How many Colombian humorists are doing standup comedy to sold-out venues in the United States? Extensive research indicates that there is one: John Leguizamo. Born in Bogotá, Leguizamo has turned his roots into a comedic empire that sells tons of tickets and has also earned him significant movie roles.
Moving from the capital of Colombia to New York, John Leguizamo decided to study acting at New York University. After he had one day of classes with Method acting guru Lee Strasberg in February, 1982, Strasberg died. While Leguizamo doesn't take complete credit for Strasberg's demise, he has hinted that he can influence people that way.
Until he could get a TV break, Leguizamo performed standup routines in New York, polishing the tools that would give him his Latino comic identity. He got a bit part in a 1986 episode of Miami Vice, made the big screen with the 1989 film Casualties of War, and he got to shoot Harrison Ford in the head in 1991's Regarding Henry.
1991 saw him starring in Hangin' with the Homeboys, and at the same time he debuted his standup show, Mambo Mouth. The show had Leguizamo playing seven different Latino character types, and he sold many tickets all over the country. After the show was broadcast on HBO, Leguizamo won a Cable/ACE award for the special.
Leguizamo retooled his one-man act for 1993, calling it Spic-O-Rama. He started it in Chicago, where the tickets were a hot commodity, then moved it to New York. Once again, HBO aired the show, and this time Leguizamo pulled in four Cable/ACE awards.
Now established as a comic, Leguizamo began to build credits as a dramatic actor. He took on a significant role in 1993's Carlito's Way, then he starred for the first time in Super Mario Bros. However, playing a plumber in a film did not set up Leguizamo for his next task, creating an all-Latino sitcom called House of Biggin' that did not last as long as it should have, considering its two Emmy nominations.
As Tybalt in the 1996 film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, John Leguizamo showed a different side of his acting abilities. He also appeared in The Fan (1996), Spawn (1997) and did the voice of a rat in Dr. Dolittle (1998). His most acclaimed work in that time period was still for his one-man shows, as 1998's Broadway hit Freak indicates. The TV airing of the show brought Leguizamo an Emmy, and of course the Broadway tickets went like hotcakes.
Building on his film experience, Leguizamo has gone on to star in several significant movies, including Summer of Sam, Ice Age (voice), Moulin Rouge (as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) and the HBO film Undefeated, which he also directed.
John Leguizamo has continued to probe his South American roots while he uses humor to give non-Latinos an idea of how much like them his people are. And with his career going full-throttle, tickets to his shows are still in high demand.
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