Audio by Valerie Lopez, Words by Lara Smith
Ever meet someone with a smile so warm and vibrant you feel you must have met before? Well, meet Rojo Perez. That’s exactly what this New York comic makes you feel like upon first greeting. Lucky for us, he was kind enough to carve out some time during the 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival and record an interview with Valerie Lopez.
Born in New York, but returning to his parent’s native Puerto Rico around the age of eight, Rojo Perez says he had a normal, well-adjusted childhood. New York City was becoming a rougher place and his parents felt they had succeeded in living out their “American dream” and were ready to return home. Little did they know, comedy would one day return Perez to the big city.
Perez grew up watching the comedians of Puerto Rico, whose careers had longevity, but required many different facets of media to succeed. Unlike those of the continental United States, a successful career required a comic to wear more hats than just a stand up, such as hosting a radio or television show. Very different from the influences of American comedians, such as John Leguizamo and George Lopez, whose family-centric storytelling styles spoke to him.
Perez moved to Florida, initially to go to college for journalism, video editing, and news media. It was there that a friend took him to his first open mic. Like many first comedy attempts, Perez bombed terribly, but the confidence instilled by a good childhood did not let him quit. Realizing soon into a newspaper internship, journalism wasn’t for him, he decided to give comedy his all. Perez decided to go big or go home, returning to New York City, arguably doing both.
Perez quickly found out how tough a New York audience could be and began putting in the time and work, until his own unique voice evolved. Discovering his was a storytelling style, Perez never wanted to be labeled solely a “Spanish comedian.” Doing character work with an exaggerated accent didn’t truly reflect the reality of his own upbringing and would’ve felt like a disingenuous crutch. Remember the smile I described earlier? It’s the smile of a comic that can’t help but be genuine.
Hard work, that beautiful confidence, and the acknowledgement of very supportive peers have led Rojo Perez to go on and do some incredible things. He’s done many festivals such as Bridgetown, Hell Yes Fest, and Just For Laughs, and while the industry exposure has been great, Perez credits the connections festivals make to fellow comedians as some of the most helpful and influential in his success. Perez has been on MTV’s Decoded, Comedy Central’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True, and stars in Mike Brown’s web series Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Now go listen to our interview with Rojo Perez and discover the friend you didn’t know you had. Also, be sure to listen for the unexpected drop in at the end from Sal Vulcano of Impractical Jokers, who will vouch for your new friend.