Apr 15, 2024 - Things to Do

How one comic is changing U.S. comedy with Spanish-only sets

Photo illustration of Venezuelan comedian, Angelo Colina collaged with abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Angelo Colina

Angelo Colina brings his national comedy tour to New Orleans on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The Venezuelan comic is flipping the narrative by selling out shows and drawing a massive online audience with his entirely Spanish-language sets.

The big picture: Colina's surging popularity comes as demand for Spanish-language content grows.

State of play: Most successful Latino comedians — think George Lopez and Cristela Alonzo — have long performed in English.

  • Colina, who moved to the U.S. at age 24 to help support his family in Salt Lake City, tells Axios he didn't always perform in Spanish.
  • "It was mostly knowing that everything that I wrote in Spanish and then translated to English was better than writing in English from the start," says Colina, who now lives in New York.
  • He pulls much of his material from his life experiences, exposing the intricacies of Latino identity. He jokes in one video that he doesn't need therapy because his barber is Dominican.

Case in point: In a bilingual, viral sketch, Colina portrays an insurance representative talking to a customer played by comedian and TV writer Joanna Hausmann.

  • Each person suspects the other is Venezuelan, but instead of asking, the caller awkwardly drops slang to confirm she's speaking to a fellow Venezuelan.

Like Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, who has never released an English-only track to appease commercial audiences, Colina doesn't feel the need to constrain himself to English-speaking audiences.

  • "Doing comedy in English … you really have to explain why you have an accent. You kinda go into these identity politics," he says.
  • In 2021, Colina teamed up with Venezuelan comedian Andrés Sereno to launch a tour called "Español Please" that sold out numerous shows.

Between the lines: Colina in an Instagram post attributed his invitation to the White House last year to the fact that he performs in Spanish.

What's next: Colina is on a national tour, intentionally visiting cities that don't have a robust Latino population, including Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Louisville, Kentucky.

If you go: His show is at Comedy House New Orleans at 9:30pm Tuesday. Buy tickets.

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