The name for Felipe Esparza's stand-up special comes from a disparaging statement made by his mother. I'm sure she said it sarcastically, but I'll be damned if she didn't nail this one on the head. I didn't laugh once during Esparza's nearly hour long act. I didn't chuckle, I didn't giggle...I didn't even groan. For the most part I just sat there in stony silence waiting for this exercise in lowest common denominator comedy to end.
Esparza got his big break by winning Season 7 of Last Comic Standing in 2010. I remember watching an episode or two and being thoroughly unimpressed by what little I saw of Esparza's schtick. As I started up his full-length set, I was hopeful that his brand of comedy just needed the luxury of time and space to fully engage me. Approximately 15 minutes into his act, I realized that my optimism would not be rewarded. This was going to suck hard and I had no one to blame but myself...and Felipe Esparza.
I took plenty of notes during the act (it's amazing how much I can focus when I'm not laughing) but I'll spare you the details because you've heard it all before. Esparza never dares to break any new ground with his comedy and that's what makes this such a slog. He simply goes down a list of topics that every budding comedian thinks he needs to cover in order to be considered edgy. Terrorist jokes? Yes. Gay jokes? Yes. Pot jokes? Yes. Mexican jokes? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. He even dedicates a portion of his act to detailing various amorous experiences...overweight women, mentally challenged women...nobody is safe. This segment illustrates the fact that it's really tough to be self-deprecating when you insist on presenting yourself as a lothario.
It's a damn shame that Esparza's material is so weak because his style of delivery holds some promise. His spacey mush-mouthed manner is reminiscent of Mitch Hedberg if one were to trade in some of Hedberg's low-key wit for a bit more energy. Esparza puts this energy to good use by dominating the entire stage, even engaging in some light physical comedy at times. It's easy to see how he uses his stage presence to make up for shortcomings in pretty much every other area of his act. I was baffled as to how he won Last Comic Standing but now I have a theory: America was just distracted.
I know I've been harsh so far but a tiny glimmer of hope appears towards the end of Esparza's show. It happens when he talks about his rough childhood and growing up with a dad who was a professional wrestler (!!!). For just a few minutes Esparza stops going for the cheap and easy gag as he finds humor in honesty. In that moment I realize that Felipe Esparza is a far better storyteller than he is a comedian (not that the two have to be mutually exclusive). Then he explains why R2D2 is Mexican and the reverie is broken.