Releasing a two-part special that is essentially the same exact show back to back is an interesting experiment. Add in the fact that one part is in English while the other is in Spanish, and that makes it almost impossible to turn away, even just out of pure curiosity. This is exactly what Mexican-American comic Felipe Esparza decided to do for his latest special for Netflix.
I watched the English version (titled Bad Decisions) followed by the Spanish one (titled Males Decisiones). They have a different location, a different audience, and Esparza’ s wearing different clothes. The only thing that doesn’t change that much are the jokes, which is mostly the point. Seeing how Esparza can deliver two different versions of the same joke is something we rarely see in stand-up specials. He changes his language, speaking patterns and sometimes joke structure just to see how it will play in front of a culturally different audience. The jokes about his Mexican heritage sometimes carry a little more weight when he delivers them in Spanish, but generally, his material is made up of very relatable topics that anybody should have no trouble following.
While the set structure seems to bounce around like a pinball, the jokes all mostly work because of Esparza’s commitment and ability to play into characters. His jokes are almost all about him interacting with various people, and hearing him describe and act out these interactions is where most of the laughs come from. A favorite bit of mine is when Esparza told the story of going to a 7-Eleven when a homeless man asked him to pick something up for him. He’s so fixed on pleasing this homeless guy that he forgets what he even went in for in the first place and can only think “what does this guy like?”
Even though he sells the silly bits like his trip to 7-Eleven or insisting he still get a burrito after the store he was at had just been robbed, the jokes that land the best are the ones where Esparza gets more personal. He shares personal anecdotes about his relationships with his girlfriend and her family, and what it’s like being a stepfather both in raising a kid and also having that kid’s real father in their lives. These types of stories go over just as well with both sets of audience members in the individual shows, mostly due to the physicality and voices he chooses in representing all the characters.
Don’t worry: you don’t have to watch both parts. In fact, I’d even suggest you do not watch the second part directly after watching the first since it is mostly the same material. It sometimes comes off like hearing a friend tell you a funny joke, and then later that same friend tells it to another group that you’re hanging out with, but in a different language. Both times get a laugh, but the repeat doesn’t hold the same weight for you personally. Still, for comedy fans, the experiment is a worthy one to try out, to hear how Esparza’s bits are translated in a different language to a different audience. Comedians love trying out gimmicks in their specials to help them stand out. This is a case where even the gimmick is something very personal.
Christian Becker is a writer and comedian based out of NJ. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheAmazingBeck.