The NWComedyNetwork.com presents our ongoing essay series,”Comedy Is…”. This series asks people from all walks of life to tell us, in story form, how they would define comedy.
Cris Rodriguez – Seattle, WA
I had the unfortunate luck of being born Chicano, a formerly derogatory term coined by Mexicans that means “That fool’s Mexican, but born in the US”. This might not make any sense given the fact that there is a huge domestic issue created by many citizens of countries south of the border who risk everything to make the life-threatening trek across the desert to do just that: have kids here and give them a better future. The unfortunate aspect of this is that these American-born offspring now have the stigma of not being Mexican enough to those who were born in Mexico. The converse of this is that Chicanos are too Hispanic for many Americans’ taste and are grouped with the Mexicans, making Chicanos just as eligible as Mexicans for the ire of the Right. In a nutshell, being Chicano means that you’re not Mexican enough for the Mexicans and not American enough for the Americans. That’s why I’m thankful for comedy. As an overweight, light-skinned, accented-English speaking kid growing up in a rural agricultural Florida town, comedy was a way for me to bridge the gap and deflect rejection from the Mexican kids because I had been accepted into the gifted program for “smart white kids”. Comedy was also a great tool for side-stepping ridicule from my American classmates because I was “that Mexican kid who brought tamales for lunch”. By using comedy, I was able to leave those stigmas behind and just be “that funny fat kid Cris” (can’t beat them all, I guess). Sure, being a fat kid sucked, but it sucked a lot less without being stuck in a cultural no man’s land.
A good joke, well delivered at the appropriate time, is funny to anyone in the audience, regardless of race. This is why the names of great comedians are recognizable to people of all races. Carlin, Pryor, Prinze, Foxx, Dangerfield, (Paul) Rodriguez are names recognizable to most people with a rudimentary knowledge of comedy. These comics all used their considerable talents to bridge the gap of race and etch their names in the memory of comedy fans nationwide. Through comedy, they became a friend to their fans and gained acceptance in the truest sense of the word.
To me, comedy is a bridge. Albeit one that may need a little more bolstering and reinforcement to hold my big ass as I cross the gap. Watch out, that tamale-eating kid from gifted class is coming for you. Now where did I leave my copy of Weight Loss for Dummies?
About the author:
Cris Rodriguez is a Seattle based comedian. He is a two-time comedy champion who will smack you in the face with spicy awesome sauce. He has also decided that he will now refer to himself exclusively in the third-person. Cris Rodriguez thanks you for reading this. Get at him: firstname.lastname@example.org , twitter: @elcrisrod , facebook: Cris Rodriguez-Comedian