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Comedy That Hits Close to Home; Now a Father, John Leguizamo Looks Back Without Anger
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Personal profiles; Comedians
Author: Zook, Kristal Brent
Date: Jul 19, 2001
Start Page: C.01
Section: STYLE

Born in Bogota, Colombia, to a Puerto Rican father and a Colombian mother of Indian ancestry, [John Leguizamo] was raised in the multiethnic Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. A product of hip-hop culture, his comic style is eclectic; mixing and meshing Orthodox Jews, Black Muslims, Japanese, Irish and, of course, Latino characters of all strains in his performances. Amid the vivid portraits -- a transvestite hooker, a macho abuser, Latinos who want to be white -- the dominant presence remains dear old dad, portrayed as a violent, debt-ridden alcoholic ("He puts the 'funk' in 'dysfunctional,' " says Leguizamo in "Live.")

"It's therapeutic," says Leguizamo of his autobiographical performances. "My father and I are actually closer now than we've been in years." But there were plenty of rough moments earlier in Leguizamo's career. While doing "Freak," Leguizamo was surprised one night by his father's appearance backstage (they had stopped speaking to each other four years earlier). "I was in the dressing room after the show," he recalls, "and I see this face, seething red. He ran out. I chased him. We argued and yelled for about an hour and a half. He cried. I hugged him. We said the required 'I love you's."

Also a part of "Live": Leguizamo's famously harsh critiques of "self-hating Latins." One former girlfriend contemplates changing her name to something "white." "How about Vissssa?" she proposes with an exaggerated Spanish accent. "She was so sad," Leguizamo tells the audience. "That's what made me love her." Of his ex-wife, also Latina, Leguizamo says that he can't remember exactly why they married. Just "the feeling of wanting to be punished."

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