By: Jose Corcoles
Jean-Luc Godard once muttered, from behind his black-framed sunglasses, “All stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”
Aaron Alonso once stood shirtless and in tights in front of a crowd of about 20, all still shivering from the Chicago weather, with locks of hair covering his eyes like blinds to a window. He foreshadowed “To define is to limit,” an Oscar Wilde quote. What followed was a trip into the absurd. From a man with an Opera singer as a neighbor, to the twisted dreams of a group of coat hangers (yes, coat hangers), and even a priest presenting a eulogy for the death of a rich man’s dolphin. Aaron Alonso single-handedly reminds us through his one-man show, “Wait…WHAT?” that although life is serious, there is also an inherent absurdity to life that must be talked about and then laughed at.
Aaron Alonso now spends his time as a short man with a bulbous head, but he wasn’t born that way. He was born a child in the state of Juarez, Mexico, then came stateside to pursue a career in improvisational acting after studying as a clown in France for a year and is now back taking freelance work when he is not slapping your brain around with his one-man show.
Hosted by The Parlor, a performance venue on Western Avenue near Humboldt Park and next to Joey’s Shrimp House (badass), “Wait…WHAT?” is a dizzying attack on the traditional narrative and a trip through the fearless subconscious of Aaron Alonso. “Wait…WHAT?” has the ability to take you from self-induced obnoxious laughter to leaving you transfixed simultaneously, gazing at the stage and refusing to look away. I caught up with the only Mexican clown I’ve ever known, aside from my Dad’s collection of Cantinflas movies, at a bookstore. Aaron chewed on an orange while I whispered my first question, he then furrowed his thick eyebrows and in a hushed, stoic and confident voice gave me the following answers…
Putting on a one-man show as a Latino in the Midwest is hard enough, then you let it venture into the absurd. My question is, how often do you feel like an ‘other’?
I feel like an ‘other’ in general, but more in the Midwest and not just because of my culture, because I’m standing out more and more due to my upbringing. How I say hello to people, it’s very detached from the type of society that the Midwest is. So, just alone as an identity, definitely, but then add a layer of being a comedian from Mexico in Chicago, I stand out. Throw surrealism on top of that and it’s Mars away from Earth. But it drives me because I’m being more true to myself, even if it isolates me. I could’ve assimilated but I chose to stay true to myself and go against the grain.
How did your clown training influence this show?
My clown training defined my style of comedy. Before clown it was improv and sketch and a bit structured. But clown taught me the joy of being an idiot. It taught me the joy of returning to my childhood self and letting my imagination take over. I’m trying to open up peoples’ imaginations, so even though I’m being a bit stupid or absurd with my sketches, you as an audience are buying into the moment, you have no choice. I want you to drop that idea of order and class that we have and let ourselves open up to the idea of the stupidity that surrounds us. I don’t mean stupid in a bad way, by the way, stupid can be a breath of relief sometimes. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a Latino actor?
I think it would be fair to say that most Latino actors get typecast. It’s gotten hard for me to continuously reject jobs because they’re gang members or killers. Just because of my look. It’s reached the point where I had to ask my agent to stop sending me out to these pieces. The other day he asked me if I was interested in a commercial for Corona that was going to put me in a sombrero and next to a donkey. I told him, “You know what? I know this is going to pay the bills but I have my limits, I know who I am and how I look. But I’m not going to be a prostitute.” Knowing your limitations is important.
What is the artist’s job? Does he have one?
The artist is already doing his job. Artists don’t consider themselves artists or go out and declare it. Others will declare you.
What kind of work do you have lined up for the summer?
Getting back to writing, coming up with characters, sketches, just focus on clean writing. There’s no goal, I just want to be able to digest better writing that may affect future projects.
Five questions don’t do the show justice, so check it out for yourself.
The Parlor, 1434 Western Ave.
$5 every Thursday in February
Although he currently has no shows lined up for the rest of the year he is always listening to offers and open to collaborating with other artists, like Chicago comedy troupe KILL ALL COMEDY who open up Aaron’s current show which closes this Thursday, so check it out!
As another Chicago winter gets ready to clock out and spring gets closer to punching in, the continued harvesting and cultivating of Latino artists is key to a vibrant future in the Midwest and shows like Aaron’s will continue to open doors with our support.