Vladimir Caamaño On Finding the Right Network for the First-Ever Dominican Family Comedy

Courtesy of Vladimir Caamaño

Comedian Vladimir Caamaño’s move from New York City to Los Angeles two years ago might not have turned out exactly the way he had planned, but the Dominican-American stand-up performer is making the best of a situation that comes with the territory for anyone trying to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry.

Caamaño’s shift from the East Coast to the West Coast happened when NBC booked him to produce a TV pilot based on his stand-up comedy. Although the pilot was shot and executive produced by Emmy nominee Bill Lawrence (Scrubs), NBC ultimately decided not to pick it up as a series. Caamaño said it was “massively disappointing” to get the news, but has learned from the experience and looks forward to reworking his TV show and shopping it around to different networks.

Until then, Caamaño, who was named one of the Top 10 Comics to Watch in 2016 by Variety magazine, has been keeping busy in L.A. He landed guest spots on two Comedy Central shows: Adam Devine’s House Party and @midnight. He also starred on an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which aired on Fox earlier this month, and made his late-night TV debut earlier this year when he took center stage on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Most recently, Caamaño stars on HBO Latino’s English-language comedy special Entre Nos: Part 2. The special debuted on HBO Latino last Thursday and screened at the New York Latino Film Festival the same day. On the special, which he shares with comedians Frankie Quiñones and Shayla Rivera, Caamaño takes the stage in a stylish white blazer (“I got a couple dollars, so you wear something nice,” he tells the audience) at El Portal Theatre in L.A. to talk about his smooth, salsa-dancing brother, what it’s like being “hood rich,” and to explain why you never see deer hanging around in bad neighborhoods.

Directed by Jokes Yanes and Adolfo Nowake and hosted by comedian Ben González, Entre Nos: Part 2 is a sharp-looking production featuring an energetic audience looking to have a good time and laugh with three talent performers.

Entre Nos: Part 2 is currently available on HBO Now, HBO Go, and HBO On Demand.

On Why His Dominican Background Lends Itself to Comedy

For me and most Dominican families, we love to laugh. I think we have a great gratitude for life. We have a mixed history of colonialism and nationalism and trying to figure out our identities. We’re new to America. We’re happy for the opportunities we get and want to celebrate that through our humor, music, food and works of art.

On When He Knew He Could Make People Laugh

I was very introverted growing up. I would observe a lot. Just by watching, I figured out people are funny as they are. I took a step back and realized I could imitate and mimic people. I could make observations about rich people and class and ethnicity. I found out I could make people laugh at this. They found it funny. When I was around my friends, they would laugh at the things I did, but not necessarily at the things I said. Comedy is about being funny, not always about saying funny things. It’s not about the jokes all the time. It’s about how people are drawn to you.

On His Parents and What They Thought About Him Becoming a Comedian

My father has been a [building] superintendent in the Bronx for almost 30 years now. My mother was a housewife. She took care of the kids. It was a very traditional family. My father loves the fact that I do comedy. He’s a very hands-off kind of guy. As long as I’m healthy and happy and being a good person, he’s fine with whatever I do. My father has always made sure I wasn’t slacking off. The belt was always ready. He says I owe him a cut of the profit [from my comedy shows] since so much of my humor is about him.

On His TV Pilot Not Getting Picked Up By NBC

The number of variables in TV are so great, you can never determine the final outcome of a TV show. We produced a great product, but NBC decided to pass on it. I was in the dumps for a good while. My friends and family and managers picked me back up. When you make a pilot with a broadcast network, it’s an amazing achievement. For every 10 pilots that get shot, maybe one or two get picked up. But sometimes it just comes down to, “Oh, this season we’re doing superheroes or romantic comedies or reality shows or cop dramas.” Right now, I’m working to redevelop the show and shop it around to another studio. My goal is to find a willing partner to get this done.

On Why He Has Faith It’ll Work Out the Next Time

I’m a better writer now, so the next time I get to do this project, it’ll be an even better show. I’ve been blessed to be in a place where people actually take me seriously. To say you shot a pilot puts you in a different conversation when you approach a different studio. When you walk into a room, they say, “Oh, this kid has done it before. He’s written a script. He’s acted in a multi-cam [TV show]. He’s casted a show. He knows what it’s like to negotiate with a network.” That already opens a lot of doors for me. I also know what to worry about now. Now, I’m in a place where I have a little more trust and faith in the system and am a lot more comfortable.

On Being Named One of Variety Magazine’s Top 10 Comedians to Watch in 2016

For Variety to say, “Hey, this kid from the Bronx is talking about his superintendent father and working-class family,” it’s a bit surreal. You grow up with these intimate stories that feel ordinary to you, but are so fantastic to other people. I thought every dad put a black garbage bag on their window. It was like getting legitimacy. It reminded me of [Dominican-American writer] Junot Diaz when he wrote The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao and won the Pulitzer. When you see something like that, it tells you your voice has a place in the market.

Courtesy of HBO Latino
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On What He Wants to Get Out of His Career

What I think we all strive for is influence and leverage. I think my ultimate goal is to be a showrunner. I want to be able to have my own production company. We’re all striving for that place where we can get to the level of someone like [TV producer/writer] Shonda Rhimes (who owns her own production company, Shondaland), where your name is trusted and everyone knows you’re going to put amazing content on camera. Whether or not I hit the Kevin Hart or Dave Chappelle level, what would make me happiest is to have a solid stand-up career, but also be the go-to guy for specific projects. Like when you’re talking Broadway, you think of Lin-Manuel Miranda right now. He has influence. People throw money at him because they are confident in his brilliance. I want to get to the Lin-Manuel level.

On Political Comedy Dominating Late-Night TV

There’s a platform in which political comedy has completely gone on steroids. It’s amazing to see that it has come front and center into the mainstream media. We’ve been waiting to talk about this stuff so openly. It’s mindboggling that [Stephen] Colbert has been coming every day with stuff that is this sharp and funny and doing it in a very unique and insightful way. I’m all for freedom of speech so, long story short, I love it.