Adrian Villegas - El Sketch Maestro

June 30, 2024

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Adrian Villegas

Interview

Valerie Lopez

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Valerie Lopez

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The Lati­no Com­e­dy Project (LCP) launched in 1998 and recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed its 25th year. The cel­e­bra­tion includ­ed a reunion show, and on March 7th, 2024 the City of Austin declared that day the Lati­no Com­e­dy Project Day. I’m not sure why it took this long to final­ly con­nect with one of the dri­ving forces behind the project. It was des­tined to happen. 

I heard about LCP ear­ly in the his­to­ry of the Com­e­dy Wham Presents pod­cast in my first inter­view with Vanes­sa Gon­za­lez. But I didn’t know any­one on the troupe cur­rent­ly. Thanks to Omar Gal­la­ga (yes, that, Omar), I was intro­duced to Adri­an Vil­le­gas, one of the found­ing mem­bers and cur­rent Artis­tic Direc­tor of LCP.

It’s no secret that sketch troupes come and go faster than, oh what’s the phrase? Faster than Eliz­a­beth Taylor’s husbands. 

While I don’t think that’s the phrase (at least not one that mil­len­ni­als under­stand), even Vil­le­gas admits there is a well-pop­u­lat­ed sketch troupe ceme­tery” some­where out there. Focused on polit­i­cal satire and pop cul­ture par­o­dy, LCP earned itself an Emmy nom­i­na­tion along the way and has won its fair share of awards, giv­ing it the fuel to out­live the vast major­i­ty of sketch troupes in Austin.

The main theme was just dealing with our (Latino) representation in pop culture history.
Adrian Villegas

How did Vil­le­gas get involved? It began with his invi­ta­tion to put on a show by friends who worked on the Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Cul­ture Com­mit­tee at The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in 1997. He had no for­mal per­for­mance expe­ri­ence at the time but was (and still is) a pro­lif­ic writer. The show was so well pro­mot­ed by the com­mit­tee (and had no cov­er charge), that Vil­le­gas was ter­ri­fied to real­ize that he’d be per­form­ing in front of 300 peo­ple; a venue full of those eager to watch some­one enter­tain them in a way that caters to their Lati­no background. 

There’s a hunger for the cul­ture they know but don’t get to see in tra­di­tion­al enter­tain­ment forms. In Vil­le­gas’s words, the main theme was just deal­ing with our rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pop cul­ture his­to­ry.” The idea to share his expe­ri­ence kept fol­low­ing him around until 1998, Maria Rocha approached him about launch­ing the LCP. And so the troupe’s rich his­to­ry began.

Over its 25-year his­to­ry, shar­ing the expe­ri­ence of Lati­nos has evolved in Austin. In its ear­ly days, the LCP per­for­mances were ways to bring oth­er Austin Lati­nos togeth­er to laugh. As the city grew – and grew rapid­ly – in the 2010s, LCP’s func­tion seemed to evolve. As the city became increas­ing­ly gen­tri­fied, the Lati­no voice seemed to dimin­ish, but the LCP nev­er lost its role of explor­ing cul­tur­al events with plen­ty of humor. Their 2023 show Gen­tri­fucked explored a rebuke of all that comes with gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, prej­u­dice, and earned LCP a Best Of recog­ni­tion from The Austin Chron­i­cle.

Vil­le­gas feels that part of what keeps the LCP thriv­ing is the psy­cho­log­i­cal ser­vice they pro­vide to give their audi­ence a com­mu­nal expe­ri­ence and remind them that they’re not crazy. He notes, in the con­text of how much Austin has changed and how much Austin has stran­gled out our (Lati­no) com­mu­ni­ties… I feel like it’s just, you know, it’s an island, you know, that we’re hav­ing to pre­serve.” It’s not all doom and gloom though.

I promise, you will have a good time, and you will walk out happy.
Adrian Villegas

Fine, it’s still doom and gloom, but pack­aged in a hilar­i­ous satir­i­cal look at our soci­ety. The LCP’s satir­i­cal take has been cap­tured in video form, with mil­lions of views (the LCP’s 300” has over 8.1M views). But the bread and but­ter is still the live show. Over the past sev­er­al years, the LCP has been per­form­ing ¡Estar Guars!, and is set to retire the show next week­end (July 5 – 7 at the Scot­tish Rite The­ater). As the LCP depicts it, it’s as if Star Wars had been invent­ed by Jorge Lucas instead of George Lucas. The show is full of mul­ti­me­dia ele­ments and more than enough word­play to sat­is­fy logophiles. We love a sol­id promise, and Vil­le­gas has his own, I promise, you will have a good time, and you will walk out happy.”

Once the final show wraps up, there will be no mas ¡Estar Guars!, but Vil­le­gas teas­es that, like Star Wars, he’s got his eyes set on estab­lish­ing the ¡Estar Guars! fran­chise with a sequel. Insert stan­dard joke here about the recep­tion of Star Wars sequels. 

Don’t expect a sequel soon, though. Vil­le­gas admits that he wants to do a one-man show after not hav­ing done one for 20 years. After repeat­ed­ly admit­ting dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion that he has binders upon binders of writ­ten mate­r­i­al, it’s just a mat­ter of time before el mae­stro orches­trates his next show. Whether it turns out to be his one man show or anoth­er LCP sketch show, we’re guar­an­teed a masterpiece.

Fol­low Adrian

Fol­low Lati­no Com­e­dy Project

Adri­an can be seen and heard:

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Adrian Villegas