It’s Been 20 Years Since a Latino Sketch Comedy Show Aired on TV, Arturo Castro Is Here to Change That

'Alternatino with Arturo Castro' photo by Cara Howe. Courtesy of Comedy Central.

When we visited the set of Alternatino with Arturo Castro, the Broad City actor was putting his own spin on toilet humor. Which is to say he was rehearsing and shooting a dancing scene at a urinal with two other guys. The punchline, like much of this new Comedy Central sketch show based on Castro’s successful web series, is best left unspoiled. But rest assured that in his jump from the world of Abbi and Ilana to one of his own making, the Guatemalan actor has made a seamless transition. He’s just as funny whether he’s impersonating a drunk ex-girlfriend at a wedding, the worst translator an arms dealer could ever dream up, or even a fictionalized version of himself who can’t believe his mom sent in his aunts his way once she heard he was going through a breakup. Shuttling between cultural-specific humor (“Oh my god, you’re from Guatemala? I just came back from Peru!”) and more topical comedy (an ICE PSA about “cage-free children”), Alternatino with Arturo Castro puts the actor front and center, where he belongs.

Many of the sketches, Castro admits, are driven and anchored by his experience as a Latino in the United States in 2019. “The show’s aim is primarily being funny, right? But we need to create empathy through the work that we do,” he told Remezcla in between takes. “And I feel the only way to create empathy is to show somebody that doesn’t look like you in a situation that you can relate to. So a lot of what we’re trying to do with the show is put some of these stereotypes on their head, take some of the misconceptions that people have, and exaggerate them to the point where you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that would be really ridiculous!’”

The “cage-free children” sketch is a perfect example of that. Shot as a health-conscious farm-to-table infomercial, Castro stars as an ICE agent who’s here to explain to you how they’re done with kids in cages. Now, they’re letting them roam free and turning them onto a grass-fed diet. It’s a ludicrous set up that reveals the absurdity of a line (and a reality) like “children in cages.”

“That was really a sort of very powerful moment on set,” he added. “I just realized that having this platform is also a responsibility to my culture. Not just to my culture but to these kids. Cruelty that bad can’t go on checked. You have to talk about it. You can’t forget the kids like this. You can’t let grieving children be a trend. You have to put it out there and rehash it, until something’s done.”

Like fellow Comedy Central properties Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer, Alternatino with Arturo Castro benefits from a clear point of view. In Castro’s case, that’s tied not just to his identity as an immigrant from Guatemala but to the way that information shapes other people’s perceptions of him. “We’re so varied as Latin Americans that I just want to use the show to show a little bit of that gamut that we all run.” Which is why one sketch is all about a woman’s disappointment when she sees her date doesn’t quite fit into the Latin Lover template she so craves.

“I just didn’t know I was any different from anybody else,” he explained. “Truly. Until I moved here. I realized that people are more comfortable when you fit very specific categories. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that feel like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I was amazing at soccer and grew up watching telenovelas, but I like Gilmore Girls! And brunch! And it doesn’t make me any less Latino!’” Alternatino with Arturo Castro is as much for them as for any Latinx kid who had to fend off overprotective aunts, any immigrant who’s had to pivot conversations away from Latin American politics at parties, and anyone (Latino or not) who can appreciate a well-crafted sketch about a depressed robot. Which is to say: there’s enough funny for all to enjoy.

Alternatino with Arturo Castro premieres June 18, 2019, on Comedy Central.