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John LeguizamoEXPAND
John Leguizamo
Photo by Matthew Murphy

John Leguizamo: “Audiences Cheer Twice as Loud When I Compare Trump to Columbus”

The crazy-talented John Leguizamo is bringing his crazy-hilarious Latin History for Morons to Miami for a special three-night engagement at the Arsht Center next week. Latin History for Morons, another tour de force one-man show written and directed by Leguizamo, delves deep into the unspoken and often expunged historical nuggets of how much Latinos contributed to America over the centuries. Inspired by some unfortunate experiences his young son went through at school, Leguizamo puts the truth about Latin history front and center, as only he can.

Leguizamo spoke with New Times about his show, his creative process, the Trump administration, and, of course, the unbearable lightness of being a New York Knicks fan.

New Times: We can get this on the record: The real title of your show is Latin History for Fucking Morons, yes?

Leguizamo: Well, that’s what it is onstage, just not on the poster [laughs]. But yes, I do add the “fuck” to the title onstage every night.

Along those lines, your shows always feature crazy gags and plenty of dick jokes. How much of that plays into Latin History for Morons, seeing how it has an educational slant but is also very much a John Leguizamo show?

It’s definitely uplifting! What I’m trying to do is sort of un-dumb-ificate and un-moronize America, if you will. But at the same time, I want to make history fun and so, yeah, there’s a lot of that stuff in there. There’s a lot of sex, there’s sheep fucking, there’s, you know, tons of syphilis. All the syphilis brought over by Columbus. You know, Columbus raped young girls and brought syphilis to the New World. So there’s that. But there’s also interesting stuff, like the first transgender military personnel, Loreta Velazquez, who was a Cuban-born Confederate soldier.

There’s a lot going on, is what you’re saying.

Oh yeah. There’s also a lot of crotch-grabbing — my own, obviously.

Obviously.

Obviously!

A lot of Latin History for Morons was inspired by your son’s experiences at school, and his getting bullied for being Latino. But how much of this show was inspired by the recent immigration crisis brought on by the Trump administration?

Well, I couldn’t ignore it. I definitely mention it in the show and I attack what are such inhumane policies. Separating children from their parents? How’s that a political policy? Immigrants being sent into privatized detention centers. People are making money off of other people’s pain. How disgusting is that? And the audiences have been with me on it, man. They cheer twice as loud when I compare Trump to Columbus, and talk about how his administration has basically declared war on Latin people by publicly denigrating Mexican Americans, having a zero tolerance policy on immigrants, and abandoning American citizens in Puerto Rico and leaving them to die.

With that said, the majority of the audience that comes to see Latin History in Miami is going to be Latino.

I hope so! [laughs]

What can a Miami audience expect to get from the show?

Well, first of all, they’re going to learn a lot of things about our contributions to the world and our contributions to America that they’ve never heard before. And what I’m seeing more and more on tour are audience members wanting to know more about the books I mention as sources. That has really been a thrill for me. When I can weaponize knowledge, oh dude, that’s so important to me.

John Leguizamo: “Audiences Cheer Twice as Loud When I Compare Trump to Columbus”EXPAND
photo by Matthew Murphy

Yeah, I noticed that you cite Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States in the show, which is very cool.

Oh yeah, that book is one of the most important books that I reference. Howard Zinn’s daughter sent me a message thanking me for mentioning her father’s book in the show. There was also an uptick on Amazon for sales of that book after the show premiered on Broadway.

I imagine you do rewrites and rethink some parts of your show over time. How has the show evolved from the time it premiered until now?

The nexus of my writing has always been that you have to have something traumatic happen to you to fuel the creative process. You know, you wait around for something horrific to happen to you and then you’re like, “Yay, now I have a centerpiece for my work.” My son’s story was only supposed to be the bookends to the show. But during the tour, audiences wanted more personal stuff added to it. They wanted to know more about my son and his experience. So I had to cough up more about my son that I didn’t want to, but had to for the purpose of the storytelling. But I got enough history in there to make me happy too.

Finally, your thoughts on the Knicks losing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Nets?

You know, I’ve had it, man! I’ve had it with the way James Dolan is running the Knicks. I really thought we were going to get KD and Kyrie, even with KD’s Achilles injury. But they won’t come because there’s a toxic environment with the Knicks. So, I’m going to go to the Nets. I’m going to the Nets! I’m serious. If KD and Kyrie are going to the Nets, I’m going to the Nets.

Can we send that over to ESPN as breaking news? John Leguizamo is going to the Nets?

Yes! World breaking news!

John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons. Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14, at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets start at $49.

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