The reason Judge Aaron Bossig was crying was because he couldn't stop laughing.
"I can be a comic. I can do what Freddie [Prinze] is doing. I want to make people laugh."—George Lopez, Why You Crying?, available in hardcover and paperback
Humor is a very tricky thing to master. Funny jokes catch us pleasantly off guard; unfunny ones are just distasteful. What separates the two is a very thin and ill-defined line. All humor, to some degree, relies upon anger, misfortune, or pain. "Nice" doesn't get laughs. This is evident when Bud Abbot blows a fuse asking who's on first. It's obvious when Jerry Seinfeld and his friends are hungrily waiting for a table in a Chinese restaurant. It's also more than clear when George Lopez (Real Women Have Curves) makes jokes about growing up Mexican in his Showtime special, Why You Crying?
George Lopez gets his laughs by calling on vivid memories from his childhood (and presumably, the childhoods of much of his audience). This is very different from comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld or Bill Cosby, who built up a joke and delivered it with a punchline. Much of what George Lopez does is ask questions like "Remember the guy on a bike who sold corn?" Ordinarily, I would consider this to be sub-par stand-up comedy. Part of the comedian's craft is to make a joke based upon clever ideas or word play. Merely recalling memories isn't good comedy: the audience might get giddy at some pleasant thoughts, but they won't really laugh without real jokes. Fortunately, Lopez proves to be more than a one-trick pony. He warms the audience up with his stories, but then provides great material of his own.
Lopez's humor has a dark side. He doesn't hesitate to tell jokes about child abuse, pet neglect, or domestic violence. His choice of subject matter has the potential to make the viewer uncomfortable. Some of it just isn't funny--or, at least, we'd prefer not to think so. Speaking for myself and my very non-Hispanic background, some of the things George talked about I simply didn't want to find funny. He talked about his dog being sick. I didn't want to laugh at that. He poked fun at some things his low-income family had to do to get by. I felt sorry for him. I know that's not what he wanted, but some of the material just plain brought me down. I remind myself, though, that comedy stems from pain, so it's not unreasonable that he brings these things up. It's probably nothing more than cultural differences: the largely Latin audience was in stitches.
One of the things I liked most about George's performance is that he goes for what's funny and doesn't worry about being "sensitive" or "politically correct." Despite being Hispanic, he has no problem making jokes about Mexicans as sources of cheap labor, heavy drinkers, and perpetually low-income families. Likewise, he feels free to take potshots at others. I actually thought some of the funniest parts of the performance were his Caucasian impressions. Seeing him drop his Hispanic mannerisms and adopt a goofy WASP-ish demeanor was hysterical—and I'm not afraid to say his routine had a bit of truth to it.
Although he's funny, in many ways Lopez does portray Hispanics in a negative light. One could easily wonder if he were ashamed of his heritage. In an interview included as an extra on the DVD, it's clear he is not. George explains himself very well. Soberly, he says that what he talks about on stage is what he sees when he looks at the world. He's proud of his ethnic background, but has no guilt about laughing at parts that aren't flattering. Toward the end of the performance, he breaks off of the comedy and speaks from the heart, begging parents to encourage their children to chase their dreams. He wouldn't be doing that if he didn't see enormous potential sitting in the audience in front of him.
George Lopez delivers a fantastic, high-energy performance. He's passionate about what he does, and he's just plain funny. That's the ultimate criticism of a stand-up comic. I can sit here at my little computer with my gavel and talk about a few jokes I didn't like, but no matter what I say, I can't argue with hundreds of people sitting in that theater laughing at George Lopez's jokes.
George Lopez is found very funny and certainly not guilty. He is free to go and continue making thousands of people laugh. And, if that falls through, my lawn needs mowing.
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