By Shira Gould || Staff Writer
This past Tuesday, October 18, comedian Bill Santiago came to the Brooks House Great room for a three-hour performance on topics ranging from politics, religion, and Spanglish. The event was sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Linguistics, the Department of History, the Department of American Studies, Brooks College House, and others. Santiago is a Puerto Rican comedian whose jokes are based on the humor of Spanglish, the dialect created by mixing Spanish and English. He has performed on The Late Show with Conan O’Brien, and has published articles in news publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Miami Herald.
The room was filled with Spanish students and comedy enthusiasts. First-year Spanish student Robert Maze attended the show and reported, “It was pretty funny. Everything had an inappropriate touch to it. It was appropriately inappropriate.” The rest of the audience seemed to agree; they would burst into laughter punch line after punch line. He began the show by asserting that Spanglish originated in America.
“You people don’t know your own history,” he said. To illustrate this point, he told a fictional story about the founder of Chicago. According to Santiago, the founder’s wife refused to leave him.
Finally, the founder had enough and said, “chica, go!” And thus, Chicago, and Spanglish were born.
According to Santiago, people use Spanglish to emphasize humor or to mask vulgarity. He also joked about his experience with his children’s Spanglish.
He asserted that when confronted by a question that he does not want to answer, the best answer is always “porque, because.” The audience got a kick out of that joke, so he continued with a call and response set.
He posited to the audience, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“Porque, because,” we shouted back.
Following his performance, Santiago took questions from the audience. One student asked him if he typically addresses political issues in more detail in other shows. Santiago responded that he used to.
He used to enjoy provoking the audience with controversial jokes, but now tries to avoid it. It isolates half of the audience, he says.
He used to begin his show by asking if there were any Republicans in attendance, to whom he jokingly would yell at to leave the building. Apparently, the Republicans who attended his shows did not like that, and it can be damaging to begin the show in such a divisive manner.
However, Santiago does not shy from political discussion, which he says is important to have. He asserted that one of the main problems in American society is that the news is meant more for entertainment than practicality, and thus often ignores some major events and issues in the world.
Santiago’s performance was well received by the audience. Whether the audience agreed or disagreed with his religious, political, or other opinions was irrelevant. People were able to set aside their preconceived ideas for a few hours of pure humor. They were able to interact with a comedian who addresses a unique aspect of American-Hispanic culture, and they were able to do it in a low stakes, low stress environment.
First-year Shira Gould is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.