Vato loco

A few years ago Mexican-American comedian George Lopez had his own late-night show. It ran for a couple of years. Was it good? No. But then I don't think late-night shows are good. Is that because I miss Johnny Carson? Actually, I miss Jack Paar -- he would host people like the guy who coined "creeping meatballism", and if you remember that, you're really old.

Lopez did bring something fresh to late-night TV, precisely what he promised to deliver. Latino chaos. Whatever else it was -- and the few times I watched it, it wasn't great -- it was a party.

One night, curious to see if he was delivering the anarchic, unpredictable nature of Latino culture, I flipped on another talk show. I felt like I was watching a particularly staid Presbyterian service. Everyone spoke so softly. No one jumped out of their skin. Even Letterman's notorious madcap antics seemed neither madcap nor antic.

Lopez was not all that funny, but he left you no time to ponder it. He moved with manic speed and energy from one segment to the next. I suspect that, quality aside, he was just too damn Latino for the general public. Not that Anglo comics are not manic. The late Robin Williams' routines moved at breakneck speed, but in contrast to Lopez, or the incredibly talented John Leguizamo, he seemed restrained.

I wonder about this culture clash, precisely the one that has been my fate to wonder about. Ours is often the culture of excess. We're too much. It happens at all levels. I remember a very different Mexican in a very different TV show. Carlos Fuentes interviewed by Bill Moyers. It seemed to me that for every word Moyers spoke, Fuentes spoke a paragraph. Too much.

Dont get me wrong. I admire pithiness, understatement, laconic irony. But I'm not here to judge -- not that anyone cares -- but to observe and report. Getting back to late-night TV, I think the very genre is formatted to work in the lower registers of Anglo culture. Round peg, square hole. No one says George Lopez has to host a late-night show. No one says Enrique Fernandez has to write Anglo-American discourse. No one says anything. Nadie dice nada. In Spanish double negatives are grammatically correct. Even nothingness is excessive.