More than twenty years ago, the concept of “Latin culture” in the U.S. was pretty much nonexistent. It mostly consisted of Speedy Gonzales and Freddy Prinze. Nowadays, with Hispanics comprising the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, “Latin culture” is bona fide.
Director Ray Ellin decides to showcase one aspect of Latin culture in
America by organizing, staging, and filming a performance of three of the oldest names in Latino stand-up comedy: JJ Ramirez, Joe Vega, and
Angel Salazar. All three were old friends when they were first performing, often sharing the stage with one another. Ellin takes them back to the venue where they all got their start and films each one of their acts, all performed on the same night before the same audience.
This is essentially a concert film; brief interviews with each performer run before their respective routines. A smattering of personal history and the history stand-up comedy in New York is provided, but the lion’s share of screen time is devoted to these performers cutting it up onstage.
Angel Salazar, who appeared in “Scarface” as Chi Chi, is manic and surreal, utilizing many different props, involving audience members directly, and winding up clothed in nothing but a pair of black, bikini briefs. Joe Vega, who most recently appeared in “Rounders,” devotes his act mostly to relationships and women. JJ Ramirez, whose only film credit is “Flesh Eating Mothers,” provides the most well-rounded act, covering diverse subjects and appealing to the widest range of audience members. All three performers include a heavy dose of Latino culture references, but all three are also skilled enough to keep everything accessible to the audience.
The film provides many laughs, but not much else. Including a bit more perspective on, or history, of Latino comedy (and these three performers in particular) would have made this more than a straightforward concert film. But, for what it tries to achieve, it is very successful.