Latino Spotlight

Papi Chemistry
Actor Jacob Vargas and comedy writer, Rick Najera, talk about their comedy show and sporting Papi Underwear.

jacob vargasIf there could be only one word used to describe "Latinologues," that word would have to be: hilarious. "Latinologues" is an evening of Latino-flavored comedy which celebrates our cultura by poking fun at the interesting quirks of our Latino community and allowing us Latinos to lighten up and laugh at ourselves.

"Latinologues" is the brainchild of critically acclaimed author Rick Najera, who along with actors Maria Costa ("Dangerous Minds") and Jacob Vargas ("Selena," "My Family," "Romy & Michele's High School Reunion") take the stage every Sunday night at the Improv in West Hollywood to deliver a refreshing dose of comedy with a Latino twist. The show has now been going strong for six months, a record run for the Improv, and has attracted a who's who of Latino actors to both see and act in it.

Sitting down to chat with Rick and Jacob was simply a blast as their comedic chemistry kicked in, and the conversation quickly led to one laugh after another.

Upon inspecting the "Sexuality Issue" of qvMagazine (qv7), Jacob and Rick developed an obsession with becoming Papi Underwear models and getting included among qv's "Sexy Hombres."

But setting aside the jokes for just a moment, Jacob and Rick talked about the true impact and importance of the work they are doing with "Latinologues."

"This is one of the only Latino comedy shows out there right now," Jacob said. "It's critically acclaimed, and it's always sold out. People come because of the work-the writing and the acting. It's a great show. It's really great to see Latinos come out and support something like this. There's been no advertising, just word of mouth. We also got great reviews in the Los Angeles Times and in the LA Weekly. People see the show and love it, and they want to write about it. So now people read about it, and they come down to support the show." Laughing, he added, "Plus, we look great in Papi Underwear...that's the key!"

"It's been very successful, but the whole point is to provide a service for the Latino community, explained Rick. "Just look at all the stars. I mean every Latino star who has been here to see the show has loved it. Jimmy Smits was here tonight. Last week was Esai Morales, also Jose Solano, Mario Lopez."

"Everybody who looks good in Papi Underwear has been here," added Jacob.

"The Taco Bell chihuahua came and saw our show recently, but he pissed on our stage-that was the only drag," Rick joked. "And he crapped in the back. He humped Maria Costa's leg and Jacob's leg which says something about his sexuality."

Whether one is Latino or non-Latino, there is something for just about everyone to enjoy in "Latinologues." As Jacob explained," We had a group of like 20 Asians from San Francisco come in, and they loved it! They identified with being different, not really fitting in, and having a different culture. You could be Latino, Black, Asian, or whatever, and you can still identify with it. It's all about trying to belong and trying to fit in."

"As a writer, I look at it and I think, 'Everyone wants to be understood,'" added Rick. "That's the bottom line."

"You want to people to like you and you want people to understand you," concluded Jacob. "Sometimes, it's difficult. With 'Latinologues', we give the audience some insight and allow them to see our culture, and at the end of the show, you find that the audience is accepting these characters and embracing them. The minute you see the characters come out, it might seem a bit stereotypical, but at the end, you just want to put your arms around them and take them home with you."

For the Latino audience, "The best thing is that you can laugh at yourself," Jacob said. "We Latinos are such serious people and are so easily offended by things that we need to relax and laugh at ourselves once in a while because we're funny as hell! We come here, and we can laugh at it. That's what's good about it. You go home, and you can say, 'You know what? I had a great time, and I laughed. Most of all, I'm Latino, and I can laugh at some of the things that our culture does.'"

vargas & najeraQuality writing and acting are the key ingredients to the success of "Latinologues." Rick is one of the top writers in all of Hollywood, while both Maria Costa and Jacob Vargas are among the top new Latino actors. Together, they represent an entire spectrum of Latinos.

Jacob explained, "We have Rick, who is very huero. I'm more of the indigenous look with the strong, really solid features, and Maria is Afro-Cubano. We have different ages, too. Maria and I are very young, and Rick...well...has obviously been around the block a few times!"

"I made Zapata laugh!" Rick exclaimed. "I made him laugh so hard he was, like, spitting menudo out of his nose. So yeah, I've been around."

For Jacob, his career is truly on an upswing. He has a new movie called, "The High Low Country" in which he plays a cowboy in the 1940s. The film also stars Woody Harrelson, Patricia Arquette, Sam Elliott, and Willy Nelson. He has also completed a pilot for a new show called, "West Point," in which he plays a young cadet in a military academy.

Jacob is also in the talks to take a role in an independent film where he would play a QV artist who falls in love with another man. "It's like a real relationship and not a stereotypical 'Birdcage' thing. It's very subtle," Jacob says of the role.

"What attracts me to the character is that he is a very human character. It is just a relationship between two people, and whether it's between two men doesn't matter. It's a very beautiful script, and there's an audience for that who will come and support it."

Jacob is certainly optimistic that his fans will always stand by his side-no matter which roles he plays, including playing QV ones. "If you have an audience and you have fans, I think they'll accept you wherever you go. I mean, how much reaching do I have to do? It's just a human being. A human being with a different lifestyle, and you play that-not the stereotype. The writer is QV, and he wants me to play this character because he thinks I have a good quality-an innocence, but a sexiness, too."

But in the meantime, Jacob will continue working with Rick and Maria doing "Latinologues." In fact, they have high hopes that the stage show will be going on for a long time. "I think we can go for a year, and eventually do a tour of it. Then eventually go Broadway or off-broadway," he explained.

Here's to hoping for many more months-even years-of Latino Laughs!

by qvStaff Roldán

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