KPBS AIRDATE: January 21, 2000
Okay, roll call… Chunky Sanchez? check. Christopher Columbus? Check. Che Guevara and César Chavez? Presente. Tom Metzger? Yo. San Diego sailors, PB Beach dudes, Gay Hillcrestians. Check. Check. Check.
All present and very well accounted for, in the latest edition of Latino.com, aka the “Culture Clash Anthology.” This best-of pastiche celebrates the 15-year collaboration of Culture Clash, the wacky, politically incisive trio that some consider the Chicano Marx Brothers. This eighth visit to San Diego is frequently one for the hometown audience (one of the Clashers was actually born here at Navy Hospital). Lots of excerpts from the San Diego-based show, “Culture Clash in Bordertown,” and other, less local but no less humorous stabs at icons and Everymen. Even that paranoid, anti-Mexican killer-whale, Shamu makes a return appearance, though he isn’t one of my personal favorites.
The evening’s entertainment moves along at a deliciously rapid clip, though some of the segments run a little long, like the “Dance of Death,’ symbolically chronicling the plight of the Latin American immigrant, and the Chicano Park bit, with its plodding history of the impressive murals under the Coronado Bay Bridge. But mostly, it’s a romp, with singing and dancing, pratfalls and Spanglish, Chicano in-jokes and dead-on impersonations. There’s plenty of high and low comedy for all. The best of the humor has the sharpest edge, though. The heartiest laughs cut the deepest. That’s one of the ultimate delights of Culture Clash. Without banging us over the head, without sermonizing or agitprop theatrics, they comment lovingly but keenly on the best and worst of the multi-culti mishmash that is America today.
We meet Don Colón, the Italian mobster better known as Christopher Columbus who, using his Thomas Brothers guide (1492 edition), sails to the New World, and proceeds to rape the virgin territory, which yields up the first Chicano. Revisionary history? That ain’t nothin’ compared to the uproarious return of Che Guevara, who can’t believe how Marxism has gone awry (that would be the Karl, not the Groucho variety). Summoned up through Santaria voodoo by a couple of modern, pizza-delivering, football-watching Chicanos, Che still cuts a powerful figure, and still manages to incite a revolution, at least in those homies who aren’t hooked on the 49ers or their middle class complacency.
The best of the evening is the best of what each Culture Clash clown can do: the wig-wearing chameleon Herbert Siguenza, with his hilarious impressions; Ric Salinas, the rubber-legged physical comic, with his instructive demonstration of how to distinguish various Latinos by their signature salsa moves. And Richard Montoya, who does his funny bit as a San Diego surfer, and also recites his haunting poetry… about his San Diego homeland.
Like the Mexican carpa tent shows and the court jesters of old, when Culture Clash turns their distorted funhouse mirror on us, we can’t help but laugh at our imperfect selves.
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.