I've been home for a little over an hour.
I worked with Kathleen Madigan all week in Washington DC at this great venue called The Birchmere. I decided to take the first flight back to LA because I like the idea of arriving early to LA and having the rest of the day free.
When I'm not busy on the road doing my own shows, I get to open for Kathleen on the road. I love it because it's not really work. She's a friend and I have a lot of fun.
Yesterday was the last show. I normally do 30 minutes and then bring Kathleen up. I was hungry and ordered dinner which I hadn't done in the week. A short while later, a Latino man brought me my food and asked me if I needed anything in Spanish. I answered back and we started chatting a bit. He seemed a little hesitant to talk to me, as if he was nervous. After a minute, he asked me if I could repeat my name and started telling me that he worked in the kitchen at the venue but made sure to come out of the kitchen to my set at every show we had done that week.
He was a cook. He said that he's normally very busy during the show but he really liked me and wanted to make sure he saw as much of my set as he could. He told me the kitchen staff were all Latinos and they all came out to check my set out too. They all really liked me. He said he wanted my name because he wanted to look me up on the internet and show videos of my stand-up to people because he hadn't seen a Latino comedian perform at that venue before. He said I talked about things he could relate to and made him feel like I was representing Latinos in a good way. And THAT made me feel good.
I told my boyfriend that story and he actually made an excellent point that made me remember something very important that I think I sometimes forget.
I need to write for people like the guy in the kitchen, like the kitchen staff at the venue. My mom was a cook. I want to have the chance to give these people something they've never had: a voice.
Networks have been trying to appeal to the Latino demographic for years but fail over and over again. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that for some reason, some people refuse to show Latinos be regular people, something other than a maid or a drug mule. I asked a question on my Facebook page yesterday focusing on my Latino FB friends. I asked them what it was about network TV shows that made them not want to watch them and I got some fascinating answers. The best answer I got was from an FB friend, a lawyer that summed it up beautifully:
Most of my clients feel they are seen as low level servants by others in the US and as desperate people. They are never seen as moms or neighbors, they are viewed as criminals. Many of them just want a connection to something familiar so the Spanish stations report on their home country status and even the US born Hispanic clients I have feel that NBC CNN Fox are racist. Most agree that if certain things were said about other ethnicities it would be outrageous but our Latin communities don't have a vocal, savvy, smart leader that unites in an effective movement without being perceived as an enemy or looney or just preaching action without serious thoughtful powerful movement to change perceptions of Hispanics. A leader that is smart and respected by mainstream has yet to unite and effect change.
This is an opinion coming from this person and the many people they come across from but I will say this. Whether you agree with it or not, I loved it because it was coming from an honest place. This was pretty much the consensus about this topic from different people, both Latino and non-Latino. Considering the number of Latinos that are in this country, it's amazing to see the lack of representation we have. My constant frustration with the news networks is that when they're talking about anything regarding Latinos, they rarely have anyone Latino on the panel. They're not talking TO us, they're talking AT us.
It needs to change. I think it will but it's up to Latinos like me that are getting opportunities that most people I know, don't get to have. I think it comes with the job. I meet Latinos that seem to be proud of the fact that one of them (me) is getting to do what I get to do. When I achieve something, I don't just feel like I did it. I get amazing support from Latinos that feel like my tiny bits of successes are THEIR tiny bits of successes. And they are.
The longer I do stand-up, the more I realize that my journey isn't only about me...it's about all of us. It's about making the Latino guy in the kitchen in Washington, DC feel like he's represented. Like his struggle is for something. I need to remember that in everything I do.
It's about making us feel like we matter. Because we do.