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No Donald Trump ever called him 'LatinX'
Lou Perez

No Donald Trump ever called him 'Latinx'

Comedian Lou Perez gives Align his eyewitness account of 'The Death and Rebirth of Comedy.'

Comedian Lou Perez has something to say about America's current immigration chaos. "As the son of an immigrant, I am very open-borders for immigrants like my father," he tells Align. "And extremely closed-borders for immigrants like my cousins."

Our subject's birth name is Luis Amate Perez (his dad's from Argentina), but you can call him Lou. Just don't call him "Latinx," a term the NYU grad first noticed in 2018 when his alma mater's Latino Alumni Network changed its name. As Perez writes in his 2022 book, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore: On the Death and Rebirth of Comedy":

"I think that it's crucial now for people just to stand up and say, look, if this is how you wanna play, I'm more than happy to show you how I play."

"[W]hen I hear Latinx, I think of a Latino who is incapable of seducing your wife. Sir, you don't have to worry about your pretty wife when hiring these landscapers. They're Latinx."

Perez continues his campaign of mockery in the latest video for "Comedy Is Murder," a sketch series he produces in conjunction with libertarian-leaning organization Free the People. "The LatinX-Files" is a slick, letter-perfect "reboot" of the '90s sci-fi hit, with Mulder and Scully in search of a contemporary mythological creature: one of the supposedly 62.5 million Americans who identify as "Latinx." Watch below (but be advised there's a little R-rated profanity toward the end):

The LatinX-Filesyoutu.be

Like many of his peers who dare to poke fun at liberal orthodoxy, Perez has been called a "far-right radical." Unlike most of them, his particular accusation was made by experts. It happened in late 2020. Pushing 40 and with a new baby at home, Perez had just been laid off as head writer and producer for the "We the Internet TV" YouTube channel, ending a five-year run putting out hundreds of videos like "Stop Making Me Defend Donald Trump" and "Social Justice Warrior Therapist."

Shortly thereafter Perez was surprised to find his body of work listed in an academic paper titled "Evaluating the scale, growth, and origins of right-wing echo chambers on YouTube." Perez ended up writing an editorial about it for the Wall Street Journal. He sent the article to a publisher he was friends with on Facebook, who encouraged him to write a whole book (the text of the editorial appears in "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore").

Perez takes the experience as another validation of his belief in putting yourself out there, even if you feel weird about it. He's followed this credo since his earliest days in comedy. At NYU he joined the sketch group The Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz, which quickly made a name for itself by mounting sketch shows at then increasingly buzzed-about Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

He also met fellow "meathead comedy dork" Greg Burke. "Our first conversation was about bench-pressing." The duo began releasing comedy sketch videos in the early days of YouTube under the moniker Greg & Lou. Their 2009 epic "Wolverine's Claws Suck" has 19.6 million views and counting. Like Hammerkatz, they also built a following at the UCB with their sketch shows.

That venue, which also included an improv comedy school, went through its own woke struggle session in the summer of 2020. Project ReThink, a group headed by a longtime teacher and performer, charged the UCB with "institutional racism" and made a nebulous demand for a "seat at the table." That controversy came on the heels of the UCB's decision to close its two Manhattan-based locations after struggling financially during the pandemic lockdown. (The UCB still has a theatre/school in Los Angeles.)

Perez is one of the many comedians, actors, and writers to credit the UCB with helping launch his career. The normally affable performer lets a little anger creep into his voice when he recalls the media-fabricated firestorm:

Fact of the matter is [the UCB owners and management] are not racist. And it's an absolutely disgusting slur to throw onto these people. But ... 2020 was a time when that was a currency. You were able to call someone a racist and try to get something back from it. I don't think anyone on Project ReThink ever offered to buy out the UCB theater.

Also, think about this. This theater, it's all voluntary, right? There's nobody forcing anybody to do improv. So here are these people, some who've been there for more than a decade, who have supposedly been abused, put down, left behind because of their race. And yet, they continue to stay there and perform there rather than saying, you know what, I don't wanna deal with this garbage any more, I'm gonna go build something of my own. None of them did that.

In 2024 the culture seems to be undergoing a kind of perestroika. One sign of this is Shane Gillis returning as a conquering hero to host the show that promptly unhired him five years earlier for using racial slurs on his podcast.

Perhaps another sign is the debate Perez held with outspoken progressive comedian Michael Ian Black on the topic "Is Wokeness Killing Comedy?" (Perez argues, convincingly and entertainingly, for the affirmative.) There was a time not long ago when even to pose such a question would have been beyond the pale for respectable society.

For the most part, however, Perez prefers action over argument. The more people like him who forge their own path in entertainment in spite of mainstream opposition, the freer we'll all be. "I think that it's crucial now for people just to stand up and say, look, if this is how you wanna play, I'm more than happy to show you how I play."

Read an excerpt of "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore." Content warning: Profanity.

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Matt Himes

Matt Himes

Managing Editor, Align

Matt Himes is the managing editor for Align. He has been a copywriter and marketing consultant for the entertainment industry for 20 years. A native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
@matthimes →