KPBS AIRDATE: January 27, 1993
“The La La La Awards” is an acronymic abbreviation for Latins Anonymous Lifetime Achievement Awards. So the last LA doesn’t really stand for anything; somebody must’ve gotten the L out of there before it all began.
Latins Anonymous is a funny, facile comedy group. This is their second show at the Rep, and though the form of their new piece is a little different, the content is pretty much the same. A lot of Latin hierarchy humor that falls deafly on Anglo ears. Lines like “Only a Guatemalan would chase after a Brazilian.” There are lots of Spanish language in-jokes, too. Like Antonio Nalgeras, he of the big butt, whose name means just that. And weatherman Maclovio Mojadio, which could be roughly translated as Wally Wetback.
The scaffolding for this series of skits is a garish awards ceremony for all the true and pseudo and obnoxio Latino celebrities of the decade. This includes a skewering of canción-singing Linda Roncha, and other Anglos-made-Latin like Raquel Welche, Rosanne Barrio and Luke Perez 92113 as well as real Latino luminaries like Charo, Jorge Villachaize, Cesar Romero, Cheech Marin, Juan Valdez and the ever-popular Ricardo Montalbaño, who is honored for Best Accent in the Business.
Meanwhile, backstage, the stars are falling, poisoned by tainted eggs. The bottom line seems to be that they’re better off dead anyway. And at the end, even they are grateful for their demise.
The skits expose us to the full range of Latinos, from those who loot L.A. to the new breed called Yupsican, the Yuppie Mexican. The material is highly uneven. A lot of the humor comes from cheap jokes, and some that I’ve even heard before. Often the political barbs are blunted. But there are wonderful moments, like that wetback weatherman showing the cultural map of the U.S., which predicts high Latino concentrations in many geographic areas. Chicago, he says, has already changed its name to Chicano. And Utah should change, too: “It sounds too much like puta.” This was probably the most political piece of the evening, and it worked the best.
Under the direction of Jose Luis Valenzuela, the “LaLa” pace is anything but listless. Despite the attempt at a through-line, the skit-and-shtick style creates a jagged structure which kind of matches the uneven quality. Sometimes the piece seems amateurish, despite very professional technical support.
The Latins Anonymous troupe is very talented; they can make deliciously fine distinctions among the accents of the various Latino nationalities, and they also make some valid points. But they need to develop more biting, trenchant material to work off. The new addition to the group, Cris Franco, isn’t quite as versatile as the originals — Luisa Leschin, Armando Molina and Diane Rodriguez — but he does a bangup job with that weatherman.
There are definitely some “Mambo Moments” in the “LaLaLa Awards.” I particularly liked the citation for Best Latino Film Directed by a Caucasian.
This is the right time and place for this humor. The Latino voice surely needs to be heard, but that voice should manage to be both raucous and politically strident.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1993 Patté Productions Inc.