HA Comedy Festival: The Art of Comedy ably fulfils its purpose as a taster menu of Latinx comedy talent, and anyone watching should come away with a bunch of new names to check out.
The goal of HA Comedy Festival: The Art of Comedy, now streaming on HBO Max, is to showcase Latinx comedy talent and indeed Latinx culture, and it’s a mandate that the hour-long special takes seriously. It features a comedian as a host, seven more performers, call-in cameos and skits from well-known multimedia talent, and brings the house down with a bit devoted to the late Lupe Ontiveros that shoots right to the hard of the entertainment industry’s historical mistreatment of the Latinx community.
It’s easy to see the value of a project like this, and it’s a nice arrow in the quiver of HBO Max’s burgeoning comedy lineup, though perhaps not a surprising one given HBO’s decent track record for such things. The wide-ranging appeal is only exacerbated when Danny Trejo performs in an opening sketch about the history of Latinx comedy that eventually introduces host Anjelah Johnson, or when Eva Longoria beams in via video-call. This kind of showcase is obviously important to people, and a strong platform for Jesus Trejo, David Del Rosario, Carmen Lynch, Pedro Salinas, Monique Marvez, Mark Viera and Gina Brillon, all of whom perform.
An hour doesn’t seem like a lot of space for all this, and it isn’t, really, but each comic’s material is designed to maximize their few minutes on-stage, and Johnson returning between each act to make a jokey response and introduce the next performer gives the whole thing quite an organic among-friends feel. There are a couple of pre-taped bits on San Antonio River boat tours: Pedro Salinas jokes that he’s thankful that pre-recorded bit didn’t bomb right before he came out and started riffing on algebra.
Some of the acts are better-known than others and have less work to do in getting the audience on-side: Brillon’s pregnancy and anxiety about not having any pearls of wisdom to dispense like her own mother are lay-ups. But the crowd’s receptive to everyone, and that eagerness relates to Danny Trejo’s opening gags about the history of Latinx comedy being apparently able to fit in what amounts to a leaflet. The point of HA Comedy Festival: The Art of Comedy is to let the world know that there’s a lot more out there to be enjoyed, and it’s very capable at that, even if only a few minutes per performer scarcely feels like enough.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.