Comedian Bill Santiago is not your average Latino comedian. He also has his fair share of political opinions. After publishing a letter to TIME magazine about their now-famous cover story, Bill spoke with Being Latino about the letter, his politics and the obstacles facing the Latino community in 2012.
Seeing as most Latinos celebrate the TIME magazine cover as the arrival of Latinos as a truly national and political force, what motivated you to write the letter to TIME?
Well, I am blogging now on Huffington Post, for their Latino Voices section, and that Time magazine cover story pressed all my buttons. I had an intense gut reaction to it and found the article ripe for lampooning through and through. It was like a gold mine for me comedically, heaven sent. Thank you Time!
That kind of a publication always plays it too safe, tends to reinforce stereotypes and miss a lot of very key nuances. And this story in particular provided a list of talking points to express longtime views that I have had about the Latino factor in this country’s current political landscape. Practically every sentence, in the very long Time piece, was a set up for a punchline. I sat down and started writing it as soon as I saw it. And it seemed that a great way to frame the piece was to set it up as a letter personally to Time. As if Time magazine were a person, “Dear Time,” that kind of a thing.
It seems as though much of your work is politically driven. Where does your political zeal come from?
I have a very low threshold for B.S. Even if those are my own initials. So it’s not a political zeal, specifically. It’s just that I am congenitally skeptical and when I feel that someone is not being truthful about anything that matters to me, or whose point of view is flawed, I gotta say something about it. I am automatically compelled to respond and set the record straight as I see it. And always with a comedic twist. Humor is the best delivery system for setting the record straight. And it just happens to be my natural default mode. They go hand in hand, skepticism and a sense of humor.
I am extra-motivated to chime in when there seems to no one else articulating exactly how I feel about certain things, or giving it the B.S. treatment I capable of. In terms of the Time Magazine cover, there was a lot I felt had to be said that no one had yet, not with my particular take. So there you go. Politics just seems to be natural source for material, comedically, because everyone is lying so brazenly, straight to my face, to our faces. And the lies are very public, so everyone is aware of them and they are common references to speak about, especially during an election season. I actually try not to get too caught up in day to day politics because it can get so toxic, disturbs your sleep, gets you foaming at the mouth. I’d rather be dancing.
What do you think some of the challenges are facing the Latino community in 2012?
We have to stop calling ourselves a “community.” It makes us sound small and parochial, when in fact we are like a demographic tidal wave. I think if we start calling ourselves the Latino Tsunami, asking what our challenges are sounds ridiculous. Tsunamis have no challenges. So you better get out of the way.
You can find the latest news on Bill Santiago at his website, on Facebook and Twitter; in his words, “friend me, like me, follow me, stalk me. Why? ¡Porque because!”