Episode 1159 - Alicia Keys / John LeguizamoWTF with Marc Maron
- 800 views
- 21 Sep 2020
It's a New York City doubleheader! First up, Marc talks with the woman behind the modern day New York anthem, Alicia Keys. On the release of her seventh studio album, Alicia looks back on what it was like to start a huge music career so young and how she had to finally meet her monster in order to come into her own. Then Marc talks to John Leguizamo about his defining one-man shows, his relationship with other New York City artists, and his new movie Critical Theory, which is the first feature film John directed.
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Open the Apple TV app and start watching. Long way up now. Subscription required for Apple TV plus. All right, here we go. Let's do the show. Yeah, we're saying that again, lock the gate. All right, let's do this, how are you? What the fuckers, what the fuck buddies, what the fuck? Nix what's happening? I'm Makhmur and this is WTF, my podcast. How's it going, huh? Right. When you think it could only get worse, it does.
That's a constant in the current world. The current environment, the current cultural moment, the current.
Now Jesus fucking Christ, huh. I can't fucking take it.
Man on top everything else on top of my own personal journey. All right, can we use that word journey? Hey, life is a journey, man. It's not about meeting your goals or getting everything you want. It's the journey. It's about the journey. Enjoy the journey. I got to be honest with you, I think the journey is not great right now. I think that the vessel we're on not terrific, tough, tough to appreciate the journey.
Maybe if I'm looking back and I'm like, I can't believe our bus made it through that shit, that'll be nice. Then I could see the journey thing. But right now, on the road, on the edge, on this fucking crumbling dirt road of democracy and a bus that's overcrowded with people that are trying to have hope and some are crying in the back of the bus and the sound system doesn't work and the driver is sweating. Not a great journey was a fucking earthquake here the other night on top of everything else.
Happy New Year, Joo's. Happy New Year to everybody who doesn't who don't acknowledge that this is the junior year we've been doing this year, we can do in the New Year thing for five thousand seven hundred eighty some odd years. I think it is.
But happy New Year to those in the tribe, those who are adjacent to the tribe. I hope the apples and honey work. It's going to take a lot of apples and honey man, a lot of fucking apples and honey.
And I know there are some people in this world that just are sort of like, hey, fuck it, man, there's not much we can do. And, you know, it was never good and it was never going good place and it was always inevitable. Doesn't end well for anybody, man. Just enjoy the ride situation. All right. I get that. But the ride stinks right now. It's a shitty amusement park.
It's a fucked up, broken ride. And it doesn't look like the fucking guy is even at the controls anymore, and the guy who seems to be running the whole park is out of his fucking mind, what is it? Metaphore de. POW! Look out, just shit my pants, just coffee dutko up, we'll throw back. I'm sorry, am I too negative? How are you doing? Everything all right with the kid? Do you figure out what that thing was?
Maybe you should get some more detergent then. I mean, how long are you going to put that off?
I know it's scary to go to the store, but, you know, just fucking suit up and go suit up and go. Today, we got a doubleheader.
Actually, we have Alicia Keys for like a half hour and then John Leguizamo for a bit for almost an hour.
Just worked out that way. Sort of a New Yorker real New Yorker themed show today.
They both talk like they're from the fucking city, you know, because they are. It's you know, I can explain it to you, I can explain it to look, folks. Nothing lasts forever, right? So how come for some itchy allergy sufferers, it seems like allergy season never ends? If you've had it with rubbing your itchy allergy eyes all the time, you need Saturday once daily relief bad today contains the number one prescribed eye allergy relief ingredient and now it's available without prescription with Pat.
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All right. I got I finally realized I have allergies.
I have grass allergy, but it manifests itself differently. I think, you know, my grass allergy.
Kazmi causes me existential sadness and deep, despondent, despairing thoughts.
Is that is that a common symptom of allergy? Suicidal ideation? Is that is that because I'm allergic to the grass?
Furi chest pains? Is that the grass allergy?
Jesus, man. So. Here's what happened, how will scheduling botch? You know, I somehow the my doctor's appointment didn't show up in the calendar and I made it months ago and I needed to go. And it kind of cut into the Alicia Keys time a little bit. So we pushed it 15 minutes, which was fine. But then I actually got back in time, but they couldn't push it back. And she only had an hour to begin with.
And then she was running 15 minutes late. So point being, we got about 30 minutes and I was focused.
Now, this is like one of those learning experiences, you know, really for me in the in the big picture, you know, I didn't grow up with the Alicia Keys.
You know, I know the song she did with Jay-Z. I think I've heard some of her biggest hits, but it really, really wasn't in my radar, wasn't on my radar, wasn't in my world. But I know she was great. I know she made big hits. I know she was a prodigy and a brilliant artist. I knew that, but I didn't know her stuff. So when this happens, I'm like, I think I should talk to her, but I'm going to have to get in it, going to have to get into the work.
So that makes me get into the work. So I listen to her past, hit some of her past records, did a little poking around in her history. But then I just focused on the new record.
Alicia, so there's a record it's been quite a few years since her last one, she's older now, she's wiser now. She's coming at it from a different angle.
And I just kind of focused on that record and listen to it and listen to the words and, you know, kind of absorbed where she was at and what she was talking about and kind of use that as a template.
So this is like if if I ever do prepare, this is it.
It's like I take the piece of art that they've created and I see the span of their life through the lens of that piece of work.
The most recent work is how I I did it with this one.
I don't know that I do it this way all the time, but but it enabled me an immediacy to sort of connect with her.
And I don't know that her and I would have talked, you know, if we ever in our lives, it almost feels like we live in different worlds.
I don't know that if we if we did talk in another time that we would have, like, talked this long. So it's sort of interesting. It's a real sort of like, you know, bridge, you know, to a type of music. I don't know, to an upbringing. I don't know culturally. We're different in a lot of ways. And it was great. It was just sort of locked in with the work. I walked in with her.
I'll share it with you. All right.
Her new album, Alicia, is out now wherever you get music. And this is just listen, we lock right in and it's just me and Alicia Keys.
OK. Hi, Mark, how are you doing? I'm good, how are you? Great, thank you. I'm really glad to be connecting with you. Yes. Nice to talk to you. I mean, is it crazy you're doing a million of these now?
I mean, I am doing a lot of different things, but honestly, I feel great. I just I feel I feel excited. I feel really in a in a special place right now. So I'm I'm I'm in my bliss. Yeah.
Special place. And it took a while to get there.
It's been a long while and I was just glad to be here man, because I was noticing like it's been the last couple of records. You got about four years in between them.
And then I was listening to the songs on this record and I was like, wow, some shit went down there.
I felt so good. I don't know what, but but there's a lot of reflection. There seems to be some relationship difficulty.
We will shout out to people who are the less fortunate. There's a fairly radical song about about the police, but it seems like everything's covered.
Yeah, I guess so. You know, I mean, I couldn't even have guessed how this music was meant to be for this time. I mean, I feel like I've always been honored that my music is timeless. Yeah.
But I definitely couldn't imagine how the music that I wrote even two years ago, a year ago, however long it takes to put all of it together, is relevant more than ever.
Right now, you know, certain things are beyond your control and certain things are just how it is supposed to be. And I feel like I'm in one of those moments where it's just like everything is where it's supposed to be. Right?
Well, sadly, you know, a song like Perfect Way to Die Young remains forever relevant until change comes.
You know, I really can't wait because it's like I really know that there's so many of us that don't want to see that same situation played out. We don't want to see this blatant disrespect for black lives. And we dallis like it's like a barrage of like too much and it's not right. So I really can't wait for us to collectively decide to just never do that again.
And it's interesting because, like I mean, you grew up in New York and you grew up like in a in a part of New York that was rough.
And it would seem to me and I know also that you did you did some performing for like the Police Athletic League when you were younger.
But the relationship. Right, your personal relationship with the neighborhood in the police that you grew up with is got to be different than than what you see right now.
I mean, to be honest, I mean, I was there's always been a natural distrust for police officers in the army. Yeah. So I can't say we didn't grow up in a way. It was like, oh, hey, go find a police officer that's going to hurt.
Like, that's a whole nother neighborhood. Right? I think that's I think that's the point of a lot of these conversations that you're having right now regards to where the funds go and and what is actually the the proper way to spend a city's funds. But it seems like there's there's you know, regardless of what you know, what you experience is definitely to Americas. And so it feels like one side of America can approach the police and be protected by them and another side can expect to be brutalized by them.
So it's like that's what it is.
That's it. And where'd you grow up? In New York and Hell's Kitchen.
Hell's Kitchen and also Harlem was Hell's Kitchen. What was that in the 80s?
Yeah, it was like the eighties. Yeah, it wasn't. It wasn't it wasn't quite good. Yeah it was.
It now is the way forward for me. It was really nasty is definitely I mean I like to say that it is like the place where all the misfits and the outcasts and the unwanted ones were congregating in between ninth and tenth.
Yeah. I was actually right on ten. I was right there.
It's like that highway. Yeah. Like the city just sort of drops off the edge of civilization. Right.
Especially because it was before, like now there's all these cool things on the piers and there's all these places and it's like stuff to do. But at how desolate it is not you didn't you didn't dare go to the pier. That was not the place where you went. Not if you wanted to come back. Right.
So it was it was. It was. So then how things evolve and everything. Yeah, that's what it was.
And it was like it was just you and your mom. Yeah. Me and my mother, my mother's amazing woman, single mother. She raised me, chose to have me and chose to fight for me. And she's incredible. Still my best friends to this day.
So I growing up in that neighborhood, I mean, you know, being do you do you have siblings?
I have a brother, but he didn't grow up with me in that neighborhood. I was at my mother's only child.
Oh, I'll get it. I get. Do you have a relationship with that guy? My brother. Yeah, yes. Oh, my God, she's my he's my baby, I love him. He's he's ten years younger than me. So we have, like, a really beautiful weather system. But it's just it's like his done with my first kid. Yeah. Yeah. You know, so so there's like a real, real love and protection here.
But now he's all taller than me. So I'm like his little sister now and he's my big brother.
Yeah. So like when when you started getting into music, was it primarily to get to to avoid, you know, the danger of that neighborhood?
I think, you know, when I got into music, when I first got into music, it was because. I was definitely drawn I was drawn to the piano and almost like a spiritual way that I don't even know why or what made me it call me. So definitely calling me from a young age. And before I could play, I knew I wanted to play, even though I couldn't play, I wanted to.
And so did you first see it? Where do you remember first seeing like, you know, that's what I got a look at that.
Yeah. I remember like walking down the street and seeing piano stores in New York and, you know, and I would just be fascinated, like and I just put my nose to the window and look at it and just be like, I want to go in there and play. But I didn't know how to play. So what was I going to go in there and do? But I just knew I wanted to. And it was that type of energy.
My my grandmother, my mother's mother played played piano. And that was cool because she when she would come stay with me if my mother had to go away, we would practice piano together. And she definitely had a vibe like that. Other than that, there wasn't really anybody that played piano around like that. My mother wasn't a very musician. She was she was an actor, but she was a musician. But there was always creative energy around me all the time.
And so I think I was always just kind of like taken in by that creative spirit and spark.
What was the music in the house? Music in the house was, you know, a lot of jazz, a lot of kind of Ella Fitzgerald, a lot of Bobby Caldwell, definitely some Miles Davis.
And there was a lot of, you know, Aretha Franklin's and Etta James and Marvin Gaye's the classics, all the classics.
So you had that going and you know, you knew that that's pretty good range of stuff. And like, if you were to sort of explain where you're coming from, I'd say, you know, most of those are it, right? Yeah.
And then I think I mean, obviously in my in my you know, and then I was introduced from the streets and from my friends to Nas and and Wu Tang and Biggie Smalls and Tupac and all of that, all of that influence was like my secondary, my other ether. And so it was kind of this mix between soul and then and then I was playing classical music because I was playing Chopin and Safety and Debussy. And so is this mixture between soul and classical and hip hop.
And you listen to classical now of my dad so much. I really love it. I don't love it.
I don't like it. It's like the only music that I don't get. I mean, I understand.
Thank you. And we'll finish. I think when we finish this conversation, you should listen to Debussy. OK, I will.
That will give you a vibe, because this there's look, there's plenty of classical music, plenty of classical arrangements and music that I can not listen to is too like hippity heavy lifting.
I don't want to hear that type. But yeah, when I'm hearing like this very soulful moody blues, the dark chords, and it's that gorgeous and the arena is and like my mind is blown.
So it's definitely, I would say, go for that after this.
But you like when you studied it, did you like do you get the whole because like, I don't even know how it works as it's like I don't know how a symphony works. I don't know what movements are. I don't know why it fits together. Do you.
Yeah I think that's. Yeah I do. I do.
And I studied it and so I think that's a really I'm very proud of that part of my, you know, my, my upbringing.
I think that it really gave me another perspective that a lot of people don't get a chance to explore and experience and even with sight reading and even knowing how to read notes, period, I that's a that's a big a big a big reason why I can arrange and where I can hear voices in my head in a way that I think other people's peoples, other people can't.
But, you know, I, I think movements are the most beautiful. One of my favorite is very, very popular. But one of my favorite Chopin songs is Chopin is one of my favorites, too, is called The Raindrop. You've heard it before, without question. But the second movement is actually, to me, the most beautiful because it feels like the thunder and the more dark and bluesy for me. I'm like, I'm going to put me in a mood, get me and my emotions.
Oh, so. So it feels like the thunder and you can hear how it's cracking and growing and the and all of that. And so that's one of my favorites. I love how movements go together and that there's actually a thought behind why it involves the song.
And like I imagine in order to learn how to do that, you obviously had a gift for it, but you were very young when you started playing the piano.
But the discipline it takes to do that and to get locked into that and the sort of it's almost I just talked I remember who I talked to about about the military and about how his experience in the military defined how he approached work.
In general, you know, you could see it programmed his brain, so I imagine that that discipline must have been laid, that wiring for you to get shit done. You know what?
That's that's absolutely right. I mean, I you know, there was there was a certain level of discipline. And there is a certain level of discipline that comes with classical music that just doesn't come with anything else. You just can't. Pretend to play classical music, you just you have to study it. You have to work at it. You have to break it down. Each measure has to be broken down. The complexities are you're using sides of your brain that don't even usually go together.
It's definitely like an experience that I'm grateful that, of course, when I was a kid, I was like, yeah, get off my back.
Why do I have to practice this stuff? But the effort and the discipline of learning how to put in work. Yeah. Is priceless. Nobody can outwork me because I understand what it means to put in work like and I'm not afraid to put in work. I'm also learning that I also have to take breaks and you have to be healthy and you can't like burn to the ground because that's not going to work. When did you learn that? When I wrote that I know how to work now.
I didn't learn that for a long, long time.
And I had my first kid and I was like, oh, somebody is more important than me, so I have to pay attention.
Well, that's nice that you recognize that as a mother. Some others don't. It's tough. I mean, once you get that little being in your hands, you're like, I cannot believe this being needs me for everything and everything.
How many guys you have to you have to. My husband has three before me and I. We have two together, so we have five all together. So I am definitely like, it's so cool for me because I get to see the spectrum. My our kids are five and nine, but I get to see like what happens when I think what happens when a 19 is like a thing. So I feel like it teaches me a lot for what, what's going to come and how I want to keep my keep open about it all.
Well, in terms of like the work, like I imagine that understanding classroom classical music, because you seem to collaborate with a lot of people and you seem to do it well, which is sort of a unique thing and sort of a gift.
And I guess as an arranger on this record, you collaborated with a few people and yeah, you know, I used to absolutely be so frightened of collaboration because it's so, you know, like exposing you get exposed to things and sees in the way that you feel like you have to be so honest. So sometimes you don't want to be honest with a lot of people.
But and what if you're what if you're a monster one day, then all those people know.
Yeah. You know, I mean, that's the thing. I never I never met my monster until recently. And so I always hid my monster. And now I've I've truly learned how to let my monster out. A good thing. Yeah, a good thing.
But collaboration. So I enjoy collaborating on this album. I love collaborating with Johnny McDaid. He's a really, really amazing writer and producer and person who goes on to say, I just called my therapist because we sit in a room and he'll ask me questions and no one will take the time to ask me, I think about. And so what that brings forth is really, really powerful. I really enjoyed writing with a gentleman named Sebastian Cole. He we wrote Time Machine Together and also Way to Die.
And he's very prolific. I think he's one of the most powerful writers that I know. I also enjoyed working with with the dream. He's somebody that I hadn't worked with before, but I've always known of him. And when we got together, he has like a certain magic to him and like just energy to him. That's that's invigorating. So it's cool because you get to you get nobody nobody's gonna come up with what I'm going to come up with and I'm never going to come up with what they come up with.
So when we put it together, it's like kind of fascinating.
Yeah. And they're and they're ultimately working for to honor your voice and your vision. So whatever they bring. Yeah. It's only going to broaden your trip, you know. Yeah.
It enhances absolutely. First one hundred percent.
So when you were younger, was there ever a time because I mean you had big hits right away. It's interesting. I was looking at some research that, you know, because Aretha Franklin left Columbia two to go to Atlantic. Right. For similar reasons and why I didn't feel so bad.
That's why he didn't feel so bad. Yeah. Once I found out that they messed up, that Columbia definitely just didn't know what they had in me.
And and I can't blame them because I'm an anomaly and I'm definitely something that can't be defined. And so, you know, business people don't like things that can't be defined.
No. They won't put you in a box that this is a commercial. Right. Right. So so that so that that I don't blame them. But once I found out that they didn't know what they had and Aretha Franklin, it just stupid.
And she did, she did like ten records with them. Crazy how long she was there.
It's crazy. And then she and then Jerry Wexler took her over at Atlantic and that was it man and that was it.
He they they found their match. And that's all it is about. Finding your match, finding where you belong.
Yeah. I just played. Jerry Wexler in a movie with Jennifer Hudson in that Aretha. Oh, my gosh, yeah. So I was watching the new movie. It hasn't come out yet.
Aretha Franklin movie Respect and Jennifer and Jennifer plays Aretha.
So that's going to be so good. You know what? I can see that. Yeah, I can totally see that.
You can completely be that to be a cranky Jew.
Yeah, I can see that. But you are right. I have I have my monster as well.
And I've known my monster for a very long time.
And that was the first time you met your monster? I was probably like 19. And so I was the first time you let it out. Yeah, I didn't know just that. I didn't know what he was up to. But, you know, I was I was in my first real relationship. And, you know, when you love somebody and you're not used to being vulnerable. Yeah. Sometimes that's when the monster happens because it's scary that you get scared.
So I'll call it like, you're not going to hurt me. I got to protect my. That's right. Crazy. Yeah. If I get it. How did you when did you meet your monster?
I only met my monster recently, as I told you, because I you know, in a lot of ways, I think I've always been kind of the levelheaded one. Yeah.
And so it's always been my mother and I so.
She. She was always kind of quite wearing on her emotions, on her sleeve, and so I always had to be kind of the rational one and made it all makes sense and like figure it out and calm it down and that's everything.
So I learned very early how to be very accommodating and pacifying, which is a shame, right.
Because it doesn't enable you to have your own feelings or to define your own person. Yes, I think so.
I think I think it definitely made me very accustomed to and comfortable with being accommodating and pacifying. And that took a while to unwind. Oh, yeah. Finally when I started to unwind that, because I always had to be the accommodating one and I'll be the one, always had to be the one who made it OK.
And when it made it better and all that shit finally at that unwound that I was like, OK, I look at look, I can't fix everything and I can't fix your shit. And look, I can maybe I can fix mine. I'm a try, but I definitely am going to have to focus on that. I'm also just like taking off that weight to feel like you got to put everything together.
Well, it's a relief because that's I think that's pretty much the classic kind of co-dependency thing, right. Where you just feel like you can you're there to help somebody else.
You almost lose yourself in trying, definitely trying to help other people out.
And then one day you just spin out. Right. You just like to. I'm over it. Yeah. I'm not doing as anyone. I don't know. But it's good because you got to get to that place I think. Yeah.
To know that. Yeah. Some things are just you're powerless over them. You can't control it. You can't fix it. Fuck it. You could give it up.
Just give it up and leave it alone. So that's what that song is. I'm done. So done.
So done. Yes. Yes I'm done. Guarded my tongue holding me back. I'm live in a way that I want. I'm done fighting myself, going through hell.
I'm living in a way that I want like could finally be done so so good. Just like that song feels good. It feels good.
Well so I put like outside of relationships I imagine you like from the beginning. Once you started doing that first record, once you moved over with, who were you with Clive Davis. Right. You know, and he started making those hits and putting all that work in that you must have been like just submerged with that personality just in the work and you're just churning out the music all the time. You probably did you have a life when you were younger?
Oh, no, I don't know. I mean, you know, everything, everything. You have it from a very young rival, which is amazing and a beautiful blessing.
Right. But it's also kind of crazy to. They have to manage everything and figure everything out and keep it all kind of spinning from about 18 on 18 until today, so I definitely didn't really have a traditional teenage experience. I didn't have a traditional young adult experience. And a lot of the times it's interesting to me when I think back on that, but I feel very normal and I'm really glad.
I think I'm more normal than people that probably had those traditional experiences and maybe in some way I was able to, thanks to my mother, I think she's very much a realist and she always kept me going aground.
And also to New York City. I mean, New York City, you know, that's solid, you know what I mean? Like New York City's almost like when you grow up there and you spend that life there, it's almost a parent in a way. There's something about the personality in New York.
You are so right, because I think the first time that I really came in contact with making a lot of choices for myself and especially under the scrutiny of people or whatever pressure of whatever, I knew what I didn't want right away and I knew I didn't want it because in New York I was like, I don't know about all these other things.
Yeah, but what I know is that I'm not going to be doing this.
And that was that was that was helpful and really did it did me in a lot of ways.
Yeah. And I think, like, you know, especially with the with the huge song, I mean, the Empire State of Mind, it's almost replaced in New York, New York as the song for New York.
You guys did it. Now, that's crazy. And I mean, that's really crazy. And we're we're super proud of it. And we always look at each other like what I really like, it seems like.
But you're you're like, oh, these songs, it's very hard for me to be on the new record. I mean, just stay with that. Like, it seems like the underdog song is sort of almost like an anthem out of respect for people that struggle. And, you know, from what in some ways a little bit what you came from.
Maybe a lot of what I came from. I mean, I definitely defined as my mother and father, that's for sure. Yeah, without question. So there's there's no question that that's our life. And it's also the hundreds and thousands of other people that are are not expected to to to be able to make it out of whatever situation or circumstance they're in currently.
And I think, you know, we all have that possibility, you know, so that's why that song is so the song is actually really about like when you also when you meet people and you don't know them and how do you actually open yourself to do? Do we actually see each other or do we kind of just pass each other in our business? Do we know our story, each other stories, or do we just kind of like, you know, we celebrated in our world?
Well, that's sort of like in a few of the songs at Gramercy Park, like two a little bit. Right. Gramercy Park is one of my favorites, like the one of my favorite songs that move on there.
And like it's really kind of an intimate song. It's not. Yeah, it's a little more feels personally like the instrumentation feels very sort of candid and you know what I mean.
Like is definitely very raw. Very straight back. Yeah. Yeah, totally like folksy and yeah I love that about it. But I love most importantly is like about the way that you change is so unknowingly because you love somebody thinking that you're doing it out of love, only to find out that you lost yourself in the right way.
Because that's what I was thinking when I heard it. I was like, because there's a line in there where it's sort of like, you know, you fell in love with somebody like you don't even know really or something like something along those lines.
There's a naive, naive, vulnerable a person as not even me because I forgot about the person that I used to be.
Oh, my God. Did you. Is everything OK with your husband? What's going on?
That is, you know, honestly, I find that me and my husband are amazing. I think that I find that happens with my friends. OK, relationships I've had in the past where I wasn't so solid, I didn't really understand how to be clearly myself. I was more of a shape shifter because I was just learning.
Yeah, yeah. I was wondering about that. And Truth without love is a lie. Where'd that come from.
I love that. I mean that's one of my I mean like so nice. It's like the freight like I can't stop thinking about, you know, the poetry of it.
Yeah. I mean I think that it means a lot of things to a lot of people under those circumstances. But for me, I feel like you can have all the truth in the world and you can be spitting all the truth in the world. If you are not saying it with love, how does that person receive it? Is it actually the truth or is it just a lie? So it's like I think that I think there's such a power in that poetry.
You're right. And and, you know, you know, it's like this this honest delivery in that song that I love. Yeah.
And you can also use, like, truth is a weapon sometimes, you know, not saying something is more loving than saying so. That's true, that is true, but I think it's interesting you say that you didn't know, like, who you were, how to hold on to yourself throughout a lot of what you were doing, because, like, I feel that on this record, when I listen to the other records that, you know, you can't your voice is in the cradle of your self now.
You know what I mean? Yes. I mean I mean, you you have a great voice. You've always had a great voice, but now you feel some wisdom. And now, like, you know, you're connecting to that wisdom and to, you know, to your heart, you know, you're not. You know what I mean? You can definitely feel the weight of it now.
I also realized that I don't have to try so hard.
I think sometimes, you know, you try so hard to, like, get the thing to sing it strong, like do this impressive, whatever. And it's like at some point you can actually just speak your truth and just say what you feel and you can deliver it in so many different ways. And it's not just one way to be great. And I think that that's with some of the stereotypes. And we have to break down as humans because we think when I'm only great if I say so.
So it's it's cool to be able to not have to try so hard. Right.
And sometimes, like, if you're one of those people that never thinks you're doing good enough, there's no end to that. And you're just going to, you know, burn yourself out. Right. You never be happy.
You're right. You do have to recognize what's special about you, you know, and also just be like, that was good, you know, like I did.
Here's the thing I always do is sort of like I've been doing this a long fucking time, so, like.
Right. So I, you know, whatever I think about it, I know how to do this. So, like, I don't have to beat myself up thinking I don't know how to do stand up or whatever the hell I do.
So I and then you can relax a little bit and at least enjoy what you do, you know, and strangely enough, I have a kind of an opposite feeling. I feel like every time I do what I do, I don't know what I'm doing. And I actually I mean, of course, I know I've done it before, but I don't exactly know how it's going to come to fruition this time.
You know, when that's OK, though. But yeah, I'm cool with that. Whereas before I think I felt like I had to know or I had to be able to be in control. And was it going to be good enough? And what if it was a good I let I worry less about that.
But but you know, you have the skill set. You may not know how the piece is going to unfold, but, you know, I can play piano, I can sing, I can work with these people. I can write the song. We don't know what's going to happen, but I know credit is in place.
Yes. Yes. I definitely put in my forty thousand hours. So yeah. That I'll say, I'll say, well look, I know you got to go.
Maybe we can pick it up again. It was great talking you. I love the record.
Hey man, thank you so much. I'm so glad to talk to you. Thank you for thinking about it being put in your mind on it and connecting with me and and all the good things. I can't wait to talk to you again.
OK, good. Take care. Good luck with the record. Thank you man. Talk to you later.
That was fun, right? We locked in. I liked her a lot and I liked the new record, her new record. Alicia is out now where ever you get your music, so.
Here's an upbeat thing before we get to John Leguizamo, I've changed my opinion, I've changed a long held opinion.
And I'll share it with you, and it was not a great opinion, but I didn't years ago when I saw Robert Altman's long goodbye with Elliot Gould, I didn't think it worked. Yeah. Granted, as time went on, I realized I was the only one that thought that.
And I love Altman. He made one of my favorite movies of all time, McCabe and Mrs. Miller. But I just couldn't walk into the long goodbye. And for some reason last night, I don't know how I got there.
I ended up watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which, you know, I don't know if you've read that book by Ken Kesey. The book is Genius. It's written from the point of view of chief. But the but the movie is pretty fucking great, too, in that last scene where chiefs like, I'm going to take you with me, you know, it's like, wow, all right.
But then I got from there somehow to to the long goodbye, and it was fucking great.
Elliot Gould was great just turning that form the private dick movie on its head in that 70s way. Sterling Hayden. I mean, it's just like I was completely flabbergasted at my younger self for being such a dummy.
Do yourself a favor and watch the long goodbye. I think it's on Amazon Prime is where I watched it.
And of course, Cuckoo's Nest, if you haven't seen that lately, they're working. You like. They worked.
My father. The combine that's in the book anyway, look, John Leguizamo, somebody I never really met, though he claims we did, but I don't. It's all right. I'm surprised I didn't. I used to be on the Lower East Side a bit, and I knew he come from there at some point anyways.
It just hasn't happened, we haven't met, we haven't talked and I don't know how it would go, but he's got this new movie called Critical Thinking that he stars in and he directed and you can watch it on most video on demand platforms.
And he put his heart into it and he puts his heart into all this stuff that he's doing in terms of like sexually solo shows. And I was happy that the conversation went well. This is me talking to John Leguizamo.
Now you're sideways. That's interesting. It'll come around him a moment, you're high maintenance. Yeah, I made me. What is where are you? Are you in New York?
I'm in Manhattan. Oh, yeah. I see you got your Emmy behind you. Is that Emmy. Yeah. Subliminal. Yeah. With that's for freak. Yeah.
That was freak. Yeah. So he's upstairs. How he got one of those are two of those.
I got only one of those. Uh huh.
Well you got to get it up there. You got to get up there next to the other statue.
You know, I spread it around so I pushed myself on every floor. Oh okay.
Yeah. Yeah. So like every room you walk into, like an angel or something, that's a little tribute to my achievements.
I'm winning looking now that I can't I can't leave my house for very long.
It's nice to see where my self-esteem starts to drive correctly.
Believe me, it's kind of true, isn't it? It's weird that, you know, when you're when you kind of isolated and you can't really do anything, even walk down the street, at least get someone stranger to go, hey, man, I love you. Shit. You're just right. Yeah. Yeah. Hey, Jenny, Jenny. That's how I get in New York all time. But that feels good. And if you don't get that little boost on a day to day basis, you walk around your house like, who the fuck am I?
Did I do anything but you know better than to Google yourself? You know, I never do that. So I don't do that once. You'll never do it again because like the first ten or fifteen, I like your incredible I love you, you, Mason, that is like you suck the worst. You piece of shit. You fake.
You like what. Yeah, it's like it's like a horrendous speedball. Like you, like you. You're up, you're up. Now that you get knocked down like oh fuck. And then you're up again and you're down.
I don't do it. I don't do it. I love the analogy.
Yeah well that's what it is really. Except that one side is terrible. I mean I think at least with the speed, but both sides are they're different, but they're both good guy, right?
No, no, not Google. I mean, you Google yourself after that first, you know, it gets really dark. Very dark. Anonymity is a is a is a is a strange drug for people, yeah, it's not the social media so much as it's the feeling that they don't because they want to say that to your face. Right. Of course, none of them would come up to you even if they're bigger than you and they could beat you, they still would come up to your face and say that.
Yeah, but anonymously they feel like I could never know. I could say this and that. You know what, though?
You know, what I realized, though, is a lot of those a lot of them, it's their fucking hobby, man. It might not even be how they feel. They're just trying to fuck with you. They're trying to get you to react. This is like, yeah, they get off on that. They get off on that. Yeah, that's that's that's negativity monsters. Yeah. Yeah. The definition of trolling is to poke at you until they hit your fucking sensitivity and you poke and you react as soon as you go fuck you.
They're like, do you identify who he got. We got him. Yeah.
And if you fucking get into it with him, I use it like way back in the day. You find yourself like spending 20 minutes on Twitter arguing with a guy with no picture, no name and four followers. And you're like, what the fuck is wrong with me?
Was half an hour of your life that you can't get back. I need people to stop. Then people stop being on your side, too, because they feel like you're being mean or something. Yeah. Why why you beating up on the guy with no friend? Yeah. No friend of followers. No, it's not even a real person.
So we've never met before I don't think have we.
Yeah we have. It's OK. You don't have to remember me. It's fine. It happens. I remember you. I know you but we're not. You don't remember me.
Where was. I know you were. No. Yeah we're enemies. No we were party together.
So I've always been at least once, once, one time, then how come I remember I've been there a lot of times, I can't remember you because I you know, I make an impression.
John, are you already made. You must be your charisma. Yeah, exactly. No, but I mean, like I of course I know you like, but we were in New York at the same time. I never met you when we were kids. I was down. I was in New York. I was on the Lower East Side, 89 to 92. And then at six there, I was there a lot. Yeah.
And then I was at 16th and 3rd from like, you know, ninety three in 1995, then out in Astoria forever. But like I like I heard I knew you were around right weren't you. Worry side guy. Oh yeah.
Yeah, yeah I was, I was. Oh yes. You obviously I'm from Jackson Heights, Queens. That's where, where I'm from. But you know, I made my mark was in L.A. you know, all the performance art spaces downtown. I lived on Staten and Ridge, then I lived on Seventh and C and D. That's a long, long time.
You remember Hammerhead? Oh, yeah. Do you remember later on the game, your resume. SCHNIEDER That crazy bar where was espera to remember. That was later. That was later. I was like in the. Late 90s, early 2000s, oh, are you talking about, say, the robot you know about, so save the robot you talk about?
I lived on second between A and B, right? By that weird scool. Yeah, in the garage. That was the garage. Eighty-Nine, I performed it. That was a performance space. Right.
So we took arama there. You did. To start there again. Started there.
Yeah. So you grew up in Jackson Heights. At what age. Wait a minute. Until I went to college and I left. Oh and then.
But you didn't but you lived on you when you went to college. You moved into the city, right.
I lived at post-process for two years, then transferred to NYU then that I live with my brother at Columbia because I had no money.
How many how many brothers sisters you got? Just one.
I want a brother, two stepsisters, three half brothers and sisters. Oh, my God. Big family.
My father couldn't focus if he could just on different things. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sexual ADHD. Yeah, yeah yeah. You'll work for now.
So like when did you start. You started, when did you start doing the performing. I mean I'm trying to get a timeline.
Oh. Videos mid eighties. So I was at the First Amendment improv company on Bond Street, you know, like everybody was performing except when I got there it was on the downhill.
When the fuck is that in the mid eighties. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know.
Think that was before I knew this was coming down rather well. This is coming down everybody. But when I got there, they stopped coming.
I don't remember that place at all, maybe because that was all stand up. So I didn't know nothing about.
Oh that was the improv circuit. Yeah. And then and then I was at Gustl House Avenue A.. And like Sixth Street, I was at Knitting Factory. Dixon Place. Dixon Place Cucaracha. Yeah, home. These are all the performance art spaces I was doing. I was doing the clubs too, like the open mic night. I catch a rising star on Mondays, get the lottery and whatnot at the comic strip.
Ronnie, if you were going you were going to try those you did those that Dangerfield's scheduling comics. Do I get as much.
How do you like nineteen twenty twenty. So like now when you did standup. Because that's my world, I kind of knew, I kind of, I don't think I ever saw you around to put down your world.
No, no I don't care.
You don't give a shit what I said. No, I mean you could put down my world but we got rid of you. You couldn't hack it. We got rid of you. You did stay in our world. You went to the other way because it was not my world. It was not my world. It was like I felt like, you know, like I feel like a fish out of water. I was like, it's setup, punch line, setup, punch line, all these motherfuckers.
I'm like, I can't perform for you.
What would you what were you doing when you did stand up? Were you doing characters? Right. I was doing characters and stories and then yeah. My girlfriend at the time was the sketch comedy and improv. Obviously we travel around everywhere. I do improv with different improv groups, but I found myself was doing my thirty minute little monologue full of characters like. Yeah, like if the Bible, if Jesus were Latin, if the West had been won by Latin people instead of lost and you know, I would do those kind of things and and people dug it.
So I was like, this is my thing. So no, no, no, my take because you would do that stuff and they wouldn't they wouldn't get it.
They wouldn't get on board. They couldn't forward. It was they took too long.
It took too long to set up. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They just want you know, they just want a quick quick little quickie. Yeah. Like not you've got it. You've got to earn me. So it's right.
So at age 20 you're like fuck, stand up going back downtown and dig it in. And where are you taking classes.
At the time I was, I was taking acting classes since I was seventeen with some of the, the greats. I was always the only Latin guy and and these teachers were so beautiful and mentoring and they knew that they boosted me, you know, they knew that they needed to help me out. And Herbert Berghof won't be Studios'. I was in his class for a couple of years. Lee Strasberg for a little bit. You were.
You were you were around when Lee was alive.
I was in his class one day, his last day on Earth, at least Strasberg Institute doing Fifty Street. I get a sense memory exercise of something from my childhood. And he died that night because of my acting, I'm pretty sure. So it's proven that that's just that just makes you work hard. But I'm pretty sure it was by accident, really. You were in his class when he passed away.
He was he old.
All very, very bright hair, like a like a click on his throat like that. And I wanted to try to do a little better than do I that very quiet. You could hardly hear him. And they had that Klickitat.
But at that age, do you did you find yourself like I was I took classes from a guy. Michael Howard in New York, famous famous family, yeah, they get they get to a certain age in, you know, do you are you finding that you were there because you wanted to be around the guy and his history or you're actually learning something?
No, I learned I feel like my acting totally changed. I mean, I love h.b students. I learned a lot about scene study and breakdown and motivation. Previous circumstances, I, I get mad acting nerd with you now and then with Strassberg. It was it was more about imagination. It's what made me do my One-Man shows because you learned how to create an environment imaginarily talk to imaginary people. You know, you created that all from your imagination.
I never felt alone on Broadway because I had my imagination and it was vivid to me. So he created the method, right? Yes, yeah.
Yeah. You developed the first show, which was at about 1990.
1990. You were you don't believe in what fuck like. But I know you were, but where did you work that out? I worked everywhere at home.
Dixon plays what was the woman's name in Dixon place, Ellie Chavannes.
And who were the guys like? Because it was so weird that by the 90s, you know, I was locked into stand up, but there was still what was left of the performance art scene from the 80s. But then there were new people like, you know, like CERV Reality Collective unconscious. There was all these new kind of venues. But you were you kind of got the tail end of the original crew. So like the Bogosian come up with you a little before you get twenty.
That was Bogosian right there. He was a little bit for me because obviously he's one of my mentors, you know, one of the people that inspired me. Yeah, but he he was right before me.
So did you see what made you realize that you could do this?
Because the one person show thing, it's a blessing and a curse to say no curse that they don't pass through it?
No. I mean, there are guys. What do you mean you've got to explain yourself.
I will. I will. I will. I will.
I'm talking as a stand up comic who is out there hammering it out and figured it out in front of fucking strangers who didn't give a fuck.
All right. Now, boy, just hang out there. I'm just saying that I know I got to knock knock wood.
Not unlike stand up there. Just there are some people that are really good at it. And then there's a lot of people that did some really bad one man show.
That's all I'm saying. Oh, no, no, no doubt. No doubt. No doubt.
It gave people a false sense of hope for their future in theater, that sort of thing.
Yeah. Yeah. No, they were definitely a lot of a lot of bad One-Man shows. But, you know, before before our generation. My generation. Yeah. It was always like, you know, one man shows where Samuel Clemens, not even Mark Twain, Clemens, young Abe Lincoln, it was it was all those like very literary bios, you know. I mean, and then it got funkier. Right.
But there was a difference between, like what Spalding Gray was doing and what you were doing right there. There were definitely became a point where because you and Bogosian, where people are like, I'm going to do a a parade of characters like, you know, it seems like Spalding was more like Mark Twain, where he would focus in essay essay and in his manic sense, you know, present this thing and very raw naked way, which was the beauty of him.
He was so good. Well, there was no filter. There was no pretense or trying to, like, shape it to make it more palatable. And then you got everybody goes and brought brought the characters and and the sex and the and then Whoopi Goldberg brought the ghetto poetry. Yeah. And then Lily Tomlin brought the play and then she was old school.
That's that's probably the beginning of it right there. Really. Right, Lilly. Yeah.
Lilly was the one that really brought it. And then I took something from everybody and created my own Hidemi, which was the autobiographical play that you did yourself with. And I played all the characters in it. Right. Oh, and that was what I brought to it. Yeah.
No, for sure. I was watching you, remember. Just go back for a second. Marilyn Spalding, he would always have this huge book that he'd hardly ever look at, like stuff that he'd written, but he turned the pages but he never fucking so fast, you know, he could read it.
Oh my God. But did you just that it was it was just crushed. You know, everyone's got everyone's got, you know. Oh definitely. Yeah. Something on some. Yeah.
But did you remember, like, you know, there was also that other world of performance art that was just fuckin out there. I mean you probably saw that too, because you were young and it was still happening like Karen Finney and I was there and like, who was the guy that used to cut himself? Athey Right.
Right, right, right. There were all the all those really interesting, odd pushing the envelope kind of stuff was with them, you know, I'd be warming up with them and they'd be naked and. Doing their thing and smacking themselves on the head with the concrete walls and and then I go I go up next and I got my little story.
They were probably relieved by the time you got up there.
I didn't know what I mean. I was the oddball. It was like when you watch the monsters and the normal one. Yeah, that's what it was like. They thought she was ugly. Yes. So what was it that like?
What what was the show that really made you realize that you could do what you wanted to do? Was it Bogosian?
I think it was Lilly, man. When I was really I was like. That's that's that's me, that's what I want to do. I've been doing something like it, but this is what I want to do. But I want to put my just make it about my life. Right, make it personal. And I had accustomed to it and. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have more of a through line right then and then. Yeah.
And then it became sort of this crazy hybrid that everybody else started borrowing, you know. Yeah. Billy Crystal used it and Elaine Stritch.
So what was the how did it work. How did you write mostly on stage or did you write on the page first.
It's a combo, so I'll write it all out and a lot of a lot of improv, a lot of rewriting, so you heard it, you record it, you record it or now or a record.
I can't watch myself because then I start to hate myself, but not even on tape. No, no. I can't even stand to hear myself. I can't. I can't. I have to, like, just be in the moment and write it. So I'm going to say, wait a minute.
I mean, I'm the same way I, I can't like I'll record you know, I've recorded shit forever.
I got boxed, but I don't listen to them. I don't listen to it. But I have it. Yeah. That's a possibility. But that's interesting.
It's an interesting process. So you make notes, then you go riff it out. And ultimately what happens is over repetition. You find the groove you you want to keep.
Right. Right. And you're in it. And and then later on, what I found out was when I hit my three hundredth show, it's when it's gelled three hundred. That's when it's finally. Oh yeah. Holy fuck. Because it's because, you know, it's a massive undertaking. It's two hours of my own personal life and personal life does not fit in three act structure. It just doesn't naturally fit in. So it's a really painstaking thing to make it a three hour structure so that that's the difficulty of it.
And it's got to be mad. Funny, it's got to be mad moving. And it's got a you know, my life is not that fascinating. So it's more about my execution than it is about my, my, my fascinating life, because that's the only two types of one man show there are. That's like, do you have a crazy, incredible life? And you just tell it or you're an incredible storyteller in your lives.
OK, you know, it's so weird how everything is fragmented now because like the type of one man show that you did, I mean, they happen occasionally. I mean, maybe they'll happen again after the fucking plague. But, you know, it seems like, you know, Ted talks and all this other sort of all these other outlets have really kind of hijacked the the sort of purity of the type of theater that you were doing, you know what I mean?
Because now people write, you know, now all of a sudden you hear about this TED talk and people are like, that's the best thing I've ever seen on television. It's like, what the fuck?
You know, like it used to be like there was only a handful of guys doing this shit and women know and it was special. But now it seems like everyone can do whatever they everyone could do it now.
And it's no different. It's no different. Make sure. I know. I know. History commands the way. The audience felt, especially obviously, if you were Latin X, I mean, the emotions that were going through people was so intense, I could hear it on stage. I could hear people gasping. I could hear people moaning. I could hear people sobbing quietly. Just because of all the pain that I dredged up, you know, I mean, and I knew it because I felt it when I was doing the research, how much pain I felt at the psychosocial erasure of Latin people, you know, because we're like the largest minority in this country, largest ethnic group.
You know, we're we're almost 70 million. Americans in this country, including my undocumented brothers and sisters, we're the largest voting bloc. Thirty two million registered voters, 73 percent Democratic, with 30 percent of the public schools in the nation. With 50 percent of the population, L.A. equal to whites in New York City and population and less than three percent of the faces on camera, less than two percent of the faces behind the camera, less than one percent of the stories being told.
The smallest represented ethnic group in children's picture books. How sad is that, that a child can't even see himself reflected back in a positive way? You can't find job in a comic book. Can't find himself in a picture book. Can't find himself. How does that child project himself into the future? Yeah, that psycho social erasure that's we people have come from, you know, and we continue to thrive and survive. We contribute one point three trillion dollars to the US economy every year.
If we were our own country, we'd be the 10th largest country in the world, bigger than England. Our women are number one in small business creations at 87 percent. We say the housing market at 68 percent last year. God damn it, give me my equal opportunity. Give me my equal share of the fucking box office of representation.
Yes. Yeah, I thought that was an interesting line because it's like it was sort of a throwaway line in the new movie and critical thinking, the film that you directed. But like, you know, I was sort of hung up on when you said that these textbooks are written in Texas.
You know, that is true. I know it's true. I make that up. No, I know.
But but but like, there is a control like what you're saying. The systemic racism it also is has a profound effect on the Latino community. You know, it's brown people in general. And that what the information these kids are getting in public schools is incredibly limited by design and say, absolutely, yeah, I thought I could control it.
Controls power controls. Yeah. Who if they want if they want to get to tell the story, you're never going to hear the lie side. Right. You know, and we let people happen to be the lions side because we didn't just get here. We've been in for five hundred years. We discovered America. We found it. We built it. The British took it from us. The Americans took the Southwest. And before that, we were indigenous empires, the biggest in the world, Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, Comanche, Apache.
And we're still contributing.
I well, I'm sorry. I lived in New Mexico when I was a kid, and so I apologize.
Oh, my God. New Mexico. I love New Mexico. You. Oh, it's all Democrat. No, it's beautiful.
I was just there too. I grew up in Albuquerque. I just went up to Taos for four days just to hang out and clear my fucking head. Man, I can't tell.
Everybody does. I've always going to town to clear their head. Yeah, I didn't realize it was such a thing when I was a kid. We go see there, but I never I never went as a grown up. It's the first time I went as a grown up. And I was like, holy shit, this is beautiful. Yeah.
When I clear-headed right now I'm all right. Yeah.
This morning wasn't great, but no, nobody for anybody. Yeah. I didn't have cows but I still wasn't clearheaded.
Yeah I but but when I grew up I think Albuquerque was like 60 or 70 percent Chicano and it was like, it was just, it was just I was what it was man, you know, like I love when he said I was watching one of the oldies that I think I was watching. Spika Ramon, didn't you have a friend named Chewey.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You must have him. There are some is weird but that was usually because their last name was Archuleta so it was Chewy.
I love that name. Chewy man. It's such a dope name. It's great Chicano flavor for fucking sure.
I mean there's a coke dealer used to sell at the Comedy Store named Chuy. He used to wear a BOLO, the bowler hat, big black jacket juy.
Right. Right there, homey. Look. Yeah, yeah. You know, the word homey comes from Chicano brothers in jail asking what hometown are you from? Are you from my hometown? Are you my old boy? That's what the word homeboy comes.
Oh, no shit. It was it was weird when I was growing up because, like, you grew up on the East Coast.
So the the different the spectrum of Latin is different. Like where I grew up. More Caribbean. Yeah.
Where I grew up is, you know, Mexican Latinos. And I was in high school when the shift from I don't I think you're a little younger than me. I don't know. But I was in high school when the shift from disco to chulo happened, like, you know, like seventy seven, you know, everyone's wearing a leather jacket, platform, shoes, feather hair, you know, but by nineteen eighty fucking buttoned up flannels, you know, chinos, white t shirt, bandannas like everything fucking shifted.
What do you what do you think that was. What, what do you think that was. What do you think.
I think it was, I think it was a movement in, you know, claiming Latino identity.
I think that political.
Political well I mean I just think it was sort of it was it was some sort of reaction. I'm sure there's somebody that knows better than I do. But but, you know, the low rider thing, I mean, I saw the transition.
There was a time where, you know, it was just like, yeah, leather jackets and feathered hair and, you know, the fucking bellbottoms and shit. And then all of a sudden the chalo thing happened. It was like it was definitely activism. Yeah.
But, you know, that's the same thing was happening here, although, you know, the side is definitely much more Caribbean and and obviously Colombia and Cuba. In Puerto Rican, Dominican and Ecuadoreans and in Peruvians, we got a lot here, too, but that happened. I remember that late 70s, too, like it was a disco scene. Everybody Three-piece suits.
Yeah, right. Yeah.
And then all of a sudden, everybody started getting hip hop. It was the birth of hip hop in New York City in the backseat. And everyone started changing everybody. So I went baggy baggy clothes, same shaggy t shirt. Yeah. Yeah. You know, the baseball hats. Everyone got a little harder. Yeah. Yeah. Frontin a little frontin. Right.
Right. And it was totally different vibe and less you know, less cocaine, more weed, more guns you know. Oh yeah.
I got a little tougher. Yeah. Yeah. It must have been also linked up to stagflation because that's also when that happened, you know, the country was in terrible inflationary dire straits, you know.
Yeah. And the economy was bad. And, you know, obviously the people who suffer the most are always black and brown people at the bottom.
And that's where you kind of I mean, that is the pop culture that you grew up in. Oh, yeah.
I mean, disco to hip hop. That was my life trying to break dance, have my cardboard box that, you know, I could barely spend with my hair out of my head on with dislocated my neck.
Did you know dance I broke because that that that's how that came about.
So did you ever get the hang of breakdown? I just look better for where you do.
You look good, man. You're holding up. You're old enough. You really are brown. Don't frown.
I yeah. I was it was weird how I mean can you watch your old shit. Because I just felt like I watched the new movie Critical Thinking which I liked. And I thought it was a noble undertaking to to sort of share the story of those kids because like really kind of like disenfranchised. No more noble. Yeah. Why me know what kind of condescending. I'm sorry. No, no, no, no, no.
I mean, like you I mean to celebrate, you know, the underdog and to celebrate the underdog, you know, in a in a sort of economically compromised way. Like these aren't characters you see all the time.
So I met nobody in that. It was it was good.
You know, it was you know, it was important for me because, you know, I love these feel good movies. And I think they're really important for us to have much more positive images of Latin people than negative, because then at least it's vulnerable to demonization like what happened in in El Paso, where they shot twenty three innocent Latin people just being Latin during shopping in the mall. Yeah. So, you know, in your hate crimes are up against Latin people.
Every other group is down except Latin people, Jews or Jews are up.
Jews are up. Not as much as Latin people are, but I don't want to compete for that. That's that's yeah. Yeah. We're we're not it's not going to be Latin and Jewish, which are my kids. They both have both. Oh really. Yeah. Yeah.
I have two little jerricans right. Mix. It's a great mix. No, no. For sure. Yeah. Well yeah.
So you thought it was important to tell the story and it's sort of like it reminded me those movies like Stand and Deliver I Like You, my favorite, my favorite movie ever, man.
I love that flick. Yeah. So you inspired me like as a young man to see that and go. Sorry about that. Sorry, but that's about as high as a young man to see that it was so inspiring to me, I was like, oh my God, we can do great things, we can be mentors, we can uplift. And so to follow in his footsteps is such an honor for me, you know? And I found the story of five Latin black kids from the ghetto is ghetto in Miami, Overtown, that in nineteen ninety eight this teacher, Mel Martinez, made them regional champs all over Florida, kicked ass everywhere.
And chess and chess and chess. Thank you. Chess and then state champions and then took them all the way to national champs in America. They won this one. Yeah.
And it's like it's a great it's a great underdog story because it breaks stereotypes and, you know, you're able to play nice. Yeah. You can play these kids who are sort of like they're stuck in that world of trying to front a little bit, but they're innately intelligent and kind of nerdy. And they're Chayefsky's. Right. Right. But they still live in this world of hardened criminals and poverty. And, you know, it's just it's always like seeing that you I mean, you did that in Spik Arama, too.
I mean, the narrator of Spik Arama, you know, was a nerdy kid and you don't make these associations all the time. Is that being part of the stereotype? And it's there's a vulnerability to it built in that that is very, you know, engaging and endearing, you know. Right. Right.
Because there's a lot of ghetto nerds and you've got a gifted kids in our communities. Street intellectuals. Yeah. They exist. I mean, that's what that's that's of course, America doesn't doesn't understand that there are millions of gifted kids in these communities that just never get to shine, never get you tap on the shoulder by somebody they never get mentored and they, you know, wasted lives and wasted dreams.
They get just steamrolled or bullied or turned out by by by criminal culture. But I mean, I was like, you know, I was ignorant. I didn't know there were black nerds until maybe eight years ago, you know, and it was sort of ridiculous, even with the existence of Urkel.
So what did I just watch that documentary just by coincidence on a on win?
Hanmin and he seemed like an impressive guy that seemed to have some some impact on you, is that right?
Oh, yeah. You know, he just passed that covid. I know. I know. Two months ago. Ninety nine. Yeah. Yeah. Incredible. What a national treasure he was. And he was inspirational to me, to Eric Bogosian, to Denzel Washington, Alec Baldwin, all these great actors studied in his class and and he was instrumental in my beginnings. I brought my mom out to his class and he got a kick out of my crazy ass doing all these costumes.
You got these crazy characters that you would talk to me like he was interviewing, like he was David Susskind or something, talking to my characters. And I would have these weird conversations that the class would kind of be amused by. And then eventually I had these five characters and he put it up in this theater. I mean, he didn't really put me up and he didn't totally believe in me because he put me in the hallway and I had to be done before the main stage show and they had a platform and 70 full of seats that they would get rid of before the real show.
Oh, so this was at the American Place Theater, the Marketplace Theater, and then the Frank Rich review came out and then, boom, the house is full of Sam Shepard at the Miller, Olympia Dukakis, JFK, Jr.. It was incredible to come see you.
Yeah, well, let me just go back.
So you first started doing it in his class. How do you tell the how do you go to an acting class and say, I want to I want to take up the whole class with my five characters? I mean, why him? And what what what got you there?
Yeah, that's the beauty of him. He was he was OK. I don't think any other teacher in America would've been OK, but he did only really that one character at a time. If there is one character per class was allowed, OK, next time I bring it back or bring a different one. And that that's how we built it in his classroom.
Because it seems to me that between you and Eric, he was sort of instrumental in in helping you, in helping this form exist.
Yes, he was instrumental and absolutely. Because he believed in it, he he loved it. I guess he was such a it was all really old school and he knew everything about every play. Noel Coward, Eugene O'Neill, Sam Sheppard, whatever play you threw at him, he knew about it and knew how to make it work. He was a master. Yeah.
And did he he was he did he help you connect it all through a story or was that you.
Well, that was that was that one was that was, that was everybody was connected geographically. Not so much story was there was only two, two or three little little links. There are more separate yeah, they were just in the same neighborhood and they they heard about each other. Yeah. And when I got to speak arama, it was a family. Right. And that that's why that one became much more connected because they were all talking about a wedding that they were going to add a little bit of a Rashomon technique.
Yeah, it was it holds up. You know, it was kind of it was funny. I mean, I watched it last night.
I like to do that sometimes when I talk to dudes that have been around for a long time or women where it's just sort of like, you know, I wonder what they were like when they were kids. And you're like, oh, there's video of it.
Yeah, I got footage. Yeah, a lot of footage of him. Kid, you can't watch that shit. What was the last time you watch that stuff. Oh yeah.
No, no I don't, I don't. Why, why would I watch it. What's the point of that.
You know why I do it. You know. I know. But like I've done it because they're in my mind, you know, sometimes as a performer, I think like I was I don't even know who that guy was back then.
Right. Right, right, right.
But then, like, you watch it like I watch it from 1989 on evening at the Improv. And and I thought, like, I didn't have no voice, I didn't have no point of view.
I didn't know who I was. And then I watched them myself. And then you did. I did. Yeah. It was me. What the fuck was I thinking? Why was I so hard on myself, you know? Right. Right, right.
That that is that is the I think the point of it is you go back and you look at yourself, damn, I was so brutal on my size of myself and go, I wasn't as bad as I thought because even though even though you're winning awards or you're on Broadway, whatever, getting Emmy nominated, you still don't believe it. Still you still whoever you are to yourself, you're holding the award. It doesn't really change how you look at yourself.
Doesn't really. I didn't it didn't change me, I mean, I I'm still the same guy, even though I was nominated, I was like, I'm still me. I've still got my demons. I still, you know, I'm always, like, extra hard that demon.
So fucking weird, though, that one, you know, it's like, do you have you ever sort of do you know where it came from?
Well, obviously, obviously, you know, tut, tut, tut, tut childhood. My dad was incredibly hypercritical. So yeah. No, I know where it comes from. I've been there all my life.
I paid for that knowledge thousands of dollars.
But he was hypercritical but not physically abusive. Oh yeah.
Thank God for the physical abuse because it made me really hate authority and it made me really disconnect from him. So that was a good thing. Oh yeah.
I mean, I try to do that to where, you know, my dad, you know, he was a raging monster.
And, you know, you sit there and try to separate, like, I must have got a couple of good things from him. And he kind of made to do much work.
It's too much work to tease out. And I'm sure there's some good. But fuck that. The best you can get is like he was charming with strangers.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was great when he was drunk. Yeah. Right. But you, you got peace around that shit. Oh, yeah, yeah, I think so, I think so. I've been in therapy since I was 17. I was made to go to therapy in high school because I was that problem child that wouldn't let teachers teach class. So what do you do there? I was expelled from making jokes. Yeah, cracking jokes, practical joker, locking teachers out of the room, stuffing the stuff in the water fountains, keeping teachers in elevators.
Wow. All kinds of good stuff. Sound like you had a whole list of things, so.
No, I had a whole program so they forced me into therapy. Yeah.
Which was great. You know, I was I was incredibly resistant to it. Yeah. Because I was 17. And what 17 year old guy wants to be in therapy talking about their problems with a stranger. But eventually it was like I started to realize the good of it, you know, and I started to flip, flip my whole perspective of life and the self sabotaging and self destructive that started to like, oh, oh, I'm I'm I'm I'm doing myself.
I didn't realize. Yeah, what the fuck is that one?
You know, like I'm trying to figure out if I if I've got a handle on that. Why do we self sabotage and self destroy. Because because you know, we assume we're shit because of whatever we were told. So we honor that narrative.
Yeah. Yeah. Because we were comfortable with that narrative. We know that narrative. Right. Feels familiar. We think it's love. Right. Right. It's not. Yeah right. Oh man.
And you continue and you continue to break it and you go oh I. And it's not the world's not doing that to me. I'm doing it and perpetuating it. Right.
Right, right. It's all an inside job. Yeah. Right, right, right. Right.
But you never got like what was your primary means of self sabotage. You weren't a drug guy were, you know.
No, I was. I was I was a drug that was that was not my thing. It was just, I guess this hospital and an aggressive, very, very aggressive and. Right. Right. Yeah. You were always making fun of people. Yeah. Yeah.
You get kind of like when I was funny I wasn't. And then what I missed. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That's yeah. That's how you measure it. That worked that one. You're now you're an asshole.
Yeah. That one. That lady's crying ok. Yeah. Yeah exactly. Yeah. People from high school still say I remember, I remember the time you made me cry and was like I'm sorry. I am always apologizing. Yeah.
Yeah. Well it's like that bully thing, you know, you got a parent that's a bully, you're going to have a little of it anyway and you've got to kill it. Yeah, basically you do.
You've got to snuff it out.
Now when you started doing like, well what was it like, like in that I mean we're going back but I mean to have Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller. I mean I mean because like, in a lot of ways you were John Malkovich.
Did I finish Raul? Julia No. They all came on Clinton. Remember him? Yeah.
The same night it was only 70 seats commands that I was I was I wasn't in the real stage. I was in the hallway. I had to be done by eight o'clock because it was a real show coming up right now. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But with the Frankovich review came out, all these people go to the show, to the little show, to the tiny little show.
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe they were going to, maybe they were going to go to the main show and they got there early. I don't know. It could have been that to know.
Right Frank. Which is a smart guy. I like green guy. Is he still around.
Oh yeah. But he's much more political. He's he did an article a couple of years back, Roy Cohn, that was unbelievable in New York magazine. Roy Cohn, come see.
I don't think so. I don't think I was his flavor. Did Trump come? No, no, no, no.
I don't think he I don't think he likes art. Yeah. I don't think he likes anything.
Some of the clubs I always see Trump in the clubs he was at every premier and every club is always scouting for talent, if you know what I mean.
Sure. Yeah. Oh, you mean in the dance clubs and shit dance clubs premieres.
Any party, any any big party was always there.
That's the funny thing about people who have been in New York their whole life. That clown has been around forever, ever.
We knew he was a clown. I mean, that's the thing you always like. That guy is always in scouting. Scouting? Yeah.
I remember being on Conan O'Brien and he was the first guest and I was the second guest. And, you know, the segment producer, Frank Smiley. You know Frank.
I know Frank. Thank you forever. Yeah. Yeah. So Frank says he comes into my dressing room. He's like, you want to meet Trump?
And I'm like, you know what? I don't know. Like, I knew then I'm like, what am I going to say to that fucking guy?
Like, well, you've got to say to me, you got nothing in common. You knew he wasn't rich. It's a creep. He was just a creep, you know. Right. Right. Basically, basically, that's what we all knew in New York City. That's why when when you saw The Apprentice, you didn't believe it, you know, is all made up a sitcom, basically.
It's such a fucking nightmare. So did you talk to any of those people, though? Did you become like, you know, like do you do you have peers?
Oh, yeah. Well, because I realized that there was only one exit. Out, so as soon as I was done, I would run outside to the backstage door and go to that front door and be at that door as they were walking out.
They have to talk to me and say something nice because you can be mean to me by the front.
Right. And Arthur Miller.
Arthur Miller was so tall, man, really now big, lanky dude, big lanky Jew.
And it's Sheppards tall, like he was like having to be a playwright. You got to be tall and lanky.
They have to work extra hard.
Did they did they did they say anything to you that resonated or it meant anything? Or did you, you know, end up being friends? They were generically positive.
So I just take it as nothing specific.
Who's your director on a couple you work with Spike, Peter Askin, Peter and Raskin's. Yeah, we used to be really tight, Peter and I. I mean, I guess, you know, life takes you to church. And I still got a great love for Peter.
And what about Spike? You work with him on his show and on a movie?
Yeah. Yeah, I was. Spike's a best man. I mean, I feel like when we did Summer of Sam. I just felt like I really got to a whole new level in my acting because he just creates a safe space for you to do, like, whatever. Yeah, and I and I did whatever. And Mira and Adrian, I mean, the performances from everybody was we got it was the first time I went to camp in Cannes Film Festival together.
Yeah. So exciting. Yeah.
And like, over time, like you, I mean you work all the fucking time. So what determines like I watch, I watch some casualties of war. No, I didn't watch that. That Brian De Palma documentary, and then yeah, yes, but that you were like 12 when you did that, I mean, that was basically basically what that was like when your first jobs, right?
My very first film job. It was incredible. Here I am with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox. Yeah. And we're we're in Thailand for six months and we had to go to boot camp, real boot camp, you know, like with poisonous snakes and and with all the equipment, like the equipment, the weight of it. Right.
Is brutal. And so, like when you do acting, which you seem to do constantly, and you've worked with a lot of big people over the years, I'm sure people that you were your big fans of.
What about how do you make your decisions, you just I mean, in terms of what you're going to do? Well, usually it was always like something challenging to me that didn't feel boring or corny. Yeah, and and and since Hollywood wasn't for me, I didn't have to play any of their games. So I just did what I wanted and I didn't care. So I was like, know the clown and spawned something really a saying in part that was fun for me.
Right to fool. Yeah. With Wesley and Patrick, which was a blast. And then Moulin Rouge with Baz Luhrmann, you know. Oh, yeah, yeah, it's interesting that you run these two worlds where, you know, you're a huge star with the on Broadway and stuff, but you'll do supporting roles. You'll do you work. I mean, you are working actor.
Oh, I like to work and I like to work on my craft and I like to you know, you got to you can't stay at the top of your game if you're not playing. I mean, like if you're a tennis player and you don't play for a year, your game is not going to be the same. Same thing with acting, I believe. Yeah.
And do you still do you train with a coach or a teacher still. Oh yeah.
I still I still train with a coach. You're still doing readings, doing readings on Zoome with Ethan Hawke and Matthew Broderick and me reading Waiting for Godot. You know, keeping our chops going. Oh really.
And you do that quickly or you just you're just hanging out with these guys and Zoome with Ethan.
It's just the two of us waiting for Godot. Matthew we worked on it for a benefit.
Those guys in New York, guys. So you guys from. Yeah. Yeah. Big time. Well, let's talk about how this like how how how did this movie come together?
This is the first time you directed a movie, right.
I directed a feature for HBO was my first TV thing and I did some commercials and this is my first independent film feature debut. So who who presented you with the story?
How did you get hooked up with the writer?
Kaleb Kirkwood's and Scott Rosenfeld offered me the teacher role. Yeah. And and then I went to Miami, met with the teacher and the guys, and it was so incredible. And their love for each other was so beautiful. And yet they were always ribbing each other. They're always like because this takes place in the late 90s.
So these guys are in their fifties, some of them. Right. Or forties.
Forty. Forty, yeah. I'd say early forties, early to mid forties. And the teacher obviously is up there and I just dug it, man. I really dug their energy together. It was so incredible how how he had found these guys and then cultivated them to to the success. And I find it so fascinating. And they offered me to direct it because of my passion for the project. I was like, you know what, I think I can actually bring something to this movie.
I really think I got I got a clue. I like I like chess. I had to crack the code of how do you make that exciting and visual?
Because it's not how do you understand? How do you seem like you understand it in such a deep way? Like, hmm, that's an acting job. I mean, you may like chess, but did you understand it as deeply as this guy had to?
Well, I'm very mathematical. So, yeah, I was able to break it down and I was able to break down what the teacher how the teacher taught those kids. Right. And so some mathematical I was like I grabbed all the best strategies. And pick the best ones for film and then broke them down on camera, right? Sometimes, you know, sometimes everybody was like, oh, that long? But I say I want I want to show how that happens, how that learning happens in a class.
I want to show it. And so I did you know, by the end of the movie, you really think as an audience that you understand the moves, but you don't really know. But I made you believe it because we had these lengthy classes where I'm showing you the first move, the second move, the third move. And why the this the story behind it, like that guy, Marcel Martinez, the real guy. When we do a blind test, which we usually put a blindfold or they turn your way.
And he can play up to 10 guys in the movie, just play five, five or six of us, and he doesn't see the board, we just call out and he plays all of us at the same time. That's a real skill that guy has. That's that his real skill.
He was going to be international chess champion of the world and he was disqualified on a technicality. They said he was naturalized in time, some bullshit technicality, and he never played. He was so heartbroken and crushed by that that he never played chess again.
Oh, my God. Really is a true story. A true story that said.
Why is it so I think but like in terms of what you're saying, as a guy, you know, where we're at in our life and you're sort of kind of passion and responsibility to somehow mentor young Latinos into into believing they can find something better in life. And this seems to be the natural arc from Latin history for morons into into this movie. You know, where I have to assume that throughout your career, people have approached you and thanked you for showing them that there's another way to express to.
And I think I think that's the payoff of life when it comes full circle.
You know, I mean, the August of my years, we're not that old, are we? Well, I think we're in the audience.
It's not fall yet, but when it's winter, it's over. OK, all right, fine. I'll take August. Yeah.
Yeah, August of our years, you know, and then people come back and they say, you know, I write because of you. I do comedy because because of what I saw you do that you could do it. And, you know, that's that's the big payoff. And that's what I wanted to do, because when I was younger, you just didn't see yourself anywhere. And it was almost impossible to believe that you could do anything. But luckily, I grew up in New York and I was like, wait a minute.
I see movies, I see comic books, I see TV, I know we don't exist there, but wait a minute, in my real life that people are doing everything they're running, saying they're running shit, they're closing deals, they're doctors, they're everywhere. But in the other media, we don't exist. So I knew there was a big bullshit disconnect between the real world and media. I mean, it was just I knew that. So that's what gave me the courage because I go, this is real world.
That's not that's interesting because, you know, it's like I just it just struck me just now that, you know, being somebody like who grew up like me, I grew up, you know, with, you know, with open minded parents, progressive people.
But because of the media that we take in, which is the only media available at that time, you do get a specific perception of the world, which was exclusionary. And it's interesting to me how, you know, when people are like, how the fuck are all these people, Trump supporters?
Well, that's exactly the same thing they're doing.
They're they're they're they're feeding their brains on specific media that that that enforces their perception of what the world is like. But it's by choice. But it's the same propaganda.
It's the same it's a digital world where we all can live in our own bubble and never have it questioned.
But you know, what you're saying, though, is like the bubble used to be all of us and it was exclusionary and system is systemically racist, right?
Right away. We were just I mean, just like they didn't even have a concern that they had to include us anywhere. I mean, they had no reason to include us because nobody was calling them out. Right. But but we all felt it. I mean, everybody felt that. I mean, that that's how people can be demonized. I mean, that's why that's my mission to stop that nonsense when I found out that. Latin kids are the least represented in picture books and with 30 percent of the.
Public school population across the country, I mean, that was that was heartbreaking, heartbreaking, and it's my mission to do something about it.
It's crazy. Well, thank you, though. Thanks for doing that. And thanks for making the touching movie and all the other work, brother.
It's not for me. I try to remember me at the Emmys next time. I think, look, if I ever get to the Emmys again, I'll make sure to say hello and I'll be you'll be there.
You'll be all those award shows. I know you. OK, buddy. Take it easy, man. Take care of yourself for me.
Thank you. OK, that was John Leguizamo and me talking, I feel like I just heard a sound like where was that in my mind, losing my mind. Now the movie is called Critical Thinking. You can watch it on most video on demand platforms. And don't forget, nothing lasts forever, people. And for some allergy sufferers, it seems like allergy season never ends. If you've had it with rubbing your itchy allergy eyes all the time, you need padded day once daily relief day contains the number one prescribed by our relief ingredient and now it's available without a prescription.
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