HBO Latino is hitting the world of comedy with another hour of laughs with their upcoming special Entre Nos: Spot On, airing this coming Friday (April 26) at 9 p.m. (ET). Since its debut, Entre Nos has celebrated the diversity within the Latino community with each featured comedian bringing their own unique, comical perspective of the Latino experience. Recorded at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California, this installment of Entre Nos brings you the comedic acts of Rojo Perez, Vanessa Gonzalez, Erik Rivera and Crystian Ramirez—each delivering their own spin on growing up Latino whether it was on the island of Puerto Rico, in the border towns of Texas or in the concrete jungles of New York City.
Hailing from La Isla del Encanto, Rojo Perez was indoctrinated into the art of stand-up comedy at an early age. While visiting family, he was allowed to watch a late-night comedy special on HBO. “I remember being 11, visiting family here in New York, when [Chris Rock] Bigger and Blacker came out, and everybody gathering around the TV to watch it. It was a really dope moment where it was like the one day where the adults were like, ‘You’re going to hear some grown up words, but fuck it. It’s worth the watch,’” he recalled for ‘LLERO. “I remember seeing that, and I never thought that this was something you can just do.”
It wasn’t until he attended college in Florida, that Perez would revisit the idea of doing stand-up. “During my senior year, I would write and film silly music video sketches with a buddy of mine. He was going to open mics already, so he invited me to one, and I was terrible at it. I was terrible, but I was like, ‘This can’t be the only time I try it.’ That bug started going, and about six or seven months later, I was in New York already,” Perez said.
Once in New York, Perez frequented open mics at comedy clubs—progressively getting better at his craft—and eventually garnering the attention of other comics and professionals in the industry. This attention made way for big opportunities such as performing on Conan, appearing on TruTV’s Comedy Knockout, and working with the Huffington Post on their Más Mejor Comedy Showcase. It was this same momentum that led him to the Entre Nos stage.
“The producer, Edwin Licona, reached out and said, ‘I like what you do, and I would like for you to be a part of [Entre Nos],’ Perez said, adding, “It was one of those organic, dope moments. And, once he said HBO, it was an easy yes!”
For his Entre Nos set, Perez offers up a miscellany of hysterical stories of Latino parenting while also putting a humorous spin on more sensitive topics such as the effects that Hurricane Maria had on him and his family.
“I felt like it was important to talk about the hurricane, because if I didn’t do it now, then I was never going to be able to do it. The further we get away from when it happened, the less people even think of it. That’s what I really wanted to do—put an effort to get it all in there, and have it be a real feeling—and knowing that, yes, there’s humor in, but it was still a real crazy experience. It’s not all gone just because the rain is gone—that’s the main point that I was trying to get at. I felt that was important to adding to the show,” he explained.
Laredo, Texas, native, Vanessa Gonzalez, grew up being a fan of comedy, consuming a lot of televised sketch comedy and stand-up specials, but taking notice of the lack of Latina comedians on these shows. “Growing up, I didn’t really see a lot of Latina comedians in sketch comedy like Saturday Night Live or on HBO specials or anything like that. So, I want to be the representation for the girls coming up now to see that we’re out here, we’re funny, and you can do it, too,” Gonzalez expressed to ‘LLERO.
Blessed with the gift to make everyone around her laugh, Gonzalez ventured into comedy during college, where she was pursuing a theater degree. “I knew I always liked performing, but it wasn’t until I got to college and was auditioning for plays that I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this. I want to be funny. That’s what I’m good at,’” said the Mexican-American comedian.
Gonzalez began down the path of the comedian as part of an Austin-based, sketch comedy group known as the Latino Comedy Project. Alongside LCP, she and her fellow Latino comedians would put together sketch comedy shows for the community. That experience led Gonzalez to improv comedy, and was followed by a run as a one-woman comedy show, which was the impetus for her stand-up career.
“Now that I’m just doing stand-up, I just love it,” she shared. “I love that I can write for myself, and I can be who I want to be on stage. I’m not playing a role like stereotypical roles out there. I like that I’m just me, and I’m trying to bring my own perspective.”
And she definitely does bring her own unique perspective to her stand-up—like saying that she’s opting for a molar instead of an engagement ring. “I feel like my comedy is just based on things that just happen to me. I’m Latina, and I’m obviously going to talk about being Latina, but I also like to shake it up and talk about other things that are happening in my life like, ‘I lost a back tooth, and I would really like for someone to buy me one.’ I try to keep it real, and anything that happens to me, even if it’s super embarrassing, I’ll talk about it,” she said.
It was her distinctive style of comedy that attracted the attention of the producers of Entre Nos, Edwin Licona and Victor Elizalde, who invited Gonzalez to take part in one of their showcases during SXSW one year, which led to her being invited to take part in the HBO Latino special. “I feel so honored to be a part of this show. Being on HBO is like a dream come true. It’s also an extra badass thing to do because it’s a show to bring about awareness and rise up Latino voices,” she expressed.