Felipe Torres Medina (@FelipeTorresMed) on Important Issues Like Cultural Differences and Groundhog Day

felipe-torresFelipe Torres Medina is an alien of extraordinary ability, which is the US government’s way of saying he’s a writer (he’s from Colombia, not Tatooine). If you’re in New York, you can see him on the UCB show The Concrete Jungle all through October. Check out his writing on McSweeney’s, BuzzFeed, and more on his website.

This week, Medina talked to me about jokes regarding cultural differences and how he first started in comedy!

One of my favorite things about being an immigrant is how disparate the imagined US is from the real US. For so many people in Latin America, the US is the land of the Golden Gate Bridge, Google, and the Mustang. I prefer the United States of Punxsutawney Phil. It’s more cuddly. I will NEVER forgive Bill de Blasio. Plus, in these times of political division we can all come together once a year as we hope that damned mole rat doesn’t see its shadow.

Do you regularly joke about serious issues? Are there any topics you particularly like or stay away from?

If by “serious issues” you mean politics, I don’t think I actively try to joke about politics. Even now, I think I joke less about politics than I used to last year because it’s just not funny anymore. It’s just infuriating. Also my tweets aren’t gonna topple a dictator. It’s not like Trump’s gonna check my feed while he absent-mindedly watches Fox & Friends and is gonna go like: “Oh man, this immigrant really owned me. I guess that’s it for me.” 

I think I try to joke about languages and cultural differences more. Like, that Groundhog Day tweet. That just tickles me.

This tweet happened right after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals repealed the first iteration of the Muslim ban. I try to do topical stuff, but I don’t think it’s my forte. I do like to poke fun at how everyone is political now. I get all these comments from trolls talking about not getting involved in American politics since I’m not American, which I find very funny because being an immigrant forces you to get involved in politics. Beyond the fact that being an immigrant is a political act, I need to know which are the states where I’m gonna get pulled over by racist cops! I have drawn a lot of comedy from being an immigrant (including a couple of McSweeney’s pieces), but I’d trade it all for Obama to be the president again. 

If politics weren’t so intense and ripe for satire right now, what do you think you’d joke about? 

When I first moved to America and Obama was president, I had a whole standup routine about McDonald’s ketchup. So probably that. Condiments. Y’all love ranch and hate mayo. What’s the deal with that, America?

I was a literature major in college, but never felt I was as smart as the people who took college seriously. There’s this whole idea of pop vs. poetry. I like pop remixes of poetry. One of the first books I remember reading was a comic book version of Greek myths. I think this is my version of that. I hope William Carlos Williams just recognizes I’m just doing my part to get Latino poetry out there. 

Did you do comedy in college? When/how did you start?

I didn’t! I didn’t do anything comedy-related other than write little sketches that were never produced in college. I went to college in my country (Colombia) where comedy is VERY different. Like, we have an SNL-type show where people do standup, characters and sketches, and the jokes there are still like: “This guy is ugly. His character is that he’s ugly.”  

I used to do impressions and things with my family and friends, but I never really performed. A couple of times, I wore a hastily made costume and went out with my friends as a character, but we never recorded it or anything. I started performing in Boston right after I moved to the US, and then I started doing sketch and improv classes at UCB. I used to commute from Boston to NYC for the first couple of classes. Then I moved to New York, because that’s no way to live. 

What are your favorite formats/media for comedy?

I love comedy in all its forms. Twitter is great if you want to find a good joke and then immediately remind yourself that the world is in the hands of a senile toddler. I love sketch and written comedy, too. I love all kinds of comedy, but I am aware that I’ll never be as funny as Shalissa in this video.
Karen Chee is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.

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