Al Madrigal Royal Theatre, Toronto ON, September 26
Published Sep 27, 2015"I'm the worst Mexican."
This is a common theme to the comedy of Al Madrigal, and his performance at Toronto's Royal Theatre for JFL42 stays the course. It's an interesting take, because much of his stage persona revolves around being Mexican, but not really. That is to say, he's pretty white for a Latino guy.
With that in mind, there is nothing tiring about his observance of racial divides — and that is what they are, observances, not rants or tirades. Madrigal's tone is calm and reserved, and this makes it all seem quite logical. And so, while he is someone who doesn't care much for the segmentation of comedy, he is still practicing it in a cleverly subtle way.
This is best illustrated in his story about breaking into comedy, and being included in "Latino Def Jam." As he says to his friend Becky — and by the way, Latinos "don't have friends named Becky" — "Oh no. I'm a Mexican comedian." He says this after hearing a radio commercial supporting Latino Def Jam, featuring Al Madrigal. "So that's how you pronounce it," he says after hearing his own name. When the gig actually happens, he is terrified. He finds himself thinking, 'What would Carlos Mencia do?' He resorts to stereotyping, air humping his way across the stage, referring to the crowd as fuckers and bros in his best East L.A. accent. The audience responds in favour, hoisting their cobs of corn. It is a great story, one that further supports his theme of being a jobber comedian within a system he deems to be, at times, broken.
To be sure, Madrigal's style leans heavily on telling a good story. Often this involves his Mexican (and Sicilian) heritage. There's a great bit about a Mexican response to Donald Trump's sweeping statement, declaring them rapists and murderers. Apparently, workers are shitting in the cilantro in protest. As Madrigal points out, this tactic results in some 'collateral damage.' But beyond these political undertones, there is also a decidedly human side to his comedy. This brings an endearing quality to his set, achieved mostly through his love of family. He points out that he and his wife often kept things that represented milestones in their children's lives, like their first child's baby teeth — "nine years and two kids later, we're crazy people with 20 boxes of teeth."
Writing what you know does not always work. But in the case of Al Madrigal, it totally does, and he sure seems to know a lot.