It's hard to tell whether comedian George Lopez has spent years refining and narrowing the subject of his comedy or if he's simply been pigeonholed by his fans, but on his latest HBO comedy special, It's Not Me, It's You, Lopez seems interested in only one joke, of which he does variations on over and over for the duration of the hour. Lopez's comedy has always been somewhat single-minded in its approach, dealing mostly with the Latino experience in America. That's a large part of the reason he has developed such a large and devoted fanbase -- he's basically the premiere Latino voice in stand-up comedy. But with that kind of built-in audience, it would be entirely possible for Lopez to take a chance and branch out, with the confidence that his audience would be willing to follow him wherever he goes. Instead, he continues to play it safe on It's Not Me, It's You, doing yet another hour of "Latinos are like this, white people are like this" jokes. It most likely plays very well to his fanbase. To the rest of us, it's pretty repetitive.
This is not a criticism of what Lopez chooses to joke about, but rather the way in which he chooses to joke about it. That nearly all of his comedy is about the Latino experience is a positive thing -- he's providing representation for a population that doesn't receive enough in comedy (one might be tempted to say that Carlos Mencia serves that function, but one would be wrong; a better answer would be Gabriel Iglesias). The trouble with a special like It's Not Me, It's You is that it's only interested in telling one kind of joke about the Latino experience -- that it is different, and largely superior, to any other American experience. Every joke comes down to "white people talk like this and name their kids this," while "Latinos don't talk like that or name their kids those names." When he does branch out a little, it's into well-worn areas like politics (he talks about meeting the Obamas and being in the White House, though even that routine ends with him bragging about being served corn tortillas) and the differences between men and women. It all feels not only familiar, but predictable.
Lopez does get off one good joke on his preferred topic during the special: he points out that white adults choose to dress exactly like their children, and says that if a Latino is dressed like his or her child it's because they work at the same place. There's a twist to that punchline that the audience can't see coming, and that's what makes it work as a joke. It's what It's Not Me, It's You needs more of. Lopez doesn't disappoint as a result of his subject matter, but as a result of his material. To put it bluntly, he needs to write better jokes. He's such a seasoned comic by this point and so comfortable and confident on stage that he manages to sell even the stuff that doesn't really work, but that just makes me want him to reach further and try something new -- the strength of his material ought to match the strength of his delivery. There's little chance that's going to happen any time soon, though, as Lopez is clearly comfortable with the corner of comedy that he's carved out for himself. He is what is. If you don't like it, it's not him. It's you.
- Original Air Date: 7/14/12