In a performance, Julio Torres will reflect on how comedy acts as a vehicle for criticism, persuasion, and even manipulation. Drawing on his experience as a comic and a writer for shows such as Saturday Night Live, Torres will craft a monologue from the perspective of the pig that resides under the sink, acting as a garbage disposal, on The Flintstones: the pig petitions the family for a promotion—from eating to managing trash—and comes to wonder why his species must deal with human waste at all. Torres will use this scenario to consider how stand-up routines and sketches establish expectations, roles, and styles of communication for performers as well as audiences.
As trust in traditional figures of authority—institutions, public servants, business leaders, journalists—has dwindled, comedians have come to be hailed for expressing unvarnished political opinions (and avoiding the taint of parties or corporate money). They speak to millions of viewers, many of whom have few other sources of news. And while late-night monologues and YouTube clips might enable comedians to speak truth to power, and even foster public debate about immigration or gun control, comedians also tell viewers what they want to hear. To succeed is to create authentic-seeming personas and resonant messages that satisfy the desires and confirm the beliefs of audiences—often with the assistance of a studio audience that is prompted to laugh, cheer, and applaud. Torres’s speech will ask how audiences understand themselves to be fabricated through comedy, and how they might watch themselves watching the performer.
On Labor and Management is a component of “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition hinges on six experimental lectures, which will be live-streamed only at the museum; edited documentation will be available on Triple Canopy's website at a later date. (Additional details about this and other lectures in the series—such as locations and times—will be posted as soon as they are confirmed.) “Parts of Speech” is being published by Triple Canopy as a series in Two Ears and One Mouth, a forthcoming issue that examines how we speak and listen and who has the right and capacity to be heard.
- Julio Torres is a comedian and writer who was born in El Salvador and lives in New York. He currently writes for Saturday Night Live and makes regular appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! As a comedian, Torres was named a New Face of the Montreal Comedy Festival, a Comedy Central Comic to Watch, and a finalist for Standup NBC. His work has been praised by the New York Times, GQ, Out, and New York Magazine. He currently is cowriting, coproducing, and starring in Los Espookys, a Spanish-language series to be aired on HBO.