You are on page 1of 4

Erendina Delgadillo AMCV 2650 October, 2011 Culture Clash Perhaps the most successful example of a cultural group

striving to infuse alternative historical perspectives from a decidedly politicized, Latino point of view is the Chicano comedy trio Culture Clash. Originating in San Francisco Mission District in 1984, Culture Clash remains the most relevant and popular Latino sketch comedy group working in America today. For a politically radical and liberal group, they have reached astonishingly large audiences set a strong example for those seeking to disseminate marginalized historical narratives. Culture Clash brings historic and current representations of Latinos into conversation with each other in an effort that seems in line with the Otabenga Jones goal of highlight the complexities of the representation across the African diaspora. Although they wrote and performed steadily from their formation, Culture Clashs first breakthrough to mainstream audiences was in 1992 with a PBS special, Columbus on Trial. The short film was commissioned for the 500th anniversary of 1492 and ran as part of the ongoing Great Performances series on PBS. The film imagines the trial of

the discoverer 500 years after the fact, complete with Hispanic defense lawyer loyal to his Spanish roots, and a Latino prosecutor stirred by his indigenous ancestry to demand a conviction. Columbus is eventually acquitted but only to be shot down moments later by a young Chicana. Undoubtedly, this film presents an alternative historical narrative that successfully marketed itself to a wider public (or at the very least, PBS viewers). As a review in Le Monde states, Columbus on Trialkeeps the insurgent memory of Chicanos from being wiped out. 1 By seamlessly infusing the controversy of colonization from an alternative perspective with easily accessible humorous situations, Culture Clash was able to make their particular brand of activist comedy palatable for a popular audience. The most commercial success enjoyed by the Chicano trio is their sketch comedy show Culture Clash that ran for 30 episodes, 2 seasons, in 1993 on Fox. The first Latino comedy show to be written and executive produced by its stars, Culture Clash was a groundbreaking experiment in exposing the American public to some deeply divisive with an influx of humor. In the hostile political environment that fostered the proposal of Proposition 187, the California-based troupe fearlessly took on issues of

Lourdes Portillo. "Columbus on Trial." NPC Productions. October 30, 2011.

<http://www.lourdesportillo.com>.

immigration, racism, and historical privilege from an unapologetic Latino point of view. The first show opens with Ric Salinas reminded viewers not to adjust their sets, you are seeing three Latinos on television and informing them that there will be more to come, stating its been too long since andale, andale, arriba!. The intro continues with a disclaimer that some of the show is in Spanish, but, not to worry, if you dont know Spanish, LEARN! While the show was one of the most mainstream representations of Chicano politics, Culture Clash almost clearly toned down their political message for a broader audience. While some episodes featured skits with overt political tones, like a cologne called Chiapas that would inspire the wearer to take back what was his or Border Gladiators fighting immigrants crossing the border, others showcased typical stereotypes (the cholo, the drug addict) that might have further entrenched racial inequalities in that polarized political climate. As a Variety reviewer described a sketch on the show featuring a farm workers exercise video (lettuce bends, cherry reaches) there was a subcontext of rage at the migrant farmworkers continuing plight [that is] there for those who care to see it. 2 Still, compared to the easily digestible Latino comedians and
Culture Clash. Variety. Todd Everett. July 29, 1993, <http://stage.variety.com/review/VE1117901074.html?categoryid=32&cs=1>
2

comedy shows today, namely George Lopez, Culture Clash rarely compromises their political, revisionist perspectives.

Full length Columbus on Trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_syy1dyCURM

Best of Culture Clash video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjYKgQOYJJo&feature=related