White people do it like that and Latinos do it like this. Oh and the way Latinos do it is soooooo much better. There you have it. That's George Lopez's latest HBO special in a nutshell. I won't deny that there are a few laughs to be had (I definitely chuckled a few times). Just be prepared to have the same basic premise flogged over and over again for roughly an hour. Lopez's charisma will keep you from tuning out but there's a really good chance that the shallowness of his material will leave you unsatisfied after he's left the stage.
To have recorded 3 stand-up specials for HBO is no small feat. Lopez accomplishes exactly that with this set performed in front of 7000 adoring fans at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Lopez is on his home turf and has the crowd hanging on his every word right from the start. Lest anybody accuse him of disguising his intent, he announces early on that "Tonight is a celebration of being Latino in USA". What he neglects to mention is that he will hardly stray from the subject over the course of his set and that in order to properly celebrate his heritage, he will routinely be taking shots at other races (especially white people).
After starting out his set with praise for the Latino work ethic, he moves on to topics like Mexicans being used as punching bags in the media (the Swine flu was originally called the Mexican flu) and the time-sensitive beauty of Hispanic women ("you gotta get them before they get fat"). A bright spot shows up in the form of George's racist Grandma whose tales give the show a few rare moments of unpredictability. From there, we're back to the superior child-rearing methods adopted by Hispanic parents (tough with emphasis on values) including physical intimidation and crippling doubt. This is in stark contrast with white families whose kids are (apparently) spoilt, entitled and swimming in meds.
After a brief stroll through more vulgar terrain (jokes about queefs, farts and blowjobs), Lopez even tackles some political material by claiming to run for president with Carlos Santana as his running mate. He also gets in a few shots at Mitt Romney (whose father was born in Mexico) before playfully encouraging President Obama to drop his dignified act. This bit gives him an opportunity to do his Black Man Voice which should be a nice change-up for anyone who has grown tired of the White Man Voice that he trots out during the rest of the show with alarming regularity.
It's mildly depressing to watch Lopez work through his set. To have so much energy and stage-presence wasted on such one-note, uninspiring material is a bit disheartening. His talent is undeniable which explains why I kept hoping for an uptick in quality till the very end, even though I was acutely aware of the repetitive nature of the paths he was going down. Although one could say that he is just playing (pandering?) to the expectations of his core audience; that hardly explains why so many of his jokes seem to be instantly forgettable.
I believe it may be because there is so little of Lopez in his own act. When he is talking about his grandma he lights up with a spark which is absent from much of the rest of the set that applies to the Latino experience. In trying to give his material universal appeal (well, universal within his target audience), he seems to have squeezed himself out of the picture. His jokes may resonate with his fans in a general sense but they say next to nothing about Lopez and his own life. I suppose there is some truth to the title of the special after all. It's not about Lopez, it's about you...unless of course you're not Hispanic, in which case you're on your own.