowns” back in the day, when we were so impressed and grinning from having audienced their finest hours. And then the LCP got into doing videos and such – got nominated for an Emmy, even – and then they were, like, on hiatus for a while.
And in that interim, there’s been a whole lot of shit going on, hasn’t there? Shit that’s only faintly alluded to with words like “jumpolin” and “cat cafe,” shit that’s continuing to turn sections of town with longtime ethnic communities into enclaves of hipster commerce out of the price range of your average citizens of any color – an ebony-hued African-American, a partly sunburned Caucasian, for instance – much less the proud but harried members of La Raza, you know what I’m saying?
Well, thank God – gracias a Dios – for the Latino Comedy Project. Because, when you’re not busy fighting or deriding gentrification, or when you’re not busy leveraging your privilege to pretend it's ever such a good thing, here’s an opportunity to laugh your ass off about the particular mess we’re in.
“This show feels really personal to us,” says Villegas, speaking of the LCP’s upcoming two-nights-only run of Gentrifucked, coming to the Spider House Ballroom on Friday and Saturday of next week. “It’s personal,” he says, ”because it’s about our home, and it’s about our community in this city. And even though we live in different places around Austin – some on the Eastside, some a little further north or wherever – we all feel the effects of it, and we know the value of having these communities be a part of Austin. So this is definitely our response to the issue.”
Austin Chronicle: And Gentrifucked even had a sort of test run, didn’t it? At last year’s Out Of Bounds festival here in Austin, and San Francisco’s Sketch Fest?
Adrian Villegas: We were asked to be part of the Out Of Bounds Festival last year, after we hadn’t done a show in a few years. And some of the original LCP members that are part of the show – like Omar Gallaga, Mical Trejo, Nick Walker – they hadn’t done a show with the LCP even longer than we were on hiatus. So we could’ve done a Greatest Hits show, you know? That was discussed. Like a real nostalgia show. But I felt strongly that it should be something currently relevant – because that’s what we’ve always done. And the issue of gentrification, it seemed like nobody was really dealing with it, so I pitched the title and the premise to the group – and everybody jumped on it. Nobody hesitated at all, and I thought there’d be some debate about it. Everybody was like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” And I told them, “If we’re doing a show with this title, we have to fucking live up to it – we have to deliver on this title!” So we worked really hard to make sure that happened.
AC: If your past shows are any indication – and, if they’re not, what the fuck is, right? – then that work’s gonna pay off. But, ah, you’ve got even more going on on Friday and Saturday, don’t you? Like one of those infomercials – “But, wait, there’s more! A bamboo steamer!”
Villegas: Yeah, we’ve got some special guests for the weekend – Vanessa Gonzalez and a bilingual improv group called Migas. They –
AC: Oh, shit, Vanessa Gonzalez? She’s funny as hell, man, I saw her perform at the recent Funniest Person In Austin contest. How did you get her for this show?
Villegas: She’s an old friend of ours. She was in the group for a while – she got her first stage time in Austin with the LCP – and she was a force of nature even then. She contacted us and asked if we were auditioning, and we weren’t, but I said, you know, if you’re that confident in what you’ve got, we can always use great people. So she auditioned for me personally. Because I didn’t want her to come in and, if she wasn’t any good, that wouldn’t be good for the group, you know? So I got to see her do a monologue, and I think it was something she just put together that week – it was based on her mom, and it was fucking hilarious. I said, “That goes in our show, immediately!” Yeah, Vanessa was great from the beginning.
AC: And this Migas troupe?
Villegas: I was really happy to get them. And the one thing I want people to understand, when we call them a “bilingual” improv troupe, it’s because they’re truly bilingual – they translate during the show. So if you only speak English, or you only speak Spanish, you will know what’s being said the whole time. There’s three of them, and so the third one is always translating. And there’s another layer of comedy that comes with the translations throughout their set. Because, you know, we get used to a certain kind of improv after a while – the feeling of it – but Migas is something different, because they’ve got these different layers going on at the same time, with this kind of meta-translation, the Greek chorus, and you never get lost in the languages.
AC: And Gentrifucked is a show based on things that are happening locally, of course … but gentrification is more widespread than that, isn’t it? It’s a national issue.
Villegas: Oh, man, it’s a global issue. Brisbane, Australia. Jakarta. Places like that, and more places than you can think of – it’s definitely a global issue. Because what makes gentrification such a problem are the basic issues. Like income inequality: The worse that gets, the worse something like gentrification can become. Because it’s all about those who have power and those who don’t, and the wider that gap of power becomes, the more abuses the people with power can put on the people who don’t. And that’s why you see whole communities being swept aside. I keep comparing it to a person who’s on steroids, and a person who’s been starved, you know? The power discrepancy is that huge.
Indeed, O Reader. But there’s little discrepancy between the Latino Comedy Project and the huge power of laughter that can be created in this world. Which is why we’re glad to recommend Gentrifucked as part of a deeply entertaining second-weekend-in-June.