Absurdity makes Alex Fernández laugh. A mischievous rascal, the charismatic Mexican comedian enjoys mining humor from commonplace situations in his homeland that normally wouldn’t amuse us. Through his nimble lens, he wittily mocks everything from the misogynist lyrics of banda music and overly enthusiastic vloggers to the ridiculousness of taking shots at the bar.
“Mexico is a surreal country where things like lucha libre happen, which is marvelous but at the same time a very strange spectacle. Mexico is that way too. There are cultural counterpoints here that are hilarious and may not happen in any other country,” he told Remezcla over the phone from his home in Mexico City. “I like evoking our culture beyond mariachis, tequila and Cancun.”
His two highly regarded Netflix specials, 2017’s El Especial de Alex Fernández, el Especial and 2020’s’s El mejor comediante del mundo (The Best Comedian in the World), already certify him as a chief player in the country’s burgeoning stand-up scene.
Fernández, a 90s kid, attributes his comedic sensibilities to a varied pop culture diet with hefty servings of acclaimed performer Andrés Bustamante aka “El Güiri Güiri” and The Simpsons (dubbed in Spanish, of course). Despite self-esteem struggles growing up, he always felt his calling was to entertain others. Yet yet as a young adult he played it safe and went into advertising. Social media outlets like Vine, which democratized exposure and engagement, eventually convinced him that perhaps his dream wasn’t so unattainable.
After testing the waters at open mics, he decided to leave “el godinato,” the state of being a “godín,” an office worker with a traditional 9 to 5 schedule. “It wasn’t like one random day I went up to my boss and told him, ‘I don’t want your job anymore, vete a la chingada.’ No, it was a process,” he explained. Today he tours the country with his shows, hosts a successful podcast and has starred in multiple online comedy ventures, such as Deportología and La Liga de los Súper Cuates.
There’s no malice in Fernández’s comedy, a rare quality in an industry that tends to reward shock value and mean-spirited remarks. But while people may deem his work as family friendly, he admits that’s not premeditated. “I’ve always tried for my comedy to be a reflection of who I am at the point in time when I write it,” he explained in between laughter. “Who knows maybe I’ll get bitter in a few years and start writing hard-core material.”
Fernández believes comedy should evolve with society. In Mexico, where homophobic, classist and machista jokes have for long been the norm, stand-up has recently opened the door to different perspectives, even amid calls that political correctness limits or censors creative voices.
“There’s this discourse in comedy that claims you can make fun of anything and that people shouldn’t care because they are just jokes. And yes, they are jokes, but jokes always have a social context because the way the world works has changed,” he noted. “It’s so easy to tell the sexist joke, but how about we look for something that hasn’t been explored before?”
Raised middle class, Fernández often comments on his own white privilege, even if certain segments of the population get upset when he brings it up — all the more reason to use it as a way to poke fun at himself. “White privilege exists in Mexico, y nos hemos hecho pendejos,” he said. “I’m not a social activist, but talking about it helps so that the privilege gap starts closing or that it’s at least acknowledged.”
By exposing his truths — even those that once made him insecure, like his geeky love of Batman, for example —, he portrays a nuanced version of manhood, which is especially important in Mexico’s chauvinist society.
“Behind every macho or men with toxic masculinity there are also vulnerabilities. Machismo is a reflection of your insecurities, so to me, instead of saying, ‘I’m a chingon, look how much I get laid,’ I choose to talk about something more honest like, ‘Sometimes I’m not strong. I have fears. I get nervous when people opine about me. I get defensive.’ The other side of the masculinity coin is more compelling than what you see on the surface.”
Hands-down the most poignant Mexican stand-up special on Netflix, The Best Comedian in the World stands as Fernández’s magnum opus in terms of emotional intricacy. Aside from recalling the first time he got drunk with friends and competitiveness between heterosexual friends, he delves into a dark time in his personal life: his brother Pedrito’s passing due to cancer.
While Fernández and his family were living through such a taxing ordeal, he chose to continue working without neglecting what he was undergoing emotionally. Suddenly, he had the need to address this through writing. At the beginning it was very difficult to work with that material, but once he started testing it in front of people, he realized there was something powerful there that could be useful to others in similar circumstances. For about seven months, he polished a loving tribute to Pedrito that concludes the special.
“Comedy is a way to deal with pain and with the things we don’t understand. Although I was living through this horrible process, there were still funny things happening around me. In any tragedy there is comedy, but you have to know how to find it,” he noted.
Rather than a self-aggrandizing statement, the title of his latest show comes from a visceral anecdote where his late brother expressed admiration for the performer he’s become. He referred to him as “the best comedian in the world.” Fernández recounts the touching exchange in the routine’s final moments hitting the audience with a bittersweet gut-punch paired with a song, “Una casa en construcción” by Dromedarios Mágicos, created specifically for the event.
As you wipe away unexpected tears, from joy and sorrow combined, and notice the comedian has taken you on a brilliant journey from euphoria to nostalgia, you’ll agree with Pedrito.
Alex Fernández: El mejor comediante del mundo is now streaming on Netflix.