‘El Cuco’ and the Value of Non-Fiction Inspiration

What do you do when you need more life experience to create new and innovative comedy, but you want to make things now? You go down wormholes, looking for inspiration. Weird wormholes. 3am wormholes that expose you to things like “El Cuco”– the Portugese and Spanish answer to the American Boogeyman. He punishes bad children and stays away from good ones, and he’s got a kind of fabric pumpkin head.

The lore surrounding this mythological fixture is cool and weird and I never would’ve heard about it, had I not gone to Super Serious Show where they screened Daniel Garcia and Yes Boss’s mockumentary short El Cuco: Portrait of a Boogeyman. Okay, so I didn’t find out about El Cuco from wee-hour browsing, but I easily could’ve and — as I watched — I was struck by how drawn I was to the work was, purely because it wasn’t about oddball roommates or bad pitchmen.

El Cuco is what TV and film development executives talk about when they say “We’re just looking for something ‘fresh.'” It’s not about re-inventing the wheel (Christ knows we’ve seen enough mockumentaries to last us), it’s about letting the wheel run over untrodden ground.

Maybe the short is based on an experience Daniel Garcia had with El Cuco in his actual life, or maybe he fell into a 3am Wikipedia wormhole, but the notion of reading and watching more non-fiction — about history, about different cultures — could be just the thing you need to shake up your writing.

Basically? Don’t be fooled into thinking life experience has to happen to you in order to be inspiring and noteworthy.

Do do your research.

Luke is an executive producer at CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.

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