Sonny Castillo Masters the Art of Silence

January 15, 2023

Photo Credit

Fatal Appeal


Valerie Lopez


Sara Cline


Son­ny Castil­lo chalks his com­e­dy career and sig­na­ture style up to a com­bi­na­tion of things, the likes of which include per­son­al encour­age­ment from Mike Judge, his ex-wife cheat­ing on him, and some guy try­ing to fight him in a park­ing lot. Of all the 2022 FPIA final­ists, I doubt any oth­er com­ic could say the same.

Grow­ing up watch­ing Com­e­dy Cen­tral and crack­ing jokes in school, a young Castil­lo held aspi­ra­tions of per­form­ing stand-up. But also being that I was a poor kid from East Austin,” he caveats, I was like, This is not a dream that we’re sup­posed to have. This is not some­thing that’s attain­able for us.’ So, I kind of just let it go by the backburner.”

That back­burn­er pan start­ed inch­ing clos­er one fate­ful day when Castil­lo got a call from his mom; an ad was call­ing for extras for a Mike Judge movie. Not too long after, Castil­lo found him­self at his first-ever audi­tion, tow­ing a paper copy of his head­shot that he print­ed at Wal­mart. He looked around at every­one in for­mal attire, then down at his own t‑shirt and shorts. When prompt­ed to stand on his mark, Castil­lo had to be told that meant the tape on the floor. He recit­ed the sin­gle, three-word line: Hur­ry up, ass­hole!” Then, as a tes­ta­ment to (and good faith show­ing of) his sin­gle pri­or act­ing expe­ri­ence, Castil­lo did a ren­di­tion of his line from The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar, which he per­formed in pre‑K: On Mon­day, he ate through one apple, but he was still hungry.” 

I was like, ‘This is not a dream that we're supposed to have. This is not something that's attainable for us.’
Sonny Castillo

Castil­lo didn’t get the part. Instead, he got a call­back to read for three actu­al roles, final­ly land­ing the role of pros­e­cu­tor in the film: Idioc­ra­cy. Once Castillo’s two days of shoot­ing were done, Mike Judge offered these part­ing words: Hey, well, you should keep enter­tain­ing peo­ple.” And when Mike Judge tells you that you’ve got chops, you take that and run with it. Soon enough, Castil­lo was plung­ing into act­ing class­es and per­form­ing with an improv troupe.

Even­tu­al­ly, what pushed Castil­lo into stand-up was his then-wife cheat­ing on him. So, I was like, Oh man, that’s embar­rass­ing,” Castil­lo recalls, I don’t know if I could be any more embar­rassed than this. Hey, why don’t I get on stage and try this stand-up thing?’” In fact, stand-up was the vehi­cle by which he broke the news to friends and fam.

Castillo’s sig­na­ture onstage style is par­tic­u­lar­ly influ­enced by a com­e­dy class he took — not because it was an insight­ful course, but because the instruc­tor imme­di­ate­ly lec­tured him that his then jokes would nev­er work. Nev­er the one to be told what to do, Castil­lo fin­ished the class and per­formed a set in the show­case … dur­ing which he said not one sin­gle word. And you know, the laugh­ter is con­ta­gious … gig­gles turn to chuck­les turn to full-on laugh­ter,” Castil­lo explains. And then I final­ly said, Are ya’ll tired of look­ing at me?’ and they lost it. Now I go, Well, here’s your next com­ic,’ and walked off stage.” To this day, Castil­lo keeps that dry tightlipped per­sona, though he does say a few more words.

Laugh or don’t laugh. I’ll stare you down, then move on.
Sonny Castillo

Of course, he also has his east Austin back­ground to thank for his unique deliv­ery. As the skin­ny light-skinned kid always get­ting picked on, a young Castil­lo learned to take the heat and dish it right back out. This irrev­er­ent atti­tude made its way into his stand-up M.O. one night after some­one tried to fight him in the park­ing lot. Castil­lo took the stage with a lot more aggres­sion than usu­al and an uncar­ing atti­tude that essen­tial­ly telegraphed: Laugh or don’t laugh. I’ll stare you down, then move on.” The Hous­ton audi­ence ate it up.

Of his style, Castil­lo describes, They’re lit­er­al­ly on the edge of their seat like, What is he going to say next? What is he gonna do next?’ When I real­ly don’t do a whole lot … I may just look at some­one — glance and look angry at them real quick — and the audi­ence laughs.”

We’d be remiss not to men­tion that Castil­lo bran­dished action fig­ures dur­ing his inter­view. You read that right. Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, Castil­lo got a lit­tle buzzed and made a sil­ly action fig­ure review video. A few fans begged for more, and now over 1600 sub­scribers lat­er, his fan base calls them­selves the girth gang.” And now he totes around a few lucky action fig­ures right in his pocket

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the audi­ence for Castil­lo. From FPIA, to his for­mer improv days, to his own com­e­dy shows that he still refus­es to head­line (always bring­ing in a live­li­er com­ic to fin­ish the show with high ener­gy), as long as the crowd is enter­tained, that’s all that mat­ters. If he can bright­en someone’s day (even through jokes about still­borns and divorce), he’s hap­py, and so are we. And maybe some­day we’ll con­vince him to headline.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear these words and more from Sonny

Fol­low Sonny

Son­ny can be seen and heard:

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Sonny Castillo