‘George Lopez: We'll Do It For Half’ Preview: Race, politics and Chicano heritage to feature in comedy special
In 2010, Lopez speaking about the future of comedy, said, “Comedy will become more diverse, more political." That can now be considered prophetic
A little more than a decade ago, on his HBO talk show, ‘Lopez Tonight’, George Lopez noted during a monologue that babies born to minorities would soon outnumber babies born to whites in the United States. He joked, “You’ll have to learn to clean your own house!”
George Lopez’s comedy has always been centered around his “Chicano” or Mexican-American identity. Be it in his comedy show, his monologues on his talk show, or in his sitcom ‘George Lopez’, his material has been a thorough examination of Mexican-American culture, the larger Latinx culture in the U.S., and cultural stereotypes.
And his comedy has always been incisive. Despite his profane language, what Lopez successfully does is highlight the blindspots in popular culture by telling his story, and by extension, the stories of the Mexican-American experience.
Of course, Lopez is hardly the only comedian to do so. Most recently, we saw Jesus Trejo examine the Mexican-American identity, especially that localized in a California suburb, in his Showtime special, ‘Stay At Home Son’. And one can hardly say that he’s a pioneering Mexican-American comic. Richard Anthony ‘Cheech’ Marín, after all, is a legend in comedy.
But there is a unique style when it comes to Lopez. Especially in his delivery. Lopez relies heavily on code-switching during his performances. He switches between Spanish and English, or what can effectively be called Spanglish in his performances, making sure that the audience never gets to forget his racial and cultural identity.
And that can be felt even in the trailer for his upcoming Netflix special ‘George Lopez: We'll Do It For Half’. The title itself is a joke on the stereotype of cheap labor offered by Mexican-Americans in return for the opportunity to live the so-called “American Dream”. And the trailer begins with Lopez loudly shouting the word “Chicano” at the audience.
While neither the trailer, nor the synopsis reveals what exactly we can expect from the comedy special -- Netflix writes, “Lopez delivers a hilarious exploration of race, politics, and life lessons to be learned from the Latino community; especially the elders.... dissects cultural differences, emotional support animals, gender reveal parties, elevator etiquette and much more” -- there are things that we can expect from the comic, especially in this politically-charged era.
In 2010, during an interview with Smithsonian magazine, Lopez spoke about the future of comedy. He said, “Comedy will become more diverse, more political. There will be more taped pieces and personal pieces. I don’t know if the art of stand-up will survive. Stand-up seems dated.” While this was his prediction for 2050, some of this stands true for the present. Comedy certainly has become a political tool.
Especially for people of color, comedy has become a tool for telling stories that are seldom highlighted by a still-very-white popular culture in America. It has become a tool with which the dominant culture is criticized. By Lopez’s own admission, “If you look back in time, comedy was always insensitive to people of color because our country, and comedy was dominated by whites.”
Lopez’s personal politics are very open for everyone to see. Even recently, in the wake of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that were triggered by the death of George Floyd, Lopez was critical of Latinx celebrities who remained quiet in the face of injustices. He said, “You see some comments that are like ‘How am I supposed to help black lives when they don't help us?’ That's the wrong attitude. You don't do something and expect something in return. You do it because it's right.”
So, in more ways than one, it is necessary for comedy, especially comedy created by people of color, to be political. The overt or covert nature of that depends on the artists. But knowing Lopez’s work and views, it’s difficult to imagine his subversion to be subtle.
‘George Lopez: We'll Do It For Half’ will arrive on Netflix on June 30.