Be you Latino or no, Judge Bryan Pope says that nada—nada—can prepare you for the third amigo.
"They'll never take you to a doctor, man. That's just some, like, Mexican witchcraft. 'Sana, sana.' You guys know what that means? 'Rub, rub the ass of a frog.'"
Latin comedians haven't made a dent in mainstream American stand-up the way many black and white comedians have. Yeah, they can lay claim to Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez, but do they really want to? The Three Amigos seeks to remedy this oversight by giving three of today's hottest Latin comedians time to shine. And, by and large, shine they do. In fact, one comes close to burning down the premises with his incendiary performance.
Not to be confused with the 1986 Martin/Chase/Short film, The Three Amigos: Uncensored Stand-Up is a concert performance recorded in November of 2001 at Austin's Paramount Theatre. Taking turns at the mic are the late Freddy Soto (who passed away in July 2005), Pablo Francisco, and Carlos Mencia.
First up is Soto, who centers most of his act around his traditional Mexican family, particularly his father, who he paints as one cantankerous, ignorant hombre ("Cabron, how many S's are there in the word 'shicken'?"). He also gets fun mileage at the expense of his non-Latina wife (her elated reaction to marrying into Soto's family: "Oh my God! I'm gonna be Mexican!").
Soto's presence here is playful, likeable, and engaging, and he's able to place a unique spin on stale comedy staples. Whether expounding on the hazards of playing practical jokes within a Mexican family, describing the perils of playing on a Hefty bag Slip 'n' Slide as a kid, or discussing secret home remedies, Soto always pulls the punchline from where you least expect it, then cleverly allows the joke to double back on itself moments later. His routine is tightly constructed, even if the material isn't always of the freshest grade.
Next up is Pablo Francisco, easily the least substantial of the trio. There's no denying his talent and charisma, and he's a master of sound and vocal effects, but they are in the service of very little. His riffs on celebrities (including such embarrassingly easy targets as the Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Keanu Reeves, and a pre-governator Ah-nuld) are nothing more than spot-on imitations. Great taste, less filling. He also spends too much mic time amusing himself by fusing his imitation of Don LaFontaine (you know, the "movie preview voiceover guy") with low-caliber comedy (LaFontaine on sex: "One way in. No way out. Coming soon.") Somewhere in middle America, hundreds of 13-year-old boys giggle in delight. Fortunately, Francisco's act is short enough to forgive all the filler, and he does provide a couple of solid, if empty, laughs.
With their obvious targets, Soto and Francisco in no way prepare you for Carlo Mencia's angry, jaw-droppingly hilarious diatribe. For a full half hour, he engages in a profanity-laced, 9/11-fueled verbal assault against political ignorance, intolerance, lousy parenting, and people's general lack of personal responsibility.
Just as Soto's comedy was influenced largely by his overbearing father, Mencia owes no small debt to his battle ax of a mother, whose taunting, tough-love approach to parenting colors an extended segment of Mencia's routine. Her response when a young Mencia complains of being bullied at school: "Is that a (lewd Spanish slang for vagina) between your legs, mijo?"
Despite his vulgar, double-barrel approach to comedy (at one point speculating on the sexual practices of two older members of the audience), Mencia displays a surprisingly open mind, though sometimes in a backward sort of way (his defense of the gay community: "I like anyone willing to suck my d***."). He also celebrates diversity (on blacks: "We let the blacks in because we have the Olympics and they run the fastest.") All the same, Mencia doesn't suffer fools gladly. Nor does he have much tolerance for certain celebrities. Like Francisco, he digs hard into Ricky Martin. But unlike Francisco, his jokes consist of far more than mere imitation. For Mencia, Martin serves as a jumping-off point for a tirade against sexually coy celebrities and what Mencia views as their contempt for the American public. By the end, Mencia has left nothing of Martin but charred remains (and somehow managed to take down Barbara Walters in the process), and then it's off to the next target, which is, according to my notes, G spots.
'Nuff said on that.
It's not until the final five minutes, though, that Mencia really takes aim with both cylinders. The performance was shot a mere two months after 9/11, and the shadow of terrorism hovers over the fiercely patriotic Mencia. He is unapologetic not only in his hatred toward terrorists, but Americans who will sit idly by and allow it. Whether or not you agree with his points of view—and there really is no middle ground here—you can't help but sit up and listen. That's how arresting this performance is. But here I can say no more, because Mencia's act includes nothing more—and I mean nothing—that's fit for printing in this review. For that, you'll just have to pick up the disc. Consider that a recommendation.
The Three Amigos—Uncensored Stand-Up is handsomely presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround treatment. English, French and Spanish subtitles included.
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